Breathing in the Spirit
By Kent French
June 1, 2017 - 9:23am
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.
From Barbara Brown Taylor:
Did you know the word “conspire” means to breathe together? Take a breath. Now blow it out again. There! You have just launched a conspiracy. You can hear the word “spirit” in there too – to conspire – to be filled with the same spirit, to be enlivened by the same wind. That is why the word appeals to me, anyhow. What happens between us when we come together to worship God is that the Holy Spirit swoops in and out among us, knitting us together through the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the breaths we breathe. It can happen with two people and it can happen with two thousand people. It can scare us or comfort us, confuse us or clarify things for us, but as far as I can tell the Holy Spirit never bullies us. We are always free to choose whether or how we will respond.
Now take another breath. If you have studied earth science, then you know that our gorgeous blue-green planet is wrapped in a protective veil we call the atmosphere, which separates the air we breathe from the cold vacuum of outer space. Beneath this veil is all the air that ever was. No cosmic planet-cleaning company comes along every hundred years or so to suck out all the old air and pump in some new. The same ancient air just keeps recirculating, which means that every time any of us breathes we breathe star dust left over from the creation of the earth. We breathe brontosaurus breath and pterodactyl breath. We breathe air that has circulated through the rain forests of Kenya and air that has turned yellow with sulfur over Mexico City. We breathe the same air that Plato breathed, and Mozart and Michelangelo, not to mention Hitler… Every time we breathe, we take in what was once some baby’s first breath, or some dying person’s last. We take it in, we use it to live, and when we breathe out it carries some of us with it into the next person, or tree, or blue-tailed skink, who uses it to live.
Take a breath. This Sunday, we will circle the liturgical calendar and again celebrate the Day of Pentecost, this fiery, confusing, blustery commemoration of that day described in the second chapter of the Book of Acts (2:1-21). It’s a story of what happened when people caught wind of the Holy Spirit and began to act and speak and understand each other in new ways. They became the church, the church universal.
I love the Holy Spirit, this strange divine emanation reminding us that God is living and breathing in us every moment, every day, with the possibility of changing us, inspiring us, giving us new life — in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It’s a theological way to describe what we often write off as coincidence, the Muse, synchronicity or even laughter.
I could use a big dose of the Spirit. I imagine you could, too. Come this Sunday to breathe deeply and discover Her anew.