Exodus 12:1-14 (Morning)
Psalm 148, 149, 150 (Morning)
John 1:1-18 (Morning)
Psalm 113, 114, or 118 (Evening)
Luke 24:13-35, or John 20:19-23 (Evening)
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then 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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
I can’t help but imagine in our John 20 reading today, this visual of the disciples reacting to the resurrected Jesus breathing on them by wrinkling up their face and trying to pull away much like my dogs do when I blow in their faces. It seems improbable that all of the disciples went, “Oh yeah, sure, breathe in my face.” I suspect that for at least some of them, it was, “I’m not sure that’s really you, Jesus…and whoever you are, stop blowing in my face!”
It’s possible that in over 2000 years, we haven’t improved much, at times, in our abilities to receive the Holy Spirit. She’s always out their blowing her winds this way and that, mostly under the radar, I believe, but now and then she grabs us by the ears and blows square up our noses, like some sort of cosmic C-PAP machine. Just as it takes time for someone diagnosed with sleep apnea to get used to the idea of a mechanical gizmo pushing air into our respiratory tract at night, it takes some getting used to those unexpected (and at times unwanted) nosefuls of the divine breeze of the Holy Spirit.
First, we have to accept that all of us really do have a bit of spiritual sleep apnea at times. That’s where community comes in. Any family doc will tell you that a classic line overheard in the office, when working up sleep apnea, is “I don’t snore that much!” but if that person’s bed partner is along for the doctor visit, the bed partner pipes up with, “Oh, yes you do!…And you stop breathing sometimes. It scares me to death!” What can our dearest friends in faith tell us, if we’re willing to listen with the ear of our heart?
Second, it takes agreeing to commit to wearing the C-PAP. Many of us have tried some new spiritual practices out for size during Lent. What practices can we continue with conviction? How have these practices renewed us? Getting used to those unexpected puffs of the wind of the Holy Spirit takes some adjustment, but in that process of letting go and letting her breathe for us, we might discover she becomes a welcome friend in our lives.
Finally, when we look back, where are the places we can smell Easter? When was that moment we suddenly realized that, instead of smelling the fetid, moldy dank-ness of the tomb, the cleansing, chlorophyll-laden aroma of green growing things filled our lungs? When did we first notice our sleep became refreshing and renewing again? It’s a story many sleep apnea sufferers are happy to tell when they gave in to the healing powers of their therapy. Spiritual sleep apnea isn’t much different, it seems.
Alleluia! He is risen! Breathe deep. Let the healing breaths of the Holy Spirit fill your lungs today, and continue to let her breathe for you, not just in these 50 days of Easter, but all year long.
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid