BREATH

A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley

 

Psalm 146:1-10

1 Praise the LORD.Praise the LORD, my soul.

2 I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

3 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.

4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever.

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,

8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.

 

Luke 7:11-17

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.

12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.

13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”

15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

 

There was no one to help her.

 

No one.

 

Did you hear what I said?

 

That’s right- she had no one to help her.

 

No husband, no brother, no other children, no daughter-in-law, no grandchildren, no social security or Medicare or life insurance.

 

No one. Nothing.

 

Not to mention she was filled with grief.

 

But Jesus saw her.

Jesus had compassion for her.

Jesus told her not to weep.

 

Don’t weep- that’s an odd thing to say to someone who has lost the only one that was anything to them-

But he said it.

 

Then Jesus came so close to death he could touch it

And he touched it

And then he said something even more weird.

 

Rise up!

 

And the world changed.

Her weeping turned to amazement,

Her tears turned to laughter,

Her wailing turned to song,

Her life came back together

 

All because HE was there

(He meaning Jesus)-

Someone who COULD do something

And just as importantly,

Someone who WANTED to do something-

Someone who wanted to

Set the prisoners free

Open the eyes of the blind

Lift up those who are bowed down

Protect the foreigner

And sustain the orphan

 

Yes, that someone changed the world for her,

And he can change it for you.

 

But we get ahead of ourselves.

Think not about the widow,

Think abut her son.

 

He was beyond help.

He was helpless.

He was dead.

 

That’s kind of blunt, I know,

But it’s true.

 

So look at it this way- when we’re sick, we know we need help.

We need an aspirin, or we need a day off from work

And a day in bed,

Or we need a doctor.

 

And if you’re sick enough, and you go to the ER, and if even THEY think you’re really sick

You won’t have to wait. They’ll rush around,

And do what’s good for you.

But if you die, everything stops.

They’ll do everything they can for as long as they can

Until there’s nothing they CAN do.

 

But we’re like that when we’re NOT sick.

We can take care of ourselves,

So we rush around and do it

And we think we’ve got it covered.

 

But really, we’re like the widow- we need some help-

And really, we’re like her son-

We need help that no mortal can give us-

Because WE can’t change the world

And WE can’t raise the dead

And WE’RE dead- we’re still waking around, but we’re dead

Because when our breath leaves, we can’t help ourselves

Or our neighbors

Anymore.

 

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

 

The NIV uses the Hebrew word, Ruah, and translates its as spirit

And another translation translates it as breath

And they’re both absolutely correct-

When we lose our breath, we lose our spirit

But when we’re born, and we take our first breath,

Our spirit comes alive.

 

And where does that breath come from?

 

It’s magical, it’s mystical,

It’s so astonishing it’s breathtaking,

It’s anything but mundane BUT we do it so MUCH-

How many breaths do you take every day-

That we take it for granted,

But our breath comes from God

And everything that comes of our breath

Is derived from Gods first gift

To us.

 

But we put our trust in ourselves-

Our talents,

Our willingness to work,

Our creative genius or cleverness,

Our know-how,

Our stubbornness,

Our charm, our way with words,

Our capacity to love or to be firm

Or to understand

Or to convince.

 

Except

When we run out of breath

Our spirit goes limp

And none of those things matter,

No matter how powerful we are,

No matter who we KNOW that has MORE

Of what we think we need.

 

Because we’re ALL in the same boat-

We’re walking around,

But we’re dying.

 

You know,

Sometimes I run out of steam

Before I run out of breath.

I’ll be running up Carlanna Lake Road,

And sometime before I get to the top

I’ll need to catch my breath.

 

That’s what we say-

We need to catch our breath.

Really, what we need

Is for our breath to catch up where we went.

We need to stop, slow down, and let our breath catch up.

 

Just about every day, I find myself in a situation that is screaming out loud

YOU’VE GONE SOEMWHERE THAT’S OVER YOUR HEAD.

And then it whispers: slow down, think about who you are, and who God is.

 

If we are aware of our need for help, we’ll do that often-

And it doesn’t matter if the WE is a me, a person, all alone in the world-

Or a couple, a boy and girl-

Or a family,

Or a group of friends-

Or a church-

Whole presbyteries have taken Sabbath, to remember whose help they need.

 

None of us can rise up off of a bier on our own strength.

Even nations fall, and are lifted up by God.

 

Now, let Jesus set the prisoner that is you, free.

And let Jesus open your eyes.

And let Jesus take you by the hand

And lift you up.

And whoever you are, whatever situation you find yourself in,

Let Jesus say, RISE UP.

 

Then let go of yourself, and hang on to him,

And rise up!

 

Because whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever situation you’re in,

His heart goes out to you

And his heart

Is the ever-beating, every-breathing,

Spirit that reigns over everything,

Al that is, all that ever was, all that will be.

 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

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