Life & Breath

This is what I read for communion a few weeks ago:

Hi Church! I’m introducing communion today, and I’m starting at the very beginning, in Genesis. I’m reading Genesis 2: 4-9:

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” You may or may not know that the Greek word used for the Holy Spirit in the Bible pneuma, which means breath. In this passage, we see this beautiful picture of God breathing his life-giving spirit into man. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the power that holds creation together. When God does anything, it echoes into eternity. He spoke, and worlds were formed. He breathed into Adam, and Adam continued to breath for his entire life, and his children after him, and their children after them for generations. That’s pretty powerful. I just took a CPR class and I’d be lucky to breath into someone enough to keep them alive for 2 minutes, let alone generations. Have you ever considered that it is through the effort of God that your lungs and heart are functioning? Not just at the beginning with Adam, but today, moment by moment?  Everyone here in this room just breathed, and we did not even think about it. But just because WE do not have to think about it doesn’t mean that it’s effortless. Just because you’re not making an effort doesn’t mean God isn’t. Take a breath—that’s the grace and pleasure  of God filling your lungs with air, pushing the oxygen into your body and expelling the carbon dioxide.

God doesn’t just make us breathing meat puppets, though. The Bible says he knows the number of hairs on your head. Do you know the number of hairs on your head? Ok, maybe some of you could count them in a few seconds… but most of us don’t. God knows you better than you know yourself. He knows the cells in your body. He knows the cancer that is there before you find out about it. He knows how many breaths  you will take in a lifetime, how many times your heart will beat. He knows how tall you are right now, how tall you were when you were 6 years, 3 months, and two days old, and how tall you will be when you’re 85. He didn’t just breath a poof of air into Adam’s lungs to set the whole thing running, he continues to sustain all of creation by his power and grace with loving intimacy that is so caring it’s hard to even imagine.

While most of what keeps us alive is run without much of our say-so one way or another—he’s just working things behind the scenes—he gives us some control over critical things. Food is something we have daily control and choice over. I stand before you the result of years of choices to eat bacon and cheese. Frequently. If I decide to drink myself to death, God will let me. Food was actually the first choice of Adam and Eve—At least the first one we read about. God gave them life, but then the Bible says, “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God had just given them life, why was there a tree of life for them to eat from? God was giving them the choice to work with him to sustain life, to ingest the food that contributes to the beautiful creative work that God was already doing in them, or to work against him, to establish independence, to say “God you gave me life and breath, but I think I can figure it out on my own from here if I just know a little bit more about the world.” We all know how the rest of the story goes. Adam and Eve made a choice, and it is one we make every single day to be independent, to work on our own instead of with God. To hide our problems and our vulnerabilities our own way, right our own wrongs. And those choices are slowly killing our bodies and the world around us in spite of the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit for life and breath.

The good news is that there is a new food that we can choose to eat to be able to participate with God in giving life to our body and soul—that is the body and blood of Jesus. We cannot go back to Eden and eat from the tree of life, but there is a dead tree that was made into a cross, and the first fruit from the dead, Jesus Christ. This bread and juice represent his body and blood. Jesus said they are his body. Does it change into actual flesh as it goes down my throat into my stomach? I’m not going to get into the theology of that. It is a weird idea (some people call it a “mystery”), but if you think about it, is it any weirder to ingest the flesh of Jesus in my stomach than to have the breath of the Holy Spirit filling my lungs? My body is in decay because of my sin, if I take his eternal body that was sacrificed for me, and the cells of it pass through my stomach into my blood and all of the cells of my own body, his life-giving resurrection power is there. He gave me life originally, then sacrificed to restore to me the choice to participate in life by eating what he has offered.

Let’s get the bread and juice. This is for those of us who know Jesus and want to know him better, so if you do not know Him, please leave this for those of us who do. There are tables over there and there….

I’ve spent my whole life in the church, and for most of it I believed that Jesus loved me so much that he came to save me from my sins.  And that was…it. I thought that accepting his death on my behalf somehow cosmically zapped me to be go off and be a better person, that was his pleasure and good will. End of story. While it is amazing and true that he died to save us from our sins, it is not the whole truth. Jesus did it…SO THAT he can have the most intimate communion with us possible. ALL of this (motion around the room) isn’t just so we can live better lives but so that we can know HIM, talk to HIM, enjoy life with HIM. Forever. He loves us and wants to be WITH US as closely as possible as often as possible. He breathes the air into our lungs, he sustains our lives, he counts the hairs on our head and catches our tears in a bottle and saves them. But like any good lover, he wants us to choose that intimacy with him in return. Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and EAT with that person, and they with me.” We’ve let him in,…now we are choosing to EAT together with Him. Eating this food and drink represents our choice to acknowledge that he is the air we breathe, the power of life, and that we want SO MUCH OF HIM that he is the food in our mouths and the blood in our veins.

“Jesus said, this my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Let’s eat the bread.

“Jesus said “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Let’s drink.

Let’s pray…Jesus, we love you so much. Thank you for dying to make this communion with you possible. We know you are here with us, and we want more of your presence every moment of every day. Amen

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