Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’
Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! By His death He has defeated death for us all, by His breath He brings life everlasting! Hallelujah! Before He ascends to reign on High, He condescends to the disciples and breaths into them His Holy Spirit, to blow them out across the world so that all may breath the sweet clean air of His victory. Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!
Yet we here today in Australia suffer from bad air. Of course, you have those living in the cities with the stench of exhaust fumes, we can remember the smoke from Black Summer, and also the viruses causing sickness in our lungs. And 500 years ago in another pandemic, the Black Death, they too tried to stop the bad air, for the disease seemed to spread on the wind. We would say there was an air of death about, like an extra weight that couldn’t be seen or held yet was still there. Almost like an oppressive spirit. Not unlike that air of death across Egypt at the time of the first Passover, when a spirit, the destroyer sent by God, killed all the firstborn of Egypt so that the firstborn of their gods, Pharoah, would let God’s people go. Now this might feel like grasping at thin air, for we today think of wind, breath and spirit as three very different things, but for God’s ancient people, both Jew and Greek, wind, breath and spirit are more than related they are the same.
Spirit is an invisible untouchable living thing, if we have no spirit we have no breath and so make no wind out in the world. Spirit, breath and wind are about life, but now what sort of a life do you live? The life of Christ or of this broken world? Whose air do you breathe, who are you so close to that their breath is yours? What spirits animate you; the spirit of this age, the Holy Spirit? And what kind of wind do you make, what kind of influence are you on the world around you?
Some good questions to ask each other after the service, to care for each other’s souls. Yet for now, I’ll point us back to Jesus. At His baptism the Holy Spirit drove Him out into the wilderness, and like a wind, drove Him all the way to the Cross. And today He breathes into His disciples. There it is again, Spirit, wind, breath. He breathes into His disciples and says, receive the Holy Spirit, and then they are driven to the four winds, Peter west, Thomas east, Mark our congregation’s namesake south to Egypt, and St Andrew north to Gallipoli. And there it is again, breath, spirit, wind.
The Holy Spirit, breathed by Jesus, billows out across the world, in His Church. Just as we confess in the Creed along with all those whom the Holy Spirit unites in one breath, the third article of the Creed is the article of both the Spirit and the Church for the Church is definitionally where the Holy Spirit is at work. As He goes into the world from Christ, from Pentecost, from today, He blows away other spirits, the false gods of Greece, of Rome, of Egypt, and enters the lungs of many, bringing them the same life of Christ as they breathe together Christ’s one Breath. For Jesus breathed His one Breath into the disciples, His life raised eternally from death; now the one Spirit which animates Jesus, the one Breath which carries the Word of God; Just as your breath carries your words; This One Most Holy Spirit animates the disciples and carries Christ’s Word of Victory, the Gospel through their lips. So with One Spirit we speak One Word with One Breath. So, the Holy Spirit unites His Church.
And He is at work, for peace, for sending, and for the healing of souls, forgiveness and non-forgiveness of sins. The Spirit carries God’s Word to you today, for He is the only one who carries God’s spoke Word to your ears. By God’s grace He is the one who fills this space we have dedicated to Him. By Christ’s command on that day, He is the one who blesses you through my lips; who forgives the sins of those who repent and believe, for the healing of their soul. He is the one to chase away bad spirits, and to fill your lungs as He fills Christ’s and all the saints. He is the one by whom we have confessed with one breath God’s love for us in the words of the Creed. And He is the one by whom we are to live, not in despair, or sloth or sin, or by any bad spirit; but rather in peace, action and justice for those around us.
To live with Jesus and the disciples, to breathe the breath of Christ, here is the Holy Spirit: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.