Lending Breath

Breathing OutScripture Text:  Ezekiel 37: 1-14 (Lent 5A)

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

The idea of God creating and recreating over and over again is not new to us.  But most of us do not this day live in exile.  We are sitting comfortably at home; we are residing in the place where our identity is claimed.  So how can we, then, understand fully this breathing of life into death, this breathing of hope into despair?  The image is a beautiful one and yet we sit here breathing just fine.  We seldom think of these breaths as the very essence of God.  In the hymn, “I’ll Praise My Make While I’ve Breath”, Isaac Watts writes the words, “I’ll praise my God who lends me breath…”  Have you ever thought of the notion of God “lending you breath”?  Think about it.  In the beginning of our being, God lent us breath, ru’ah, the very essence of God.  And when our beings become lifeless and hopeless, that breath is there again.  And then in death, when all that we know has ended, God breathes life into dry, brittle, lifeless bones yet again.  Yes, it is a story of resurrection.

God gave us the ability to breathe and then filled us with the Breath of God.  We just have to be willing to breathe.  It’s a great Lenten image. It involves inhaling.  It also involves exhaling.  So exhale, breathe out all of that stuff that does not give you life, all of that stuff that dashes hopes and makes you brittle, all of that stuff that you hold onto so tightly that you cannot reach for God.  Most of us sort of live our lives underwater, weighed down by an environment in which we do not belong.  We have to have help to breathe, so we add machines and tanks of air.  But they eventually run out and we have to leave where we are and swim to the top.  And there we can inhale the very essence of God, the life to which we belong.  God lends us breath until our lives become one with God and we can breathe forever on our own.

“Lending breath”…it is ours, but only for a moment, only for a breath.  We do not keep it, we do not store it away.  Like manna, we fill our lungs to capacity as only they are designed by God to do and then we exhale.  We let go.  We release that breath of life into Creation to make room to breathe again.  Most of us take it for granted, this rhythmic breathing in and breathing out.  We don’t really think about each of these breaths that have been lent to us, these God-breathed gasps that are ours for only a short time.  Actually, more of life is like that than we like to think.  We like to think that we are in control, that we orchestrate our breathing in and our breathing out.  But, really, the breath is not ours.  It is God-breathed.  It is what give us life, over and over and over again.  In a way, each and every moment, we are resurrected.  We begin again.  But we forget that.  Lent reminds us, reminds us that there is more than what we control, more than what we know.  Lent reminds us that the air we breathe is not our own, that we need to exhale.

God gave us the ability to breathe and then filled us with the Breath of God.  We just have to be willing to breathe.  It’s a great Lenten image. It involves inhaling.  It also involves exhaling.  So exhale, breathe out all of that stuff that does not give you life, all of that stuff that dashes hopes and makes you brittle, all of that stuff that you hold onto so tightly that you cannot reach for God.  Most of us sort of live our lives underwater, weighed down by an environment in which we do not belong.  We have to have help to breathe, so we add machines and tanks of air.  But they eventually run out and we have to leave where we are and swim to the top.  And there we can inhale the very essence of God, the life to which we belong.  God lends us breath until our lives become one with God and we can breathe forever on our own.

That is often the problem for many of us. We breathe in when we should be breathing out. It is, on some level, a sort of “spiritual asthma”. When a person suffers from asthma, it is not, as many people think, that they cannot get air into their lungs; it is that they can’t get air out. And, as a result, their lungs are too full to receive life-giving air. The breathing cycle is disrupted and the person, swelling with over-inflation, begins gasping for breath.  This spiritual asthma is a similar dilemma. If we hold onto those things with which we fill our lives, to our habits and our fears and our misconceptions of what our life should be, there is no room left for the life-giving breath of God.  If we do not leave room, God cannot lend us breath.

Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. (Arundhati Roy)

On your Lenten journey, learn to breathe.  Learn to know from whom that breath comes.  And then learn to exhale.  What do you need to breathe in and, perhaps even hard, what do you need to breathe out?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

(And check our the weekly Lectionary notes at journeytopenuel.com )

 

One thought on “Lending Breath

  1. I have to disagree with you Shelley. The pressures of everyday life and being surrounded but what is a largely secular society place all Christens in exile to a lessor or greater extent. How many of us set aside time for our spiritual health on a daily basis? I know I don’t. How many of us treat the people we come in contact with on a daily basis the way Jesus would have us treat them? Once again I have to plead guilty. How many of us. As Christians we are charged to constantly be caring for the “least of these” in fact Jesus embraces and comforts “the least of these”. I know I don’t do a very good job of doing this at all. We live in exile but our exile is so gilded we just usually just don’t realize it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s