I had never camped in a cemetery before. A circle of orange tape was stretched a respectful distance from the headstones, setting the boundary between the living and the dead. We arrived late, and pitched our tent in the dark, outside the circle – on the living side. In the morning, the rising sun broke over the pines and spilled out over the tents, perched like so many butterflies in a colorful ring around the graveyard. The shadows from the headstones ran long fingers through the wet grass, beckoning us to come and read the names engraved on them; Jones, Hannah, Vechorik. It was oddly comforting, peaceful and calming, to breathe in your mortality with your morning coffee. You could not take the gift of another day of living for granted when you awoke to the visual reminder that it could have been otherwise.
Our ancient Church fathers and mothers envisioned the earth as a flat plane, with the dome of the heavens above, and the waters of chaos all around. It was only the Breath of God – the Spirit – that held back the chaos and kept it from flooding the earth, snuffing out all life. This total dependence on the Breath of God for our very existence is expressed so well in Psalm 104, which says, “When you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust from which they came. When you send forth your breath, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (vs. 29-30)
I watched the shadows shorten as the sun rose in the sky, and thought about my breathing. I thought about how fragile my hold is on this earthly life; how I was but one breath away from being on the other side of that bright orange tape. Yet, I was surprisingly okay with that. Because, I could feel the Divine power and purpose behind my breath – the Presence of God within – sustaining my body, renewing my mind, inspiring my soul.
God wasn’t just wasting his breath. I was alive and breathing because God wanted it that way. I rested in the knowledge that my breath would not fail me until God said it was so. On the first Pentecost, the Fiftieth day from the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus fulfilled his departing promise to his disciples. He sent them the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. The Breath of God rode on the wings of the wind, descending on them in tongues of flame. God sent forth his breath, and they were transformed. They became God’s Church, and through them, God renewed the face of the earth.
God, the Creator, is creating, still. In and out, in and out, his rhythmic breathing continues to sustain his world, bringing order out of chaos. And, we, his church of today, continue to breath deeply – to take in the Holy Spirit – to be filled with the Divine power and purpose that God set in motion at the forming of the world – that all might come to know and love him. We are living, breathing proof that God is not just wasting his breath. Through us, God continues to renew his world, and our work for him will not be done until God says it is so.
Come! Join the flame-filled, joyful, living and breathing community of faith called Zion! Discover the Divine power and purpose within yourself! Find the reason behind your next breath! Rest in the knowledge that the God who holds the universe in his hands, also holds you!
You ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers. Psalm 104:3-4