The Breath of God

In time primeval the Spirit, the Breath of the Creator hovered like a wild bird over the dark deep.

And it was this same Spirit that, as a warm moist breath, flowed past God’s lips into the nostrils of a lifeless doll shaped of dust and clay. The doll shuddered and was named “Adam.”

The world teemed with life. At first, Adam was just a part of it, the first of a new kind of life that knew it’s place within the pattern of Creation. But as humanity grew, alienation and death emerged within the pattern.

The Hebrew scripture remind us that whenever the people of God encounter forces of death and oppression, stagnation and alienation, the Spirit moved.

The Spirit came upon Joshua and Othiel, Gideon and Sampson, empowering them to take up the sword to fight for liberation.

Though the Breath of God animates the arms of warrior liberators, she prefers to flicker upon the tongues of the prophets, calling the people to the faithful path, warning them of what would happen if they continued to depart from it.

When the prophets speak, some listen. But many turn away.

The way of the prophet is a deadly path. It is written that “some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword.” Such is usually the fate of the prophets. The forces of death do not remain idle.

As the forces of death continued to stretch and loom, the Spirit entered the flesh of young Mary, knitting within her womb the one to be born and named Jesus.

While Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, the Spirit flickered upon the tongue of John, who prepared the way for Jesus.

It was John who baptized Jesus into the ways of the River Jordan, to surge and to flow, to bring nourishment and life to a land parched and struggling.

There, the same Spirit who hovered over the dark deep in time primeval descended upon Jesus like a dove. That same Spirit then surged with the intensity of a murder of crows, driving Jesus into the wilderness to be confronted by Satan. There, Jesus came to understand the depth of his holy calling.

Later, hair tousled with the gale breath of God, Jesus returned from the wilderness. He went to the synagogue of his hometown. There, the words the Spirit had inspired within the prophet Isaiah flowed past the lips of Jesus:

            The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
            for the Spirit has anointed me
            to bring good news to the poor
            release to the captives
            recovery of sight to the blind
            liberation for the oppressed
            and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

After the people of his hometown tried to kill him, and failed, Jesus went throughout the county preaching and praying. He gathered disciples. He healed the sick and cast out demons. He fed the hungry, supped with outcasts, and created entire feasts from crusts, scraps, and water.

Jesus laughed, wept, and raised a friend from the dead. He disrupted the respectably religious and agitated the politely imperial.

And the Spirit animated it all.

But the forces of death are never idle. The respectably religious and politely imperial conspired to silence Jesus.

They mocked, tortured, and crucified the Word of God. He died and was entombed. But the Breath of God quickened within his dead flesh and he, the Second Adam, shuddered. He arose, incorruptible, conquering death!

When he returned to his disciples he said these words:

“Peace to you. As my Father sent me, I am sending you.”

And then he breathed upon them and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

The same warm moist breath that poured past the lips of God to animate dust and clay now flowed out of the mouth of Christ.

And then, after Jesus ascended to God, he poured out the Spirit upon the disciples in the upper room. A terrifying wind tore through the room and then settled upon their heads like tongues of fire.

Under the influence of the Spirit, these disciples started to vomit strange words in a strange language—a sign of a new unity amidst a fractured and alienated world. A new people are born, empowered to bring liberation to those who struggle.

* * *

The Spirit animates life.
The Spirit brings death to death.
The Sprit births Jesus.
The Spirit births the Church.
The Spirit is in every true word.
The Spirit breaks every chain.
The Spirit opens ears and eyes.
The Spirit makes a new way where there is no way.

But you must understand. The Holy Spirit brings comfort and healing, bus she is not a caged bird.
She is not to be placed under a sheet at the church altar.
She flies where she will.
She is never commanded.
She is never used.
She is unpredictable.

Wherever the Spirit is, the Spirit subverts. The Spirit subverts death wherever she blows.

But the forces of death are never idle. They are working even here and now. We are surrounded by systems of oppression. Weapons and myths that kill body and soul. 

Cruel chains twist upon the face of the earth but also winding their way around our minds and bodies.

* * *

Peace to you. As God send Brother Jesus, Jesus sends you.
Receive the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit is here. That Queer bird hovers over us now.
Listen to the wind.
Listen to those next to you, breathing in and out.
Listen to the sound of your own breath.
This is the Breath of God.
Breath it all in.
Be filled.
Let the chains fall.
And go, liberate the face of the earth.

Maki Ashe Van Steenwyk
Latest posts by Maki Ashe Van Steenwyk (see all)