Sermon Text: Just Breathe
I miss you so much.
The church is empty today. But I want to thank Andy Pierce for making this video and keeping us in touch by Facebook and our website. He and Stacey Gridley, who take care of our social media, are such a big help to all of us!
You know, every week, I work on my sermon and I practice it in here by myself. I do this every week, imagining you where you always sit.
That's what I'm doing right now. I picture you, and I'm pretending you are here.
This is hard. And when times are hard, we get help by being together. Yet right now, we can't gather to support each other. That goes against all our instincts and desires and hopes. It makes a bad situation even worse.
So we have to learn to be with each other in other ways. We have to be together apart.
For 25 years, I've been your priest. And I've always been honest with you. I have never pretended to be stronger or wiser than anyone else. I've let you know about my own struggles and shortcomings. So I'm telling you that like a lot of people, I get scared these days. I know what panic feels like.
From time to time in the past week, I get this flutter in my stomach. And it feels like I can't catch my breath. That's when I fall back on the training I was given by my spiritual teacher. My spiritual teacher is my daughter Marie.
Now, this video may get shared with some people who don't know who my daughter is. She's 36, and has had profound mental disability and autism all her life. She chatters all the time, and most of it is just repetitive nonsense. At the same time, she has a wise and caring heart. Sometimes the wisdom comes out sideways, but it does come out. My wife and I call her the Baby Buddha.
Right now, I'm falling back on some of the training she gave me.
Several years ago, I was very anxious. There was a great deal of stress at work. Marie must have sensed it. Because suddenly, she popped out with these words: "Daddy, let it go....go with the flow."
I was shocked. I mean, she's mentally handicapped! So I said, "What did you say?" She said, "Breathe in, breathe out."
The Baby Buddha says, "Breathe in, breathe out."
Now, later we realized that staff people working with Marie had used this mantra with Marie in times of stress. But she was wise enough to see how I needed the words, too.
You know, the Bible is in two parts and has two languages. The first part is what we call the Old Testament. It was originally written in Hebrew. The second part is what we call the New Testament. It was originally written in Greek. And here's the thing: In Hebrew, there is a word "ruach." It means both breath and spirit. In Greek, there is a word "pneuma," with a silent P. It also means both breath and spirit.
God's Spirit is God's holy breath. Your breath is your spirit.
So Marie's wisdom is for real. I have tried to breathe in a spiritual way. I've used this practice more and more. When that panicky flutter comes to my gut, I have been taking time to breathe in and breathe out. Deep inhaling in through the nose. Deep exhaling by mouth.
The Baby Buddha is right, and it works. It's a technique of meditation in our Christian faith, and in Buddhism, Hinduism, and other spiritual traditions. Breathe in, breathe out. Some people use a prayer word...a single word while breathing in, like "love" or "peace" or "Jesus" or "Abba." Some people actually count their breaths. Some people simply try to be aware of breathing. It is a very helpful practice for me right now. Let me show you.
We always have Scripture in our church services, right? Readings from the Bible. Well, I've got our psalm for today -- this is from Psalm 46.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Be still, then, and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
So remember what my spiritual teacher has taught me. I don't always do it right, but I sure try, and it helps. Breathe in, breathe out. It's an important basic spiritual practice. That's true if we are beginners or old timers. And it helps a little with anxiety.
Keep breathing, as God's Holy Spirit, God's holy Breath, fills you.
So let me end this with the blessing we always use here on Sundays: Life is short, and we don't have too much time to gladden the hearts of those with whom we journey along the way. So let us be swift to love, and make haste to be kind, and the blessing of God be upon you always.