“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” --John 20: 21-22
Our recent week in Yosemite was wonderful! After three years of drought, the water was the star of the valley. The rivers roared and rushed, and waterfalls were everywhere.
You know that I also took pictures. I took pictures of flowers, birds, and animals. I took pictures of massive sequoia trees, and grand panoramic scenery. I was watching the light, trying new things with my camera, and thoroughly enjoying myself. So when we arrived at Lower Yosemite Falls after a short walk, I noticed that the sunlight striking the mist bellow the falls just right and a rainbow was trying to form. I yelled at Christy that I was going and squeezed through the crowd to find a clear view in the center of the bridge. I waited for just the right moment. And suddenly there it was! The crowd gasped with delight in several languages as the rainbow got brighter. Photographers rushed to the bridge. And I clicked away filled with excitement. When I finished, I didn’t see Christy and Clivie anywhere. I went down the trail, thinking they had gone on ahead of me. Five minutes turned into ten, and then fifteen, and then twenty. Forty minutes later I still had not found them in the crowd. I checked the restrooms and went back to the car—they weren’t there. Over an hour passed. I was starting to get worried. I left a note on the dashboard and decided to walk the loop backwards. I walked a short distance and saw them coming around the corner. Relief flooded through me. But it was short lived. Christy’s face was red and streaked with tears. She was obviously very unhappy with me. We stood there glaring at each other. We blamed, we gestured, we yelled, and we made excuses. We dispensed with our well intentioned rules about fighting as little as possible in front of our son and let it fly. In the heat of all this, Clivie (who was holding on tight to me now because he was so glad to see me) stepped between us, looked up, and said: “Mommy! Mama! We all just need to take a deep breath!”
And indeed we did. We sat down together, and expressed our fear and relief. We took some food out of the backpack and had something to eat. We reconnected, apologized, and lamented that we had not put a plan into place in case we got separated in such a big crowded place—with no cell service. Christy shared with me through tears that, although she was delighted that I was so excited about the new camera she had gotten me for Christmas, she had come to Yosemite to spend time with Clivie and me— not with the camera. I apologized for not seeing her and asked if we could create some boundaries around my photo taking. She agreed. We held hands. We took responsibility for feelings. And we breathed together. Glad to be together. Relieved to see each other after this traumatic experience.
When Jesus showed up in that room after the disciples had seem him brutally executed by the authorities of empire, there had to be a lot of emotions flying around. We know they had locked the doors in fear (anger, grief, and shock). And then, there he was. Standing right in front of them! In the midst of all of that, the first thing Jesus said was, “Peace be with you.” And John tells us he breathed on them so they could feel that he was really there! As the Spirit of holiness, breath, and connection filled them, it must have reminded them that relationship and presence are at the core of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The strength of that deep and abiding connection would give them the strength to take the good news out the doors and into the world.
I invite you—in the tradition of Jesus—punctuated by a reminder from our three year old Zen Master—to breathe in coming days. Breathe through whatever curves your life throws at you. Breathe through the fear. Breathe through the disbelief. Breathe through the separation and anger. Breathe through the joy and relief. And remember in all the breathing to put down whatever it is that is keeping you from being present (Examples: anything with a screen—including cameras, work, anger, worry, resistance, self-centeredness). Relationship and presence are gateways to holiness—to the Holy Spirit—relationship with God, with each other, and with ourselves. We all—even your Pastor—need to remember that.
Let’s take a deep breath together. See you on the Journey