God Still Breathes

A reflection on 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 for Ash Wednesday.

Before we get to the hard stuff,
Before we rightly acknowledge
before God and one another
our brokenness, sin,
and unrighteousness,

Lest we allow ourselves
to wallow in the pit
of shame and guilt.

Before we dwell in the
reminder of our mortality,
the jarring injunction that
all we are is dust,
and to dust we shall return…

Lest we allow our minds
to circle and spiral in
any oppressive notion that
we are children of the curse,
rather than beloved
Children of God

May we be reminded of this
reorienting reality
that God despises nothing
that God has made,
and that God forgives all
who approach the divine mystery:
Creator, Christ, and Spirit.

And so today, as we
come forward, may we do so
ready to weep, confess, and resist
those things we have done and failed to do
those things that lead us away from the path
of grace, the unfolding of shalom,
from God’s gift of full and abundant life.

For now is the time!
The time is fulfilled.
It is the time, Paul declares,

Of God’s favour,
and today the day of
God’s Salvation.

God’s grace has been present
from the beginning,
has been present and offered
from the dawning days of
Creation, from the holy, mystical, inspiring
breath that hovered over the waters:
the winds of creation that
swept over the land,
the very dust of creation
old and new.

In the beginning God
focused that animating breath,
breathed into dust
infusing raw material with beauty
infusing dirt with mystery
inspiring us with the very
love and grace of God.

God’s grace has been present
from the beginning
and this is grace that we
ought not receive in vain.

But I must admit,
that this week I bristled at Paul’s words:
at his urgent command
not to receive God’s
gift in vain.

I wondered, and perhaps you do
too: What do you have on me, buster?
What do you and your
killer surveillance system
know about
me and my life,
the struggles I face,
that this community faces?
What do you know about
our posture before God,
complicated as it sometimes is,
that we would receive such
a gift in vain?

Can grace be received in vain?

I wrestled this week
with that question,
finding myself similarly
wondering if breath
can be breathed
without depth, attention,
gratitude.

How often do I take a breath
without  second thought,
ignorant of the gift of love
offered in each encounter

intimate and searching,
inviting, and lifegiving,
taking in the gift

that is all around

that dwells within me.

And if this is true of my lungs,
that place where the beautiful
dust of my body
meets God’s breath of life,
how often is it true
that our encounters with
the spirit of Christ
are shallow, crowded out
by the frantic pace
and noise of the empires
who demand our allegiance?

How might we,
this day, with penitent
and contrite hearts
hold fast to the one
who binds us together
with cords that cannot be broken,
We who are members of one body,
reconciled to one another
through the one in whom
we live, and move, and have our being?

And how might we together
this holy, dusty,
frail, fractured,
beautiful, beloved,
beleaguered
body of Christ, take Holy Spirit
into our very selves?

Inhale – exhale

Breathe in gracious life
freely offered.
breathe out all that keeps
us from life.

How might we dwell
in this time, this season
of self-examination, penitence,
prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,
open to God’s breath
blowing wild and free,
offering the breath of reconciliation,
one we scarce dare to accept,

yet fills us all the same?

We dwell in this season of lent

that we might be reconciled
to God, to one another, to this
neighbourhood, this parched
and dry land.
We dwell in this invitation

that by some divine miracle,
we might be reconciled to
those with whom we have broken faith

to those who have broken faith with us,
who have hurt us, this earth,
and the Creation groaning, longing

for the reconciliation of all things

So I invite you this night,
to breathe in God’s reconciliation,
to breathe deep, full, holy breaths
breathing Holy Spirit,
who calls us, who waits for us,
who offers life, whether
we are able in this moment
to breathe shallow
or deep.

Whether we are
mindful or ignorant
of God’s patient, inviting,
filling, reconciling
love.

The good news is this:

God still breathes

life into dust and dry bones

still breathes for you and for me
for all of us together,
offering it all,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and forever will be,
world without end.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

Andrew serves on staff at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC as Director of Ministry Innovation, with primary responsibility for St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.
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