When God breathes for us
A prayer from Shetland and a wee thought from John:
I loved the encouraging service this morning, hosted by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, celebrating God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, and the challenge to respond to the Spirit’s call in these unprecedented times.
The part I particularly loved was the prayer led by the Rev Fran Henderson, from Shetland. Here’s what she said:
Spirit of God who hovered over the waters of chaos and cradled all possible things, who filled our forms of clay with the very breath of God, who came down upon the uprising son in white bird blazing, who swept through the Pentecost crowds with fire, with joy.
Spirit of God breathe for us once again. Breathe for those who cannot breathe, whose shallow breaths betray damaged lungs. Breathe for those whose breath catches with grief. Breathe for those who are drowning in debt and riven with anxiety. Breathe for those who hold their breath in fear, as old certainties give way to new confusion.
Breathe deep, fresh air into the lungs of your Church. Fill us with energy, with resolve, with clarity of vision, to meet the challenges of our time.
Spirit of God, in the name of Christ breathe for us once again. Amen.
Breath is vital. I’m sure many of us listening to Fran’s prayer were thinking of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis this week. He been brutally and unnecessarily restrained by a policeman for 9 minutes during which he repeatedly said ‘I can’t breathe.’ His agonizing, cruel death is a symbol of all forms of racism and oppression and prejudice which deny people the opportunity to flourish.
‘I can’t breathe.’ The words of our fellow humans struggling in COVID wards around the word, or on ventilators in IC units.
‘I can’t breathe.’ The anguished words of someone hyperventilating through panic and anxiety.
Often, at Pentecost, we think of God ‘breathing on’ us – coming and filling our open and receptive hearts. But what if we have no sense of God’s presence, no sense of the Spirit’s whisper in our lives? What if our spirits are so troubled by confusion, questioning, illness, brokenness that God seems a million miles away? What if we cry out ‘Come, Holy Spirit!’ and there is only silence. We long for our spiritual lungs to be filled with the life and energy, yet we feel ‘I can’t breathe!
That was what I totally loved about Fran’s prayer: the thought that when we feel we cannot breathe, God breathes for us. God’s Spirit sustains us, keeps the seed of life and hope alive within us. God’s Spirit does not abandon us.
It is God’s breath which allows us to flourish, to be the people we are meant to me, to spread life and love and hope. Some of us today, pray ‘Breathe on me, Holy Spirit!’ and sense again the joy of God’s zest within. Some of us today can only pray ‘Breathe for me, Holy Spirit!’ and seek rest in the belief that God, though unsensed, is present. All of us can say ‘Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you will never fail us.’
God, help me to see the ‘possible things’ which you have ‘cradled’ for me. Help me by your grace to bring these things to maturity.