Receive the Holy Spirit
Arthur Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles
…the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” -John 20:20-22
Not many, over the years, have breathed on me.
I have countless friends all over the world, and one of God’s greatest gifts is an ability to remember people. I recognize physical characteristics, facial expressions, mannerisms, and personalities. Apparently by divine design I get to relish in memories of shared experiences.
With hardly any effort my memory transports me again to the sights, smells, and feelings of Grandma’s un-air-conditioned kitchen with a canner on the stove, baskets of cucumbers on the floor, piles of spices, and jars of her famous dill pickles gradually multiplying on the countertop. In my mind’s network of neurons, the pungent plumes of fresh dill weed and pearls of perspiration of this Grandma memory are intertwined.
I’m not sure, though, that I remember Grandma’s breath on me. Maybe. Many smells of Grandma and of her home with Grandpa perfectly populate my memories.
I definitely remember my mother’s breath as she leaned in close to help free me from a stuck zipper on my snowsuit. It had teased out tears, trying to spoil an otherwise terrific early morning of shoveling snow.
I know my wife by her breath. Almost 30 years of intimate breathing is another gift of grace (God’s and hers). I remember the first breaths of my children, as well as burpy breaths and cuddling breaths ever since.
I just adore the idea that the first disciples got the Holy Spirit from Jesus breathing on them. Such intimacy is inherent in this image. These days there’d have to be trust for that to work. A virus might be transmitted!
What did his breath smell like? Was there a familiarity to its odor, formed over time in the intimacy of their close community? Was it still full of fish, bread, and olives from Palestinian living? Did it smell like some vinegar, choked down on the cross? Did it smell like death? Or was it unlike anything they’d inhaled before?
“Practice Resurrection” (Wendell Berry).
During this Easter season, we invite you daily into a breath prayer focused on resurrection. With each exhale, respond in a word or phrase to the question, “What is dying?” (fear, anger, assumptions, etc.) With each inhale, notice a response in a word or phrase to the question “What is rising?” (love, courage, trust, etc.) You may choose to use the same word or phrase throughout this season, or let each day bring its own unique response to this sacred pattern of dying and rising that is central to our faith.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.