The poet T. S. Eliot once said, “There are some things about which we can say nothing, but before which we dare not keep silent.”
T. S. Eliot could be speaking of the mystery and reality of God, especially three God-acts that that defy speech and silence: the Incarnation (God becoming human life), the Resurrection (God raising Jesus to new life), and Pentecost (God breathing the Spirit in human life).
On this Pentecost we could well be in silence and let the Spirit breathe in us [deep breathes]. Yet we dare not keep silent when the Spirit breaths Christ-life in us.
Each Pentecost scripture today gives witness to God’s Spirit breathing life into being.
Ezekiel 37: 1-14 Spirit Life-Breath
One of the most vivid images offered by a biblical prophet is from Ezekiel.
God reaches out a hand and takes hold of the prophet.
The Spirit transports Ezekiel and plops him down in the middle of a vast valley to look around.
One of our granddaughter Olivia’s favorite books is a Winnie the Pooh and Tigger story.
Pooh and Tigger are out having fun and Tigger is bouncing as Tigger does.
Tigger, with ADHD energy, bounces so high he gets caught in a tree.
A puzzled Pooh looks for Tigger. This is the part Olivia loves to imitate.
Pooh looks this way and looks that way (gesture hand over eyes) but can’t find Tigger.
Finally Pooh stops to think, ‘Tigger bounces up.’ Pooh looks up and sees Tigger in a tree.
In the middle of the valley Ezekiel looks this way and looks that way.
Ezekiel doesn’t see Tigger, but does see what? Dry bones as far as the eye can see.
God asked the prophet, “Can these bones live?”
Ezekiel says, “God, you know” — as if to say “Why are you asking me? You give life.”
Then God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones. Tell them to hear the word of the Lord.”
I would not have been too thrilled with God if I had been Ezekiel told to preach to bones.
God tells Ezekiel to tell the dry bones that they will be breathed on and come to life.
And they do! Ezekiel tells us our first great Spirit-Life-Breath story. [deep breathes]
John 15: 26-27; 16: 4b-15 Spirit Advocate
Jesus speaks one of his greatest teachings in John’s gospel (14-17, cf. Sermon on Mt in Matt.)
In this great teaching Jesus promises not to abandon them even though he will leave them.
Jesus will send an Advocate on our behalf so we are not on our own and not alone.
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from God….. (15:26).
Jesus tells disciples what they don’t want to hear – he is leaving for their own good.
But Jesus assures them that will be present in a new way, as Spirit-Advocate on their behalf.
Without Jesus present they have to ponder, pray, proclaim, and practice their faith.
They are to follow Jesus when he isn’t there in person but they will not be alone or on their own.
Jesus will be present with them in a new way – as Spirit Advocate of Truth. [deep breathes]
That leads us to the scripture from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts 2: 1-21 Spirit Truth
The central Pentecost scripture is the Pentecost story at the outset of the Acts of the Apostles.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place… [tell 2: 1-4].
Pentecost is the transforming encounter with the Spirit.
Jesus fulfills his promise to send the Spirit Truth upon the Jesus people forever.
God sends the Spirit upon people of many languages.
“God meets us in the messiness of different languages and does not ask us to speak God’s language. Instead, God chooses to speak our many languages.” [attribute quote?]
We are to live Spirit-breathed lives doing Spirit-inspired work as Spirit-led-witnesses.
Who we are and what we do as a Church is not because we are good and gifted people.
Yes, you are good and gifted people as are we together as SMC. But that’s not enough.
God the Spirit Truth grounds and energizes our worship and work. [deep breathes]
Romans 8: 22-27 Spirit Hope…….Sighs-intercedes
Our fourth scripture is Paul’s reminder that Jesus never tells us it will be easy.
While The Way of Jesus may be hard the Spirit is at work within us in a groaning world.
In his Letter to the Romans Paul says, ‘creation groans with sighs too deep for words.’
[Read 8: 22-27].
Paul knows what Jesus knows, that we live and move and have our being in a groaning world.
Emilie Teresa Smith asks “Can these bones live?” Guatemalans disappeared (Sojourners, June).
Yet the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
Take heart — the Spirit is a Spirit of hope within us. Not a false hope but a genuine Spirit-Hope. “Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out,” Vaclav Havel.
(Jeanne Ranek OSB, “Women Monastics in Today’s World,” Benedictines, 2012 Spring/Summer, p. 10.
“We need to be mystics and prophets – that is our legacy and call today!” p. 11) [deep sighs/breathes]
Signs and Sighs of the Spirit
There are signs and sighs of the Spirit everywhere – if we look this way and that way.
Over the past seven Sundays of Easter we have heard you give witness to the risen Christ.
Jenn Carreto, Rebecca Rojas, Nicole Morrison-Winters, the MVSers, Kelli McBride,
and Jon Hiskes have shared God’s Spirit-breath with us. Thank you and thanks be to God!
God breathes Spirit life in you and in us to see and be the Spirit-filled people of God.
We are not dry bones in the desert; we are Spirit-breathed people.
Your random acts of kindness, your many ways of service,
your daily work as if Jesus mattered share with others the Spirit breathing within you.
I witness God’s Spirit breathing life in you and many people and places amidst groans and sighs.
A week ago I was at Saint John’s Abbey witnessing a momentous event.
For the first time in 5 centuries Monks and Mennonites together remembered Michael Sattler.
In 1525 Sattler left his monastery in Germany and became an Anabaptist leader and martyr.
Last Sunday evening about 35 monastics, Mennonites, and others commemorated Sattler.
We don’t have time to tell that story now but I want to name 3 monks inspired by Sattler.
Biblical scholar Dale, preaching in worship at the Abbey Church last Sunday morning, reclaimed MS as one of their own giving witness to the Spirit of God inspiring faith even at the cost of life.
At our MS event, liturgical theologian Anthony, led us in singing “We are people of God’s peace,” written by Anabaptist leader Menno Simons, a song that will appear in their new hymnal.
Inspired by Michael Sattler, Guestmaster Bob is calling Catholics to be an inclusive church and speaking against a marriage amendment mandating marriage as exclusively male-female.
The Latin words cogito ergo sum came to me meaning: I think, therefore, I am.
On this Pentecost Sunday we say: I breathe, therefore, I am. We breathe, therefore, we are.
Breath is both the symbol and the reality of God’s Spirit breathing life in us.
Breath is rhythmic and continuous whether conscious or unconscious.
Breath cannot be seen.
Breath is obvious and real yet mysterious and unknown.
Breath is powerful and life-giving yet fragile and vulnerable.
Breath is God’s life giving life within us.
Come, O Spirit Breath of God, keep breathing your life-energy in us. AMEN