“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath (spirit) to enter you, and you shall live. (Ezekiel 37:5)
I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing these days. I picture those people with the Covid-19 virus trying to suck breath into their lungs, with or without ventilators. I think about the doctors, nurses and other health care workers having to breathe through masks all day…or not being able to breathe through them because of the shortage. I breathe in a deep lungful of fresh Montana air as I walk, thanking God that I can breathe. Even the planet is breathing easier as the pollution levels have dropped drastically around various parts of the globe.
Breathing, the in and out of air through our lungs into all parts of our bodies, is central to life as we know it. Without breathing we die.
In the ancient Hebrew language as well as ancient Greek, the words for breath and spirit are the same word. (Heb: ruah; Gk: pneuma) God breathed spirit into the first human and there was new life. God continues to breathe the Spirit into us so that we may have new life again and again in Christ.
In this time, we need to breathe. Yes, physically of course. But spiritually, mentally, emotionally as well. We need to just stop and breathe. Slowly, deeply, gratefully taking each breath as a gift of life from God. Take a moment now and pay attention to your breath and say, “thank you, God, for your breath of life.”
Remember though that as followers of Christ, the life of breathing in the Spirit is a life of love, a life of hope, a life of kindness to others. The Spirit’s breath breathed into us in our baptism gives us the strength and courage to love our neighbor as ourselves.
One way of supporting and caring for the breath of others right now is to avoid sharing your breath with them. Six feet is the furthest those tiny virus nuclei can travel, so staying out of that range is important. That is why I am still strongly recommending that all worship services or activities for which congregations gather (ex. Lent suppers, Bible studies, fellowship times, non-essential congregation meetings, etc.) be suspended and/or postponed for the time being, most likely until after Easter. We will continue to assess the situation but start planning how you might do Holy Week and Easter in ways that protect, nurture and care for the breath of life in our neighbors.
Another way you can care for the breath of others is to support our health care workers by sewing masks and gowns. Get your quilting groups and sewing clubs working (in their homes) to sew masks that our hospitals and clinics can use to protect themselves and their patients. Be sure to follow the specifications that they are asking for by looking on the hospital or clinic website. (For example, the Great Falls clinic has this link)
Also, as spring arrives and many of you think about gardens, consider planting a crop of vegetables the excess of which you can share with your local food banks. Providing fresh produce grown with love in the Montana and Wyoming soil and air is a great way to serve the breath of life in your neighbor. During WWI and WWII these were called victory gardens. Perhaps now we can call them Spirit gardens.
There are many ways in your local communities to support the breath of life in others; open your spirit to the Spirit’s working in you to discover what other ways you might serve.
And then come back to the source of your breath, to the God of your creation, the Christ who heals you, and inspiration of the Spirit. Refresh your hearts, souls and minds in the diverse worship, prayer, and Christ-centered opportunities provided by your congregations so that you can breathe in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is your spirit’s respirator, inspiring you with God’s comfort, courage and hope now and always. So don’t forget to stop and breath with Jesus this week and “Receive the holy Spirit.”
“When he had said this, Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22)
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod