Breathe Carefully

First, let me start with a word of gratitude to you. Last week was the best week of continuing education that I have experienced in my career. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your desire to have your pastor continue a process of life long learning that leads to continual renewal in my calling to ministry. Last week was truly a gift, and I thank you for that!

Secondly, you already heard a little bit of the biblical scholarship that came out of last week in the sermon last Sunday, and you will hear some more this Sunday. However, I wanted to take the thoughts of last Sunday and extend them to what that means for us about how we live in God’s creation.

So a little refresher…last Sunday the sermon focused on the concept of Ruach Elohim. In the Christian tradition, we have had a tendency to translate these Hebrew words in the Old Testament as the Holy Spirit. This partially becomes grounding for our understanding of the Trinity. However, a better translation is not Spirit, but “Breath of God.” That is the literal translation, and by reading it that way, it opens up a much greater understanding of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but the word Ruach, and the name of God “Yahweh,” are both words that have strong connections to breathing. If we understand that all air, the atmosphere, every breath is breathing in God, it changes how we perceive the world. In this understanding the name of God, Yah-weh quite literally becomes the sound of breathing. Try it real quick—breath in and listen for the sound (Yah-). And as you breath out listen (weh).

The implication of this understanding of God that I pointed to in the sermon is that it becomes a lot harder to say awful things to other people when you realize that the very air you use to speak is the Breath of God. However, there is another implication that may be even more profound. If God indeed is in the life giving air we breath, the atmosphere, the winds, then what does that say about how we treat the air around us? What does that say about the endless amounts of fossil fuels we burn that become a part of the air? What does that say about the greenhouse gases that have begun to have an impact on the extreme weather patterns we are experiencing? What does all of that say about how we are treating God?

What if instead of having the debate about Global climate change in political terms—conservatives denying climate change and liberals bashing them—we have this discussion on theological terms? What if it isn’t about science and politics, but it is about theology? What if the question isn’t weather climate change is real, but instead, the question is, how would we treat the air around us if we truly understood it to be the breath of God?

This Sunday our worship will be focused around celebrating God’s creation. This past Tuesday was Earth Day, and several members decided they wanted to challenge all of us to bike to church on Sunday and to have a picnic in the park afterwards to rejoice in God’s creation. I highly encourage you to take their challenge seriously and give it a try. After all, the air that you will be breathing as you pedal is indeed the breath of God—what a good way to prepare your heart and mind for worship!

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