Breathe in God, Breathe out the world
Take a moment and breathe in deeply.
Now exhale slowly.
Do this one more time
How does it feel to be able to breathe? Have you ever thought of breathing as a miracle?
Today’s texts are all about breathing and how God’s breath has power to give life.
With all the COVID crazy going on, it seems that we are afraid to breathe any more. Am I going to breathe in the virus? Am I going to breathe out the virus and give it to other people?
While these questions might not be directly spoken by anyone, they are there all the same.
So let’s talk more about breathing in and breathing out.
Practically speaking – breathing is how we bring oxygen into our bodies and release carbon dioxide from our bodies so that our bodies can burn sugars and fatty acids to make energy. We also use oxygen in the process of replacing the seven hundred billion cells that wear out every day of our lives.
The oxygen that we breathe in is part of the immune response to bacteria and viruses and helps us stay healthy.
What amazing things are our bodies!
Today’s first lesson is a vision given by God to the prophet Ezekiel.
He was taken to a valley full of bones and asked a question: “Can these bones live?”
And God told Ezekiel to prophesy – to speak for God to those dry bones and when he did,
Those bones came together and became human bodies again, but they weren’t living
8I 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.”
So God said to Ezekiel: “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.”
10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
The prophesy of Ezekiel called God’s breath, God’s spirit from the four winds and filled all those bodies with God’s spirit and they lived.
That is the power of God’s Breath. And God’s breath is in us.
Our gospel lesson is another example of the power of God’s breath and it is traditionally told on the last Sunday of Lent, the Sunday before Palm/Passion Sunday. It is the story of Lazarus’ resurrection.
Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha – the same Mary and Martha that cooked and cared for Jesus and the disciples multiple times in the three years of Jesus’ ministry. It’s pretty clear that Jesus had a very close relationship with the family and that the women were firmly his disciples too.
So when Lazarus was getting really sick, they sent for Jesus to come and heal him. Those sisters had witnessed Jesus healing people over and over, so it was natural that they would turn to him when their brother was seriously ill.
But Jesus didn’t seem particularly worried about Lazarus and stayed where he was for several days and then he decided to take the risk of going back into Judea where the chances were good that he would be killed, to be there for Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
But when Jesus got there, Martha met him to say that Lazarus had been dead for buried for four days.
What follows between Martha and Jesus is one of the most beautiful conversations of faith in the Bible:
21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Even in her pain and loss, Martha knew what she believed and proclaimed it clearly.
Then after talking with both Mary and Martha and crying himself, Jesus used his breath to proclaim God’s power over death:
“Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
And Lazarus came out of the tomb, breathing and living, to the amazement of everyone around.
Take another deep breath – feel God’s presence coming into you, giving you life, giving you hope,
Filling you with joy at being alive. Stretch your lungs with a great big breath.
Breathe this in: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Do you believe this? Say loudly and clearly like Jesus called out Lazarus “Yes, I believe this!”
Can you feel God’s breath inside of you? With God’s breath in you, there is no room for the world to fill you with fear or anxiety.
God’s breath is the Holy Spirit, filling you with the power to continue living as God’s beloved children.
Every day this week, take a little time to practice breathing in God’s breath and say out loud “Yes, I believe this!”