WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS
LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE
We are told in the gospel of John of an encounter between Jesus and the disciples after the crucifixion:
“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of the crucifixion.
“The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.’
“After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” [John 20:19-22]
On this first day of the week, wherever we are on our journey, may we be open to Divine peace which is as close to us as our next breath.
THERE IS A SEASON: A Time for Spiritual Healing
Breath and Connection
The Bible, our sacred text, begins with stories of Creation. In the first story, we are told of the wind brooding over the face of the waters. That word for wind also means spirit. So our story begins with spirit, air, wind churning the deeps and drawing forth the Earth as we know it with its countless life forms. A perfect storm!
In the second creation story, we hear of the formation of an earthling created from the clay of the ground. Then Yahweh “blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being.” [Genesis 2:7]
So our story begins with air, spirit, the life force, animating the world and our species. And as humanity has developed and put the brain we have been given to work, we have learned that what we breathe is air, rich in the element oxygen. Oxygen is provided for us by the trees and plants of our environment. We have learned that we breathe out carbon dioxide, which is needed by trees and plants. So we are in a mutually dependent relationship with the natural world around us. And the oxygen atoms that form the air we breathe are the same atoms that were in the air breathed by Jesus, and the wooly mammoth, and the stegosaurus, and the all the breathing animals that have ever lived. We are all breathing the same air.
Air is our lifeline and it connects us to each other, to the Earth, to the past, to the Divine. Air is an invisible often unnoticed bond that is holding life on this planet together.
Air, wind, breath, soul, spirit, respiration, inspiration, all connected and connecting the Divine, Creation, and all life forms to one another. Seventh century monk, St. Maximus the Confessor, tells us, “God is breath.”
So, in these quiet moments, breathe, breathe deeply, pay
attention to your breathing, and feel your connection to all of life,
to yourself, and to the Divine, in this present moment.
Music from Hilton
The image of air and breath is important in all religions. Incense, prayer flags, and other rituals convey this. We’ll join together in affirming this connection by reading the words of the Zuni chant together:
Beseeching the breath of the divine one,
The life-giving breath,
The breath of old age,
The breath of waters,
The breath of seeds,
The breath of riches,
The breath of fecundity,
The breath of power,
The breath of good fortune,
Asking for divine breath,
And into my warm body drawing that breath,
I add to your breath
That happily you may always live.
Connection during Covid
Divine breath, my breath, your breath, connected, commingled.
As we’ve noticed, we are connected by air. We all breathe the same air. We all need air. Air, spirit, sustains life. Air also carries sound waves which are necessary for communication through speech and language. Air makes it possible for us to talk and hear. Oral communication is dependent upon air.
And during the covid pandemic we have been reminded of the importance of connection, communication, and contact. Being together. Touch. Speech. We have seen how necessary connection is to us physically, relationally, spiritually, and emotionally. We have learned to appreciate our connections in new ways.
As humans, the world over, we have experienced separation and isolation. We’ve all dealt with restricted contacts and activities. We were all on lock down, on shelter in place. The world over.
We have all dealt with masks, separating us, restricting the visual cues of facial expressions, making it harder to understand each other when speaking,
We have learned that communicating and connecting is so important to us that we have mastered once foreign technological tools like Zoom and Facebook Live and Facetime to see and hear each other. To connect. To work. To love. To feel alive.
And we have realized how important face-to-face, interpersonal, physical contact is to us. For our well-being. Our wholeness. Our joy. We have been through these things together as a human race.
And this extends beyond our connection with other people to our connection with the natural world around us. We’ve noticed that when people were sheltering in place and driving was diminished, the air was cleaner, purer, more breathable. Remember those pictures of cities like Los Angles without all the pollution from the cars?
Remember how with our cars parked, with our movement restricted, the movement of animals and birds increased? The sound of birds chirping was raucous.
The pandemic helped us to see how we are one functioning whole on the earth, all connected. We saw the interplay between humanity and nature in new ways.
This pandemic time has given us an opportunity to examine the importance of connections – our connections to family, nature, work, community, technology, friends, the wider world, ourselves, the church, our spiritual practices, our beliefs, our species. In the face of an immediate global threat, we have had to examine everything. Even down to noticing the air around us which we are usually oblivious to.
So, in the quiet moments that follow, you are invited to reflect on how you have experienced connections in new ways during the pandemic. What connections have you become aware of? What connections did you miss? How do you feel connected in new ways? Think about this theme of connections related to the pandemic.
After the quiet reflection, you will be invited to move into small groups and share some of your thoughts in the group, if you would like to. If you prefer not to share in a group, that is fine, too. We have pads and pens if you would like to make some notes.
So take a few minutes to reflect on the theme of connection in this time of covid.
Music from Hilton
Sharing in small groups
Fear and Covid
We have considered how air keeps us alive and keeps us connected. It is our lifeline, which may be one of the reasons that this pandemic has us so undone. It is air borne. You get it from virus droplets in the air. The same air that keeps us alive can kill us. It has become deadly. And covid is a respiratory illness, it effects the lungs, which process the air that keeps us alive.
The world has one big air system that keeps us alive, and as we now know, can kill us. This has made the pandemic extremely disconcerting, unnerving, jarring, and disturbing. With other diseases, you can avoid behaviors that transmit the disease. How can you avoid breathing? Covid is a radical attack to our lifeline.
And in the midst of it, we heard the voice of George Floyd, begging, “I can’t breathe.” And everything got more harrowing and more disconcerting. Another system set up to protect and to serve, also deadly.
And there was the presidential election, another system gone awry.
At one point I went to the dentist for a cleaning. All the proper precautions were taken. The dentist noted that he thought I had been clenching my teeth in my sleep. It’s something people do when they are under stress. I told him, “If you aren’t clenching your teeth now, you should be.” It has been a difficult time. A time of being continually buffeted as this covid crisis has unfolded.
People have died. Alone. Relationships have ended. Jobs have disappeared. Schools have been closed. Dreams have evaporated. It has not been easy. It has been scary to have the world as we knew it disappear right before our eyes. Whatever security we thought we had, blown away.
So the air that we breathe, that keeps us alive, became an accessory to death. No wonder we are afraid. And it is a reminder of the many fears that we have been facing.
We want you to take some time to think about the fears that have been real for you during this time related or unrelated to the pandemic. How have you felt afraid?
You’re invited to make a list of your fears. There are pads and pens. Following a time of reflection, those who would like to may share in small groups.
Music from Hilton
Sharing in small groups
Consider your list of fears. What on that list surprises you? Perhaps share that in the small group.
Feathers and Blessings
You were invited to bring a feather to church this morning. And to bring more than one to share. So, you may get out your feather and share with others if you have extras.
If you don’t have one, it’s ok. It’s a symbolic reminder. Maybe you will find one on the way home from church.
We have been talking about air. Well, how do birds stay in the air? How do they soar? How do they stay aloft, seemingly floating on, well, nothing? They are perfectly designed for flight. With their hollow bones and feathers providing just enough wind resistance to sail aloft. Some birds fly for endless hours migrating around the globe borne by those precious feathers pushing against the air. Some birds soar on air currents endlessly, effortlessly, thanks to those feathers.
Feathers remind us of the power of the air, the wind. We don’t actually see the air, but we know it is there by its effects – enabling birds to fly. Or spinning pinwheels or wind mills. Waving prayer flags. Tinkling wind chimes. Making tree limbs dance in the breeze.
Ah, the wind. Invisible yet powerful. Like the spirit. Perhaps subtle. Perhaps conspicuous, like the sound of the wind in the Pentecost story. But there. And having an impact.
The feather is a reminder of the presence of air. Air that enables the birds to fly. Air that sustains our lives. And it reminds us of the spirit of God, of the presence of Divinity, uplifting, cleansing, refreshing, renewing, empowering, like the wind. In ways we may not even notice.
So the feather is an invitation to notice. The presence of air. The connectedness of all of creation, and our dependence on nature. It is also an invitation to notice the many blessings of our days. Moments of uplift. Perhaps much needed. Maybe from an unexpected source. Or a blessing of inspiration. From a conversation or a book or a song or a walk outside. Maybe the feather is a reminder of the blessing of a memory. Something from long ago that still has the power to move you in some way. The feather is an invitation to pay attention to those feelings, experiences, encounters, that bless, uplift, that are life-giving. Maybe they mostly go unnoticed, like air. But the feather is an invitation to notice. To connect with the blessings.
The feather is also an invitation to notice how you uplift others, perhaps with some small action or word, slight as the touch of a feather, yet bringing needed relief, hope, comfort, or inspiration of some kind. And as with the touch of a feather, the air, this may go unnoticed, you may never know that you have had an effect. And yet a life may be changed.
They say the movement of a butterfly wing has the power to change the world. Think of the power that we have. We are changing the world. But how? Are we changing it in the ways we want to be changing it?
So, we invite you to contemplate your feather if you have one, or think about the image of the feather, draw one if you like on your pad. And reflect on those blessings, received and given, that have been uplifting in some way during this covid time.
How you have been touched by blessing in this time? How has that helped you to stay aloft?
Music from Hilton
You are invited to keep your feather where you can see it daily. It can be a reminder of how we are touched by blessings each and every day. And how we can be touched by the blessings that we share.
God has given to the earth the breath, which feeds it. It is God’s breath that gives life to all things. And if God were to withhold that breath, everything would be annihilated. God’s breath vibrates in you, in your voice. It is the breath of God that you breathe – and you are unaware of it.
Theophilus of Antioch
CLOSING PRAYERS, SAVIOR’S PRAYER and BREATH MEDITATION
In closing, we will make our breath our prayer – so that, like the writer of Thessalonians, we might “pray without ceasing.” [I Thessalonians 5:17]
Take a deep breath. And another.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Feel your lungs expand. Creating more room for your heart to be
filled with love.
Breathe deeply, allowing the oxygen in the air to relax your
nervous system. No clenching. Release those fears.
Breathe deeply increasing your capacity for compassion for
yourself, others, and the world.
Breathe deeply so that you may be more alert and aware. There
are blessings in every one of our days.
Breathe deeply allowing the Divine to animate your wearied,
Breathe deeply. And be connected to the Oneness of reality.
Breathe in God. Breathe out love.
Breathe in God. Breathe out peace.
Breathe in God. Breathe out compassion.