by Vicar Allison Johnson
This past Sunday was the second Sunday in the season of Easter, and it is commonly known as “seminarian Sunday” to those of us in seminary. This is the Sunday pastors often take off as a way to recuperate from a busy, busy Holy Week. I even remember as many of my classmates and I were taking Introduction to Preaching that so many were going to be preaching on John 20:19-31 for class because that was the Sunday they were assigned to preach at their field education site.
Jesus, in this resurrection appearance, breathed (ἐνεφύσησεν) on his disciples and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Breathing. When I think about breathing and breath, my brain immediately jumps to thinking about CPR, and I remember this one scene from the Hunger Games where Finnick gives Peeta CPR after Peeta gets electrocuted (sorry, I really love theHunger Games). And I remember my time doing clinical pastoral education where people who couldn’t breathe were hooked up to machines that helped them. Any medical show I’ve ever watched also has showed nurses, doctors, EMTs, and others giving CPR to those who have stopped breathing for one reason or another. And in this text here’s Jesus breathing on the frightened disciples.
This is not the only time this verb, to breathe, is used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). In both Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9-10 God breathes into inanimate objects to give them life. Divine breath for a man; divine breath for the slain. What once was dead became alive. Divine CPR, perhaps?
And now, divine breath for the disciples. Jesus breathes on them, and they receive the Holy Spirit. Divine CPR for the disciples. The Holy Spirit for the disciples. Life for the disciples.
I imagine this moment felt like taking a big, deep breath in order to relax. You know, the type of breath you take when you are really stressed and just need that sense of peace, which usually comes through calming breaths.
Jesus, in this moment, is God bringing comfort to the disciples. Jesus is breathing life into their fear, terror, and confusion. Jesus is breathing God into them.
I wonder which parts of our lives could use this breath, this life of God running through our veins.
As the semester begins winding down, I am reminded of God’s breath continuing to breathe life into this place to give us the energy and oomph to finish the semester. God’s life ran through this place on our workday last Sunday, as we all pitched in to clean, lay mulch, and clean up the Center. Even though stress levels are high (at least for me), last Sunday I felt God’s breath run through me as we all worked together. This breath sustained me, and I pray that it continues to sustain this community.