Lent V: Just Breathe


2 Kings 4 and Acts 20 (Eutychus)

We DO get hooked on watching sports.  And not just former basketball players watching March Madness tournament games, either.  There’s excitement – all that energy!  When the Olympics come around, we all watch. We learn the names of athletes who have become world class without any fanfare, and cheer them on when they burst through the gates, and cross finish lines as if they were from our neighborhood.  For some of us, we envy them.  For some of us, we remember past athletic glory.  For all of us they seem to embody a greater intensity of life, more energy, vitality.  It draws us.

God’s purpose is to give us life…

“In the Beginning…”  It begins with the story of creation in Genesis 1 – in verse 2 the spirit of God breathes across the waters and then later, God gives all green plants for food to all creatures with the breath of life in them– or in Genesis 2 verse 7 God creates a human creature from clay and breathes into their nostrils. And so it begins – story after story in the Bible of God working to give life to creation, and to the human beings God loves.  And in many of these stories we learn, there is no life without breath.

There are a few stories in the Bible with people who are revived after they are not breathing.  Today we heard two of them. In Acts 20, Paul has come to Troas on his journey to Jerusalem.  The new faith community gathered together to have a meal together and hear Paul.  And Paul spoke until midnight about Jesus being present with the followers even after his death.  It was likely the only time the church community would have had a chance to speak with Paul directly and they wanted to get as much as possible out of it. You’-ti-kus (Eutychus), a young man who had been there in the room filled with lamps, perhaps a bit stuffy, and been listening to a long-winded preacher, however compelling, well past bedtime —  fell asleep and feel three stories onto the ground below.  Paul ran down the stairs, threw himself on the young man and held him and his breath returned.  Paul went back upstairs and ate again and then left.

This story has images and symbols of resurrection and new life woven through it.  Paul is telling about the living presence of Jesus after his death.

— The community is gathered for Koinõnia —  the sharing of WORD and TABLE.  The “breaking of the bread” was how Jesus’ presence is often recognized.

— This meeting is also in an UPPER ROOM, as were several significant meals with Jesus.

Combination of preaching/teaching and miracle= resurrection.  Paul was teaching, resuscitate him, and then runs back upstairs to finish his teaching.  Miracle and message run together a bit.  The miracle of the Risen Jesus is actually the definition of the Good News or The WORD.

We are supposed to understand in this story that God’s purpose is to give life – to all people. God is the life-giver.

  • God’s life-giving impulses go even beyond Oxygen. Although we know we need oxygen.  Bad things happen to our bodies if we don’t have sufficient oxygen.
  • If the air is too thin – as high on a mountain, we labor to breathe and may need breathing assistance. Mountain climbers have to prepare their lungs for the decreased oxygen – and often carry an emergency supply of oxygen just in case they need it.
  • If we have asthma or other respiratory diseases, we have to keep regular checks on our breath capacity through peak flow meters, asthma action plans, and checks of our blood oxygen.
  • Yawning is our body’s defense to bring in more oxygen to our cells and eliminate more Carbon dioxide. It may be because when we are bored or tired, we don’t breathe as deeply as we usually do.  We need more oxygen, which prompts us to yawn, and the oxygen helps to cleanse our blood and energize our minds.  Some of us just need more oxygen and it has nothing to do with being tired or bored.

God is a need beyond Oxygen.  We need God similarly to the way we need oxygen.  Breath of Life – Ruach – divine breath or wind – gives life.  A reminder of not just our dependence on God, but the continual nature of our dependence on God.  Like oxygen, God-breathing is not a 1-shot deal.

This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I I’m desperate for you
And I I’m lost without you

This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I I’m desperate for you
And I I’m lost without you

I’m lost without you
I’m desperate for you[i]

Poets and songwriters are a lot of help on this…because they help connect us with our intuitive centers.

”Breathe of heaven…”

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven[ii]

We DEPEND on God’s in-breathing, living presence – if only we could realize it.  We need God’s living presence even as we need oxygen.  Life depends on it.

How do we find the living presence of God?

There’s a clue in 2 Kings. Our story in 2 Kings is of a strong woman of great faith.  She met Elisha, perceived that he was a prophet, a man of God, and prepared a room for his use any time he had need of it.  When he asked her what he could do for her in return, she shared that she longed for a son.  She has a son – and when he had a killer headache, literally, she ran for Elisha.  His staff and servant were not enough – she would not let go until the prophet had seen her son. Persistence is a virtue.

Shalom. But notice—even in the midst of her tragedy, when people ask her what’s happening, she says, “It’s alright. Shalom – peace is here.”  Why is that?  It’s not immediately obvious why she says everything is alright when her son lays dead.

“It’s alright,” she says.
“Even so, it’s alright.”

“Even in the face of death, God is with us.”

And we may have experienced this a bit ourselves.  In the life or death moments, we know things are alright.  When we sit at the bedside of a loved one as their spirit hovers between this life and the next – we can sometimes feel the SHALOM,  the alrightness of their passing.

Empty to be filled. Perhaps some of the truth of shalom comes from the feeling of emptiness.  Often, after a long vigil or a long illness, we have nothing left.  And then – just then – God breathes into us when we have nothing left.

If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, ‘This is not dead’,
And fill thee with Himself instead….  (Pause)

(With sadness) But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, ‘This is enow Unto itself – ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.’   Sir Thomas Browne

Or in Psalm 1:  Like trees planted by streams of living water, the faithful yield their fruit in season and do not wither.  WHY?  They are planted by living water.  You see, God’s purpose is to give life, even abundant life, even given continually like the air we breathe. We need God’s living presence to become spiritually alive – and to remain spiritually alive. It’s continual – not a 1 shot deal. It only comes to us out of God’s great love for us. But maybe we need to make room in our lives for God’s living presence. To breathe – just breathe.

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in, fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe (just breathe)
let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe (just breathe)

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe[iii]

[i]  Songwriters: Liam Howe / Tahliah Barnett / Timmaz Zolleyn  (Some repetitions removed)

[ii] Songwriters: Chris Eaton / Amy Lee Grant. Breath of Heaven lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

[iii] Songwriters: Jonathan Lindley Smith / Jonny Diaz / Tony Wood

Breathe lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group


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