Reflection for Sunday September 23, 2012 by Barbara Langton
How many of you were here to worship last Sunday?
Do you remember the point of the sermon?
Or, to put it another way, can you summarize it in a line or two?
Well, I can, because I wanted to remember what Christine shared last Sunday, so I paused during the sermon to write it down.
Laurel was sitting beside me, and I wondered at the time if she thought I was making a grocery list or what on earth I was doing… So there you are, Laurel.
A one line summary of Christine’s sermon was this for me: we have a responsibility to take care of this fragile earth, for it is our home and our God-given home at that.
Christine went on to make one other point that caught my attention. Ecological disasters can make us feel helpless and hopeless. Do you remember that?
For a while as I was listening last Sunday, I thought ‘I wonder how many people think they are in a David Suzuki lecture, rather than a church. But as I listened more carefully, I remembered that we were talking about ecology- care for the planet- not in the arena of science, but in the arena of faith.
As some of you will know, The United Church of Canada this year instituted a five week cycle called Creation time, taking its lead from A Song of Faith, the long, poetic statement of faith approved by the General Council in 2006. The words it used to introduce Creation time are these ones:
In and with God, we can direct our lives toward right relationship with each other and with God.
We can discover our place as one strand in the web of life.
So Creation time came into being this year, with 5 themes for the grand title of What is Creation Saying to us?
Love me! Learn my stories! Nurture me!
Lend me Your Voice! Give Thanks to me!
Today is the third Sunday, so the focus is on Nurture me!
The scripture that was supposed to be read for today’s theme was part of the story of Noah, the flood, the ark and coming to dry land – about God establishing a covenant with Noah, his descendants and every living creature on the face of the earth, and about the cloud and the rainbow as signs of that everlasting covenant.
But when I thought about the earth nurturing us, I thought not of that great rainbow in the sky, but of the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the earth in creation and each breath of life we take each moment of our lives. It dawned on me that these two things are connected – God hovering over the face of the earth and breathing life into it and each breath of life that we take each moment of our lives – each breath of life being such a sacred moment and each breath of life sustaining each one of us.
I was thinking this week of Louise Welsh and her family, at the bedside of her brother, Tom, who had a double-lung transplant a couple of weeks ago, did very well at the beginning and then, a week ago, something happened that has caused him to go backwards rather than forwards.
I was thinking of Christine’s reflection last week and her words about ecological disasters making us feel helpless and hopeless. Tom’s dilemma is, of course, not an ecological disaster, but a very personal disaster – making everyone feel helpless and hopeless.
It is as though he has lost the ability to breathe, to take a breath, to have that spark of spirit within him that gives him life. Breath, breathing, spirit.
Louise shared these words with me yesterday – she said this in the midst of her brother’s moment by moment struggle to keep up that sustaining breath, that spirit of life on which we all depend.
I definitely believe that the amazing ability to save lives with organ transplants is truly a miracle. I feel that God is working with the transplant team to extend many lives.
There is indeed a miracle at play when someone gifts another person with a lung, a heart, a kidney, a liver, a cornea, and so much more and allows the recipient to take a breath of life even as the donor may have died.
Do you remember the first verse of the first book of Scripture – Genesis 1.1? In beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The word in Hebrew is ruach. It is translated into English by spirit. It is also translated as breath.
The Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the earth. The breath of God hovered over the waters of the earth. And everything that God saw, everything that God made, was good.
The same air that we breathe each moment of our lives contains in it the breath of God, the Spirit of God. I’d never really thought about it that way before. The same that we breathe contains in it the breath of God, the spirit of God, and all of creation has the capacity to be good – we are part of that creation.
And that same Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the earth hovers, I believe, around each one of us each day of our lives. The breath of God hovered over the waters of the earth. And everything that God saw, everything that God made, was good.
Then comes today’s reading from the second creation story, found in Genesis chapter 2. It tells of the creation of Adam – a human being. The word for man in Hebrew is, you might have guessed, Adam.
It’s a very quick story found in one verse:
The Lord God formed the man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a human being. That same word again – ruach, breath, spirit.
So this part of creation – breath – that nurtures us is at the very heart of creation and the very heart of our lives.
Tom’s struggle, and the struggle of each of you who has a problem with your lungs, is a struggle to breathe – the thing that nurtures us from the very heart of creation and that touches the very heart of our lives.
I remember many occasions when I stood at the bedside of someone who was dying and watched as that person struggled just to take one breath. It’s something we take for granted most of the time – as we do so much of our God-given life. It is so hard to watch someone struggle to take a breath of life.
I invite you to pray today for Tom- that he might be sustained by God’s Spirit hovering over him and staying with him no matter what the outcome…
Often, when faced with a crisis of small or great proportions, we hold our breath – try to control the crisis rather than face it. And when the initial moment of crisis passes, we let go of holding our breath and then begin to breathe again. Sustained in the crisis by breath, – by our own breath, and by the breathe of God hovering over us as we make our way through the crisis.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Someone once taught me a wonderful little prayer that has come in handy on a number of occasions. When I was getting flustered with something or someone, it was time to step back a step or two and take a breath – using some very simple words: breathe in life, breathe out garbage. Breathe in life, breathe out garbage.
Breathe in the Spirit of the living God and breathe out all the things that are stopping us from living a life that is good and productive and faithful
I receive each day a daily devotional called Stillspeaking devotional. It comes online, so if any of you are interested, just look on the bulletin board as you go to coffee today and you will find the website.
It costs you nothing to get the devotional, but may well bring you great dividends…
One of the recent messages came on August 29th, 2012 and was written by Anthony B. Robinson. This is what he said.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains: where is my help to come from? (Psalm 121.1)
I recently learned a new expression, solvitur ambulando. It’s Latin and means, roughly, “It is solved by walking.”
Facing a tough problem, a gnarly worry, a writer’s (or a preacher’s) block? Go for a walk. Take a hike. Solvitur ambulando. It may be solved in walking. (and, I add, walking takes breathing. Step out, breathe in, breathe out)
Then Tony continues…
So often when I am stewing about something the answer is not to be found in thinking harder, stewing more, making lists or hitting the matter head on (again).
Going for a walk, or a run, a bike ride or a swim gets the body moving and may take the mind off the spinning wheel. And then, just when I’ve stopped looking for it, an insight or idea or entirely different way emerges.
This, by the way, is sort of the idea of the Christian doctrine of ‘revelation’ ( small r). When revelation happens we are not likely to say, ‘I figured it out’ or “I’ve got it.’ We are more likely to say, ‘It came to me’ or ‘It occurred to me’. That is, it’s not so much something we get as something we are given.
For poets, this is often the way a poem begins. It is often, in my experience, where my better sermons come from. Something ‘comes to me’. Thank you, God.
Sometimes when we take a walk or a hike or a jog, it happens. Solvitor ambulando. It is solved by walking.
When God made the earth and the heavens, God also formed the human from the dust of the ground.
Then God breathed into his nostrils the breath o life, and the human became a living being.
Each breath we take nurtures our physical life. Without that breath, we cannot live. I also believe that each breath we take allows us to be nurtured in our spiritual life.
I re-phrase one line of Christine’s sermon from last Sunday – we have a responsibility to take care of this fragile breath of ours, for it is a breath of life, and a God-given breath of life.
Would it change all the little details of your daily life if you remembered each day that God has breathed into you the breath of life? Maybe not, but what it might change is your attitude to all those little details of your life when things start to overwhelm you.
Breathe in the breath of God, breathe out the stuff that is not sustaining you.
Or, as Jesus said to the crowd in the scripture reading last Sunday – Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes..
Instead, take in the Spirit of God each breath you take, seek to live as though you really believe you are filled with the breath of God, and all you need will be given to you as well…
Breathe in, breathe out. Be nurtured by each breath you take and know that the living God is with you. Amen.