The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
“The Very Breath of God?”
There are days when taking a deep breath of fresh air is pure heaven.
As you know, air is not the same everywhere. And it’s not the same every day. Or at least it feels that way. If you’ve been in Oklahoma for any length of time, you know something about humidity. The hot steamy summer days of summer, when the air is not moving. When you don’t have a fan. It almost feels like you can’t breathe.
If you have an asthma attack, you may be frightened that you can’t breathe. In fact, if you have ever suffered from an infection in the lungs you know first-hand what the ailment is called: pneumonia.
Breath is essential to life. When overwhelmed by a phobia, an anxiety, and the stress of life, our breath may be shallow. When it gets unbearable, it may feel like we are suffocating.
As a worldwide community, for months now, we’ve been dealing with the effects of those who can’t breathe. Everyone is deathly afraid of having someone breathe on them. Why? Because that person could carry within their body the Covid-19 virus and thus unknowingly render the person who is in the pathway of their breath, a death sentence.
A death sentence for those who are the most vulnerable in our society. The brown and black, men and women, those with preexisting health conditions and the elderly, refugees, migrants, illegal immigrants and those working in the least desirable jobs.
What about the “breathing situation” this past Monday in Minneapolis? We were breathless as we saw once again an African-American man—our neighbor, cry out multiple times “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe!” as a police officer put his knee on the neck of George Floyd and kept it there for nearly 9 minutes as three other officers stood by until George Floyd’s breathe ebbed out of him. Remember we heard that same cry “I can’t breathe” in 2014 when Eric Garner’s life was ended with a choke hold by New York City police.
It causes some to ask where is God in the midst of this mess? Is there any hope for a better future?
It’s interesting to note that in today’s gospel from John, Jesus appears to a bunch of fearful followers and breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples. Not fifty days after Easter. But it’s on that Easter evening.
It was on that dark evening that the breath of God blew on them and gave them mission and purpose. Jesus said, “Peace be with you” then he said “Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father sent me, so I send you.”
Oh, this community, state, nation and world needs the Spirit of God right now. We are a people who have lost our way and fail to see the other as our brother or sister.
We must have the breath from the great life-giver of all.
Inhale faith, compassion, hope, peace, justice, and love.
And then exhale fear, apathy, complacency, cruelty, injustice and hatred.
It's this wind-spirit which energizes us. Challenges us. Even sends us to situations that fill us with a bit of fear.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Perhaps that’s what the Holy Spirit wants to do with the Episcopal Church today.
Takes us out of our comfort zone.
It takes us out of comfort zone to stand at the corner of 23rd and Martin Luther King Drive and hold a sign and knell down on the ground for 30 minutes as you are mourning the deaths of African-Americans like Terry Fife and Ben Hardcastle have been doing for the past three days and will continue to do.
It takes you out of your comfort zone to join the BLM Rally this afternoon and join with Grace Episcopal Church-Yukon and march and peacefully protest police brutality.
Why do we do it?
Because we are the “Jesus Movement” in the world. Fear not! God’s Spirit moves through us as we partner with others in our communities – and around the world – who embody justice and love, compassion and equality.
We look for the day in which no one who has the divine image of God stamped on their being will have to gasp out eerie cry “I can’t breathe.” But rather collectively as God’s children will make it our goal to chant “We can breathe, we will breathe, we are breathing!”