“Breath of Life”
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For April 2 2017, the Fifth Sunday of Lent
Based on Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-17
I usually present these kind of object lessons as part of the children’s time, but this seem liked a good sermon illustration. I’ve brought balloons with me. (toss uninflated balloons) That wasn’t much fun. It is as though they are missing something.
But that’s OK: I also brought … Beach Balls! (toss uninflated beach balls) That wasn’t much fun. It is as though they are missing something.
But that’s OK – I brought my wife’s favorite thing with me today: bubble juice. Yes, you can see she loves bubble juice so much that we buy it by the gallon. (pour bubble juice into bowl.) I honestly don’t know what my wife sees in bubbles. This isn’t much fun. It is as though they are missing something.
I wonder how we could get more life into these toys: these balloons, these beach balls, these bubbles. Wait: here’s a note from my wife. “Thom: remember to use your breath.”
Breath WOULD make these bubbles better. Breath WOULD improve these beach balls. What was I thinking? Of course balloons need breath. (Toss inflated balloons into congregation)
You probably already know that the Hebrew word for spirit can also be translated as breath. That same word can also be translated as wind. So God’s command to Ezekiel to prophesy it could be translated as “prophesy to the wind” or “prophesy to the spirit” or “prophesy to the breath.”
For the people to whom Ezekiel is speaking, this is a promise of restoration, a promise of new life, promise of social transformation. The image of bones receiving flesh and taking a deep breath of spirit was understood as a promise of things to happen at Judgment Day. What Ezekiel does different is to take the promise of new life at some far off someday in the future and make the promise of God’s presence as close as our own breath.
So I’d like us to celebrate that fact that we are breathing this morning. (Isn’t it good news to know you are breathing today? I take it as good news that I am breathing, and I am glad to be here breathing with all of you who are breathing.) I’d like us to use our breath as a starting place for pray.
I’m going to ask you to take a deep breath – I’m not asking you to do anything that would cause you to hurt yourself. What is a deep breath for me may be an impossible breath for you – so you just take what is for you to be a deep breath. OK, on the count of three, take a deep slow breath (1-2-3) and then slowly let it out.
Take another deep breath and thank God for the spirit that fills you and breath out slowly thanking God for another chance to be full of faith.
And one more deep breath and remember the promises of God for liveliness, and as you let it out thank God for the reminders of grace that surround us.