May 31st, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“The Way of Life, We Must Practice”
When does it feel good to breathe? When do you feel good to breathe?
Since I moved to Wisconsin, I intentionally breathe in and out whenever I feel the fresh air. And then, it feels so great to breathe. How grateful we can breathe! How grateful God gives us the fresh air! Practice breathing this fresh air in and out!
How do you feel? It is great! It is easy and simple to breathe. From a fetus to a senior citizen, everyone breathes every day and every moment. But, we cannot merely recognize that breathing is to practice the way of life. Without breathing, we cannot sustain our life.
Nevertheless, we forget how grateful we should be that God gives us life day by day. Mostly we can never see our breath. Since the air you breathe in and out is invisible, you never think about how grateful we should be to breathe unless you have trouble breathing.
I especially give thanks to God, for we can worship at the Park breathing this fresh air in during this challenging time due to COVID 19. While we are experiencing the COVID 19 pandemic, we learn that our breath can carry the germs and impact others. COVID 19 makes it difficult to breathe and transmits the virus person to person through breathing. So, we are encouraged to wear a facemask when we go out. Even now, we need to be careful when we see each other in person. And we encourage you to wear a facemask if you want to get out of your vehicle. It is such a strange situation. You may think, “Why do I have to wear a facemask since you are not sick?”
Furthermore, when you see those who wear masks, you may be suspicious if they are sick with COVID 19. And then, you try to avoid them, because you know that COVID 19 transmits through our breath. So, our breath carries life and carries germs of illness as well.
Listen to the Scripture reading for today: Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus breathed on his disciples, they did not catch a cold or any germs of illness. They caught the Holy Spirit. We do not know exactly how Jesus breathed on those disciples. He perhaps did not just blow in their faces. But, he did give them something special. The Scripture reading names the things the disciples received when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them. They received “peace,” and they received “power to forgive sins.”
This breath was not just a simple breath that we breathe every moment without consciousness. It was the breath of life. In the beginning, when God created human beings, it was the breath that God breathed into the human’s nostrils. Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Without the breath of life from God, we are just beings from the dust of the ground.
In the Scripture reading for today, Jesus is the risen Christ from the dead. His disciples, who lost their teacher and master, were fearful and closed doors. How desperate the situation is! But Jesus came to them and stood among them. It was not a simple visit. It was a special reminder that you are the being of life.
Furthermore, it was an assurance at the center of their lives that he will be with them forever. And his first word, “peace be with you” (v.19), was far more than a familiar greeting. This gift of peace is the fruit of the salvation Jesus has won on the cross. When Jesus showed these disciples the nail prints in his hands and the great wound on his side, they rejoiced (v.20). Here is the visible evidence of the victory Jesus shares with them in his peace. Again, the breath of Jesus was a special reminder that you received a new life as if God breathed into the human to be the living being.
Today is the Pentecost Day, in which the Holy Spirit comes to us. It is the day to remind us that we received a new life from Jesus. These scars are the marks that prove the crucified Jesus is the risen Christ. These wounds are also scars that the church, his body on earth, must bear to continue the authentic ministry of Jesus.
Now Jesus commissions his disciples, Jesus said to them again, “peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They are given the mission which the Father gave the Son. However, they cannot begin this mission of healing and peace without the power and energy of Jesus’ risen life. So, Jesus breathes on them, saying, “receive the Holy Spirit” (v.22). As God had breathed life into that first human and became a living soul, now the Son Jesus shares the intimacy of his own life with his disciples that they may be new humanity, recreated and empowered for their mission.
Then his disciples are given the authority to carry forward Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness. We know that Jesus is the only one who can forgive. But these who have been breathed upon are called to be a forgiving, healing people. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” So, they have the right to speak a discerning word of power in Jesus’ name that will release the burden of sin. Wherever the breath of the risen Lord is, there is forgiveness. Jesus gives his people the boldness to speak this word on his behalf.
In a gathering, it is good to see someone share a hidden pain, anger, or burden, which gives them suffering. It has often been a heavy burden for a long time. Then those on whom Christ has breathed and interceded, given the burden to the resurrected Christ, and in his name have pronounced forgiveness and affirmation, and all have left rejoicing! This authority to speak the word of release and forgiveness is for all the people who live under the risen Christ’s authority.
As the disciples received the power to breathe that same Spirit on others, we do so that same Spirit on others. Because they had received peace from Christ, the Holy Spirit gave them the power to bring peace to others. Because Jesus Christ had forgiven their sins, they could tell others about his payment for all sins and share that forgiveness with others.
On this Pentecost Day, I encourage you to ask yourself two questions, which are the way of life we must practice in our daily lives: First: who is breathing on you? Some people share the love of Christ. They share peace, joy, and understanding with an open mind and open doors. When you share in the lives of people who live in Christ, you receive the blessings that they have. Others will breathe anger, jealousy, hatred, lust, greed, and other hurtful feelings on you. Learn to recognize the bad feelings and do not let them become a part of your life.
The second question I encourage you to ask yourself is, whom are you breathing on? Do you share the peace you have? Do you forgive others when you know you are forgiven? What Spirit are you breathing on others? Is it the Holy Spirit? Is the Spirit that shares the new life in Christ? That is the Spirit you receive. Please pass it on in your daily life. With these two questions, we must practice the way of life in our daily lives.
To wear a facemask is not comfortable. But it is a small practice in which we show our love for God, for others, and also for ourselves. No prejudice! No suspicions! Please keep the rule to protect and respect others. Let us go to the way of life together. Breathe on others for peace and power of forgiveness in our daily lives. Thanks be to God, Amen!