June 11, 2017
Holy Trinity, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling
Don’t sit down. Put your books down.
Breathe with me for a minute.
Breathe in. Raise your hands while you take in the oxygen that feeds your cells.
Exhale. Let your hands follow that breath outward. Reach out into space.
Breath in. Raise up.
Exhale. Reach out.
I was at a conference with week with woman from around the world to discuss feminism and the theology of Martin Luther. It was part of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We were reminded again and again that good news can’t just be in our heads. It has to be in our bodies, too.
I’ll admit that, as we took breaks to stretch or learn some movements of Thai Chi, or dip fingers into cups of water and splash it all over our bodies, I was uncomfortable. I know how to sit and listen to a lecture, scribble notes on a pad, and think of questions. I felt awkward when I had to stand up and move. And, if you looked around the room, I wasn’t the only one. We were all little uncomfortable in our bodies. We didn’t exactly move with the grace of the dancer or the Thai Chi instructor.
I could almost feel the same grace and the awkwardness in today’s gospel text. They worshiped him; some doubted. What’s he doing? What’s he asking us to do? These are Jesus last words in the book of Matthew before the church moves on without his bodily presence. Although this isn’t an Ascension story like in Luke or Acts, I imagine Jesus departure, rising upward, breathing deeply of heaven’s air, his arms reaching upward, filled with the authority of heaven and earth, returning to the one who made him, moving into a future where he is no longer bodily present but spiritually available, sitting not only on the right hand of his heavenly parent, but just next to us on that one park bench by the lake, or on the couch, or at our death bed, or at the dinner table.
It’s a beautiful movement to stretch into that promise: I am with you always. Maybe we all need to learn to breathe and reach into the authority of heaven as we sit next to the hospital bed, or in the classroom, or with our enemy or with one of those who doubts, or when we’re angry or afraid, when we’re profoundly lost or filled with anxiety. Breathe; Reach; Be raised with Jesus.
We breathe in. We rest in God. And, in that split second between inhale and exhale, Jesus says, “Go.”
Move. And this is the awkward part, right? How do I take the Spirit that was in Jesus’ breath and embody it in my life? The gospel of Jesus Christ is not the gospel unless it is good news for the sake of the world. There’s a world that needs the oxygen of grace. There’s a world that yearns to find deeper meaning. There’s a world that doesn’t know how to practice compassion or self-giving. There are those among us, maybe some in our own country, who know how to serve themselves, but forget that the role of being a disciple, is to care for the least, the lost, the broken, the ones who can’t make it on their own. Go. Your neighbor needs you.
Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.”
On June 2nd, we finished providing backpacks of weekend food for hungry children at Highland Elementary. Did you know that 60 percent of the children in the elementary school less than one mile from this church need some help with food. We packed 100 backpacks every week for the entire school year. How many thousands is that, you math majors?
We breathed in the Spirit, and we were sent back to school. We don’t even really know how many people volunteered to make this work. There are 50 on the email list, but they are the leaders who bring groups. Every Sunday school packed backpacks at least once. Hundreds, not just in this church, but in this neighborhood, breathed love, brought themselves, opened their arms and hearts, and were sent out.
The teachers at school call us the “food fairies.” What a great name for the Holy Spirit. The Food Fairy—The Spirit that feeds.
This is Holy Trinity Sunday. Perhaps the Trinity isn’t in our heads but in our breath, in this oscillation of coming and going, of being raised up and sent out. Of being fed, and feeding. Drawn into the creator’s love, then sent with the mission of Jesus. The Holy Spirit this flowing movement in and out. She, too, is always coming and going; with each breath, gathering and sending.
The Bible considers God to be in the breath. It’s all the same word: breath, wind, Spirit. Rob Bell speculates, along with many scholars, that the Hebrew name for God, formed by the Hebrew letters YHWH, all consonants that can be breathed as vowels, is actually simply the sound of the breath.. Yah-Weh.
When only resting, we breathe between 17,000 and 30,000 times in a day. Tens of thousands of times, naming the Holy One, most times below the level of our awareness, our bodies knowing that we need breath, Spirit, the presence of Christ, God.