“Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being…” Genesis 2:7
And so it is Holy Trinity Sunday — the one Sunday of the church year which is wholly devoted to exploring and celebrating a theological construct. And while it is so that there is value in our taking the time once a year to specifically stand still in the many ways God is present and active and moving in the world, in many ways, I expect we do that every week. And to be sure? This time around I find myself doing so from my perspective from down here below. And maybe that’s ok. Perhaps in this time you and I are called upon to encounter God here ‘on the ground’ as never before.
Indeed, maybe it is ours to wonder at what it means that you and I have been created in God’s image — just a little lower than God — bearing the face and breathing the very breath of God. Indeed, for now I cannot help but wonder if that may take us exactly where God intends that we go even now. At least I hope so. For as for this moment it is all I have.
And oh, I expect you have traveled much the same path I have in these last days. One can hardly be even the least bit conscious right now and not be simply bowled over by so very much. And yes, so much of what I have encountered has pressed upon my own awareness in such away that as I consider the readings for this week that:
- I cannot help but wonder how different the world would be if we all simply paused to see the face of God in one another.
- If we all just recognized the near divinity, the essential ‘almost’ (as the Psalm would have it) holiness of each other.
- If with each breath we took we sensed the truth that its origin is the very breath of God.
And yes, I know I am citing a different creation story than the one which is actually ours to ponder now. Truth be told, it just seems to me a better fit for these days. In part this is so because of this:
Yesterday afternoon I joined some friends and walked downtown for our local Black Lives Matter march. By some estimates, there were more than three hundred people gathered at Memorial Park on the corner of Lincoln Highway and First Street in DeKalb.
The event itself was simple enough. Words of welcome were shared along with the urgent reminder that our presence would be one of peace. And then we were invited into 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence: the same amount of time that a police officer pressed his knees into George Floyd’s neck — cutting off his breath. Yes, cutting off the very ‘breath of God.’
For the most part people kept the silence. Some stood with heads bowed. Many took a knee as we pondered that interminable, in this case ‘deadly’ length of time. In the midst of our collective silence a car drove by though. Stopped at the light, a young black man shouted out his gratitude to all of us. And some could not help but shout back, “We love you, too!” Using this precious ‘breath of God’ in the best way possible then’ it seemed to me.
I looked up as we stood in the midst of that shared silence and saw this: a young man in front of me bearing this very sign. You have to work to read it here, but in white letters on black, he is bearing the very passage I offer above: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The other side of his sign repeated the anguished cry, ‘I Can’t Breathe.’
We walked together then with many repeating the shouts of ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!’ and ‘I Can’t Breathe.’
It seemed like good use of this precious ‘breath of God’ as we put one foot in front of another yesterday afternoon.
But it was risky, too, we knew that as well. I was grateful that just about everyone in the crowd was showing respect and kindness for one another in this age of the pandemic by wearing face masks. Even so, with there being so many gathered, it was no easy thing to keep social distance one from another. For that matter, this being the first time many of us had been this close to each other in months, it was almost impossible to hold back from stepping along beside one another for just a few moments of catching up as we walked.
Once we circled back to the park I was one who didn’t stay long as it was just too hard to keep those six feet of distance.
For this is also so in the community I call home. This week we had our first outbreak of COVID-19 in a nursing home. Staff are sick. Residents have been diagnosed positive. One has died so far. Staff who remain able to work are burdened by all the demands upon them now, made more pressing by their own fear, their own grief. I spoke with one of those in charge this week ever so briefly. She was grateful to hear we were organizing a ‘stay at home’ prayer vigil for them. For yes, although we would love to be able to do so much more, this seems the best way for us to utilize the breath God has given us these days. This very breath of God.
And yet, we are so very deeply aware that this breath God has given us in creating us ‘just a little lower than God’ is meant for so much more. So very much more.
- Indeed, you and I have been called to be about creating a whole world in God’s image of love, of hope, of justice. where all those imprinted with the image of God would know the wonder of these precious gifts.
- You and I are called to be part of shaping a world where we use God’s best gifts to protect one another from disease. Every single ‘one another.’
- And you and I are called upon to love the young and the old, the strong and the frail in such a way that the most vulnerable among us are not left without protection.
- Indeed, you and I are called to craft a world where all people, where ALL people, are treated as ‘just a little lower than God.’ Where everyone is given opportunity to be all they were created to be. Where no one goes hungry for food. Or dignity. Or hope.
God gave us God’s own breath for so much more than shouting slogans or whispering prayers, as vital and precious as these surely are. God gave us God’s own breath that we might make life possible for one another. That we might help one another flourish.
- This Holy Trinity Sunday, this is where I am looking to understand the nature of God — in the faces of neighbors and of friends and yes, of strangers — who are trying to build a world where all people are treated as only but ‘a little lower than God. Won’t you join me in looking for that?
- Won’t you come along and tell us where you have seen this to be so?
- Won’t you?
May the certain truth that you have been created a ‘little lower than God’ be both gift and call for you in the days to come. For this world needs the gift you bring.
May the ‘breath of God’ continue to fill your own lungs now that as you speak and as you live you might be precious reflection of the very holiness of God.
For you are and always have been filled with God’s own breath.
Yes, you are.