Dorothy Churn LaPenta
Hope Presbyterian Church
May 24, 2015
Acts 2: 1-21
BREATHE ON ME BREATH OF GOD
I know this to be true. There is no drama on television, in the movies, in video games, or in life that can compare to those 4-5 dramatic moments just before the birth of a baby. As a former labor and delivery nurse, I know what I am talking about.
The baby is making its last journey down the mother’s birth canal. Usually, but not always, it’s the head that arrives first, and the baby needs some help because once the head is delivered, those shoulders are broad and boney, and need to be brought under the mother’s pelvic bone, and lifted up by the midwife or the doctor or whoever is helping with the delivery. Once the shoulders are delivered the rest is easy, (well the delivery, not raising the child), but for a few seconds what is being held is the flesh and bones of a beautiful, but messy body that has just made a miraculous journey. You wait just one or two seconds, and the life that has been sustained by the mom with oxygen and nutrition for nine months, takes its first breath and cries out in a baby way, “I’m alive!”
There’s a change in the entire atmosphere in the room. The parent or parents are both laughing and weeping eager to meet this child. There’s great relief among the caregivers, and it doesn’t matter that they’ve assisted with a thousand deliveries. They are laughing and weeping as well because it’s a miracle, and more than relief, the feeling permeating that room is sheer delight.
The experience always takes me back to Genesis 2, “Then the Lord, God formed humanity from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and humanity became a living being. The flesh and bones were formed, but there had to be breath……and God felt sheer delight.
I didn’t think about it until working on the sermon this week, but when Ezekiel was taken in his fourth vision to that field of dry bones, and told to “Prophesy to a field of deadness,” he saw the bones comes together. He saw the connections and the flesh form on them. There was a body, but it took breath for their to be life…..and Ezekiel felt sheer delight.
If you read your recent newsletter, you saw the list of all the studies we have done at Collington on Thursday afternoon these past twelve and a half years. I found myself thinking this week that I wish we had studied the book of Ezekiel. It would have been hard, but our Collington friends are always up to the challenge.
Ezekiel was a priest, and he was in the first wave of exiles to be taken to Babylon in 597 BCE. Ezekiel was taken because he was considered upper crust, those who were gifted and in authority, and had something to offer Babylon. While in exile, he was made a prophet, and he was quite the curmudgeon telling the people of Israel in no uncertain terms that they were responsible for this mess. It was their continued sin and abominations that caused the loss of their homeland. It was their fault. God gives Ezekiel visions, and in this fourth vision, God takes Ezekiel to this field of dry bones. It looks like a former battlefield where no one who died received the proper burial.
God speaks to Ezekiel, “Hey, you, can these bones live?” We don’t know the tone of Ezekiel’s answer. That happens in the Bible sometimes so we have to play with possibilities. Was Ezekiel’s answer reverent, “O Lord, God, you know.” Or did Ezekiel, looking at this valley where life would have been the farthest from anyone’s mind, answer with eyes that might have been rolling, saying, “Why are you asking me? I am looking, and all I see are dry bones. What are you looking at, God?”
There’s the point. God is asking Ezekiel to look at this valley, not through his own eyes, but through the eyes of God.
“Can these bones live?” Not when I look at them. But through the eyes of God, they rush to come together.
“ Can these corpses be brought forth from the grave and live again? Not if I have to make that call. But through God’s eyes, just watch them rise up, receive the breath of the Spirit, stand in multitudes, and return home.
When we raise our vision to look beyond what out mundane eyes can see, we watch all that is possible in God’s eyes, because it is God who will give the breath and therefore the life so that we can truly see.
We often say, “I can’t believe my eyes,” and we can’t. But we can believe what God sees, and seeing through God’s eyes glimpses unimaginable reasons to keep hoping.
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, and yet another story of the Spirit coming to the people, and bringing new life. We cannot miss the message of equality in this text. Old and young, women and men, people from all these different places hear in their own language, and receive the gift of the Spirit., the wind, the breath. All have been anointed.
Then Peter interprets a vision from another prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures, Joel, seeing things through the eyes of God. “The Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh, and sons and daughters will prophesy, and young and old will see visions and dream the dreams that are not merely dreams, but the real story of salvation that continues to unfold…… that continues to unfold……. to this day.
God continues to be very near, and at work in us and among us, seeing the possibilities that our own eyes just cannot see. God empowers the disciples on that Pentecost Day to proclaim resurrection, and is still about the business of empowering us.
But you have to breathe. There has to be breath for there to be life, and it is the breath of God that gives us the Spirit to see things through the eyes of God, that our mundane eyes would never dream possible.
Can we tell the difference between the times that we are just flesh and bones walking around spouting off biases, fears, and opinions, rambling on, moaning and groaning, grumping about, and those times when we truly surrender to the One who gives life and breath, to the the One whose mercy is always willing to re-birth us,with the breath of God so that we can cry out, “We’re alive!”
Can you tell the difference when you expand those lungs to breathe in the breath of God, and receive the Spirit into your flesh and bones?
When I look out at the people of Hope Presbyterian Church, I do not see a valley of dry bones. There is so much life in this congregation, so many possibilities, so much love and grace to spread, and so much that is unfinished. I do not see just flesh and bones and sinews.
But, I do see sisters and brothers who will always need to breathe in the breath of God for the work to which you are called as the church. I do see sisters and brothers who will be limited if they can only see through their own eyes, but who will see unimaginable visions when they look through the eyes of God, and go forward.
This morning, you will be asked to re-new the vows you took at your baptism because that is the day that you were ordained, re-birthed into new life, and sealed by the Holy Spirit to the community, and life and work to which we are called. Each day, we need to remember that baptism and be thankful. It reminds us to breathe.
Because you and I will go through our good-byes this coming week, and do all the laughing and crying and hugging, and thanking that we need to do, you will be anointed this morning with the waters of baptism by the your spiritual leaders who are currently serving on the session. They are not going anywhere. We do not know who will be in my place yet, as your leader, but we do, for certain, that God is here with you, as God has always been, asking, “Can you LIVE? Will you LIVE?”
“Yes! we can, God” “Yes, we can.” “Breathe on me breath of God.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
References Cited for this Sermon
The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. The Book of Ezekiel Katheryn Pfisterer, Abingdon Press: Mashville, 2001, pp 1500-1504
Feasting On The Word. Year B, Volume 3, Acts 2: 1-21, G. Lee Ramsey Jr., Westminster John Knox. pp 2-7.