Ps. 150 & John 20:19-31
 “An Easter Breath of Fresh Air”

 “An Easter Breath of Fresh Air”

Ps. 150 & John 20:19-31 ~ Northwood UC ~ April 24, 2022 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook  

I would like to begin with a little breathing experience. I would like for each of us to hold our breath, for as long as we can…now please don’t pass out…but together, let us take a deep breath in and hold your breath, for as long as you can comfortably hold it…Now, assuming that you are all still with me, and it looks like you all are…I wondered what people did after their lungs ran out of air? Some of us got dizzy…some of us wondered ‘why is our crazy minister making us do this?’…and at some point, we all opened our noses and mouths and drew a deep breath of fresh, live-giving, air. How good did that next breath feel? How life-giving was it? How powerful did it seem? Hold onto the feeling of that first breath.  

As we explore this morning’s gospel reading, I wanted to focus on the breath that Jesus offered upon the disciples. This particular text is read each year on the Sunday following Easter. And it is read because we find ourselves, just like the disciples, trying to figure out the Easter story. We are breathless; the air has gone out from our initial celebrations. The Easter fanfare is over: the feast has been consumed, the chocolate has been enjoyed, and we are left with the faith task of considering what it means to be ‘Easter people.’ Nothing left but turkey leftovers, and half-eaten chocolate bunnies, and the theological puzzle of the resurrection. The text before us places the disciples, locked away, in the house as they figure it all out. They have locked the windows and the doors and find themselves in a state of fear. Jesus has been crucified; graveclothes are all that remain in the tomb; some are reporting him to be raised….and they are not sure what all this all means.  

They have, as we all just did, taken a deep breath since Easter morning, and they are holding onto the memories and the hope of the past. And they are wondering where they will draw their next of life. And into their fears; into their confusion; into their uncertainties…Jesus breathes upon them. As their breath runs out; Jesus revives them with the Holy breath to resuscitate them for their call to be the living body of Christ. The verb usage in the text “Jesus breathed upon them” is a very curious one. If you were to have read it in the Greek, it would jump out as the Greek word ‘emphysao’ is rarely used in scriptures. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, for example, it is used at a few very significant moments. One instance is when we see the breath of the holy…after creating the first human, God breathing life into his nostrils and bringing forth life (Genesis 2:7). This same verb is later used by the prophet Ezekiel as he looks over the valley of dead bones after the Israelite exile to Babylon. When that seems to be left is death, Ezekiel prophecies how God will breathe new life into these bones of death and will bring forth life (Ezekiel 37:1-14). And here, in this morning’s text, that same life-breath is seen. When Jesus “breathed upon them”, he breathed the same life-giving Spirit that would allow them to be his living body…the body we call ‘the church’. Jesus breathed upon them power; he breathed upon them strength; he breathed upon them the legacy to be the living body of Christ. Jesus breathed upon them the power, the strength, the legacy to be the living body of Christ.  

I would like to suggest that this is a natural time in the annual cycle of the church that we truly need to take a deep breath and breathe in the peace and the power of the gospel as we consider our ongoing call to be the church. This is a time to breathe in an Easter breath of fresh air that Christ is offering. AGM Sunday provides this natural time for us to ponder and reflect on a year gone by. And what a year it has been! This has truly been a year of surprises. And hasn’t it been surprising the way God has breathed upon the church, allowing us to be the living body of Christ amidst the challenges? From March 2020 through until September 2021, God’s breath allowed us to drastically change our ministries. Prior to the pandemic, I don’t think any of us thought of church in any other form as ‘in person’. Church was coming, and gathering, and ‘being’ together. Yet, the breath of the holy has allowed us to ‘be’ the church in new ways.  

Last Sunday, as we gathered for Easter, it was our first Easter together since 2019. And we gathered in person for our largest attendance since the pandemic. We also gathered virtually, as a large group took in the service from home. We had our first fellowship time with hot cross buns and refreshments. The life-breath of God was shaping us in new ways to be the church. And as we review the year of 2021 later this morning, it is a time to consider how the life breath of God is reviving us, empowering us, buoying us to be the church.  

Of course, as we look back, it is only natural that we look ahead and ponder the future as well. And as we consider this text before us, it prompts a call to open ourselves up to the life-giving breath of God. For those of us who admire sailing, we have all likely seen that powerful moment when the sailor shifts from using the small motor to get their boat out of the harbour, and proceeds to open up their sails, and waits for the powerful winds to fill them and move them ahead. This is our moment that we await the Easter breath of fresh air. And as the faithful body of Christ, we must do that same thing in our living. Opening up our lives to be filled with the Easter breath of life. Re-starting our various ministries is a time that we decide which ones will be continued, and which ones will not. Sunday morning worship was the first to restart. But the question of discernment will be ours as we consider which others will be next to begin. And which ones will not be renewed. And which ones will be dreamed up and created in the days ahead.  

The good news in this text is that, even when we hide away, even when we lock the windows and doors with our fears, the risen Christ will walk through any barrier and offer up the life giving breath of Easter to lead us ahead. May we keep eyes, minds and spirits open, and ready to receive the life-breath of the holy. May we be the living body of Christ in this little part of the world as Northwood.    

Let us take a deep breath of the new life in Easter as live as the body of Christ.