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Breath of God, Breath of Life

breath1Broad Brook Congregational Church

April 6, 2014

Fifth Sunday in Lent

I was preparing for this week’s sermon earlier this week. and as I was reading the lectionary texts another text kept creeping into my thoughts.  It was the creation story.   In case you aren’t aware  there are two stories about creation in Genesis. In chapter 1, God speaks the world into being. Here God speaks, calls, and sees. God creates by commanding from a distance. Chapter 2: 5 begins another account of creation. Here God acts in creation. God plants, forms, grows, and places. For me this is a much more powerful narrative.

Verse 7: “Then the Lore God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. God is more personal and immediate here. Here is a God that is actively involved in the creation process. “God formed man…and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

How totally awesome is that!

The breath of God brings to life humanity–God’s spirit, or Ruah, as the Hebrews called it. God was viewed not just as an architect but also as the builder.

Our scripture readings today are dealing with death and resurrection. In both cases the Holy Spirit, breath of God, Ruah is called upon.  Even in Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:6-11 which we did not read, Paul writes about selfishness leading to death and that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is nothing short of an honest to goodness miracle.

In our Lenten journey we are only one week away from Jerusalem now. Next week is Palm Sunday and we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city.  John’s story of Lazarus puts us near Jerusalem also—just two miles away. The scene is one of death and grieving and present resurrection. In church time, we are only two weeks away from the empty tomb. Thus it is appropriate that we read this story of the resurrection of Lazarus on this the 5th Sunday in Lent.

The narrative is firmly immersed and tangled up in the plots and controversy that encircle Jesus.   Jesus, before going to Lazarus’ tomb, stopped to have a conversation with Martha. “Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die, Do you believe (vv 25-26)?”

Jesus, as the resurrection and the life, shares completely in God’s ability to give life.  God’s spirit in Jesus gives life. Death’s power is defeated. Jesus raises Lazarus through God’s spirit and word.  “Lazarus come out! And Lazarus came out.

Going back in time to 500 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon. While in captivity he sees seven visions, one of which we heard about this morning. God plops Ezekiel down in the valley of dry bones. Dry, dead, sun-scorched bones are all that can be seen. God does not just dump Ezekiel and leave.  No, God begins a conversation with the prophet: “Mortal, can these bones live?”

I wonder if just for a fleeting second, Ezekiel thought this was a trick question. “Come on God they are dead as door nails.”

But he simply says, “Only you can know that, God.“

God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones And tell them that they must listen to the word of God. Ezekiel prophesies as commanded, saying:

“Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life.. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you.”

“I will breathe life into you,” says God (The Messaage vv. 5-6).

The bones begin to shake, rattle, and roll. The prophet watches awe-struck as the bones come together, sinews and muscles form, and skin covers them.  But still no signs of life…no breath.

God has promised to cause breath to enter the bones, and the prophet trusts God to do just that. God commands Ezekiel again to prophesy. Prophesy to the breath, Mortal. Tell the breath,

“God the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!”

The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army (The Message, vv. 9-10).”

God has resurrected the bones. God has breathed new life into the dry bones. God’s promise is real. What was dead is now alive. The word of God and the breath-ruah-spirit of God have created new life once more.

That promise is true for us as well because of who God is and who Jesus is. God’s word and God’s breath of life can give us new life here and now not just in the future. God’s word has life-affirming and life-giving power. God’s breath is the breath of life and it can revive individuals, congregations, and communities.  When dry bones begin to shake rattle and roll and reconnect, we discover together that hope trumps despair, death’s power is abolished, and joy comes in the morning.

In just a few hours you and I will stand together and promise to minister to one another and to our community. God has a plan for us. God has put us together. God is doing a new thing here. God promises to breathe new life into us. Like Lazarus we must break out of our bindings. God is helping us to break out of thinking that holds us in the tomb; to break free of doing things the way they have always been done; to free up our imaginations—imagine new possibilities. God’s promise of new life means making room for a new way for God to be at work in our congregation.

New life is the place where hope transforms what is into what can be. That gift of new life comes from the breath of God-spirit-ruah-the breath of life.

Breath of God-ruah-spirit leads to a new way of embracing God. New life does not mean everything has to change. If the old way of doing something seems dry and lifeless then yes by all means lets discern what God is trying to tell us… what would it mean… what would it feel like to breathe in deeply the spirit of God.  New life. New hope. New possibilities. New Life doesn’t mean everything changes. New live means new energy for doing what we enjoy doing as a faith community.

When bones shake, rattle, and roll, it’s a sign that God is always raising us to new life.  “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Let us promise to breathe deeply the spirit of God and walk together along this new path God has set us upon in faith, hope, love, and joy!

These were my thoughts as I began thinking about all that this day means and where we are on our journey through Lent. I offer them in the greatest of hope and new life.