You rarely think about breathing until you are finding it difficult. As when you have just run up three flights of stairs or been swimming underwater for several seconds. And if it gets really bad, then breathing is ALL you can think about. You gasp until your body has enough oxygen to function normally again, and little by little your breathing slows and deepens, at which point you promptly stop thinking about it again.
Yet we are always breathing. While we live, we breathe. We are never doing nothing. We breathe. The oxygen infuses our blood. Our heart carries it through our body. Life is motion. Life is breath.
For the church, the Holy Spirit is breath. There are times that we take the Spirit for granted, as we do with our breathing, rarely thinking about the Spirit ... until we struggle. Until a poor decision gets us in trouble. Until a loved one dies too soon. If it gets really bad, then we gasp for the Spirit with huge hiccups of prayer and grief and unanswerable questions of “why.” And little by little, as time goes by, our spiritual breathing eventually slows and deepens, normalizing into a new version of our inevitable new life.
We are always in the presence of the Holy Spirit. While we are the church, the Holy Spirit is with us. God is never absent from us. We pray. Love infuses our lives. Our service carries it through the body. God is Spirit.
My prayer for the church is that we would be continually mindful of the presence of the Spirit among us. Just as breathing deeply calms the mind and body, may our deep prayers serve to calm the church and focus us on God’s presence, power, and peace.
That will require us to practice intentional awareness, to develop our ability to perceive the Spirit. Of course, there are times it is the mighty wind of Pentecost Sunday, and it blows our hats off. But much of the time it is just the tiniest puff of breeze, which we may very well miss if we’re not careful.
We are always going. Always striving. Always arguing. Always making noise. Always ...
Always out of breath.
And so, stop. Sit still. And take a breath, church.