April 2018

In Matthew and Mark’s account of the first Easter morning an angel appears to the women at the tomb and says, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here..…..go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”’  One of the wonderful truths of the resurrection is that because Jesus is alive he is with us wherever we are, in our day to day lives.

The other day I asked my boys where Jesus is. Laurence said: ‘I don’t know’. Chad echoed: ‘I don’t know.’ Ben thought about it and then said: ’He’s kind of in heaven and on earth at the same time. ‘  I liked Ben’s answer, which embraces something of the mystery, wonder and unfathomable nature of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, but it wasn’t the one I was expecting. I was thinking that Ben might say that Jesus lives in our hearts.

The idea that Jesus lives in our hearts is a powerful metaphor suggesting that Jesus lives at the very centre, the deepest part of our lives, and in all of our loving and caring. Another powerful metaphor occurs as I read again the resurrection narrative in John’s Gospel. In John chapter 20 the risen Jesus enters the locked room where his disciples are gathered and says ‘Peace be with you’, and shows them his pierced hands and side. And then very remarkably and powerfully and intimately Jesus breathes on his disciples and fills them with the Holy Spirit.

We could say that Jesus is in our breathing, speaking words of peace and breathing into us his Holy Spirit. Imagine the risen Christ as close to you as your own breath, as central to your life as your own breathing. Imagine Christ alive in your breath.

The Greek verb ‘to breath’ (emphusao) used in John 20v22 doesn’t occur anywhere else in the New Testament but it does occur in the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible when God breathes life into the first human (Genesis 2v7) , and in Ezekiel (37v9) when God breathes breath into the dry bones, so that they may live again (see also Wisdom 15v11). When Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples he is giving them new life in a new, second creation.

The disciples were scared, lonely, and despondent. But the troubling feelings that had plagued them gave way to joy and peace when they encountered the risen Jesus. And in this Easter season, Christ can do this for you and for me too. The risen Christ can fill us with peace and joy. The risen Christ can make us whole. Practitioners of Yoga and Buddhist meditation will tell you that taking a deep breath is cleansing and restorative. Imagine that like a deep, cleansing breath, Jesus can restore you, give you new life, make you a new creation.

During February half-term we had a midweek break at Scargill House, near Kettlewell, (an ecumenical Christian community offering a continuous programme of Christian retreats and learning – highly recommended!). In the midst of all the activity of this ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ themed break, I enjoyed an hour of guided silent prayer. The first method involved concentrating on our breathing and with each breath focussing on breathing in the love of Christ, and breathing out the love of Christ to others, to the world.

In John’s Gospel the gift of the Holy Spirit is inseparable from Jesus’ commission: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Jesus breathes on us so that we are empowered to continue Jesus’ work. As Edwin Hatch’s hymn says: ‘Breath on me breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.’ Or in the words of St Francis’ famous prayer, we are to be channels of his peace. We are sent out to love, to forgive, to bring peace, faith, hope, healing, light and joy. And perhaps a place to start is with our breathing. Whatever we are doing, wherever we are, we can each call to mind the people on our hearts and troubles in our world and simply breathe in and out the peace and love of Christ.

Wishing you a joyful and peaceful Easter,



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