Fresh Breath

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Date: Day of Pentecost + 5/27/12

On the fiftieth day after His resurrection from the dead, on the tenth day since His ascension into heaven, and on the day of your Holy Baptism, our Lord Jesus sent the Helper, the Spirit of truth, the Witness, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life who proceeds from the Father and proceeds also from the Son, who, with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, the same Spirit who spoke by the prophets. He spoke through Moses and Isaiah and Ezekiel, and through Matthew and John, Luke and Paul and through countless servants sent throughout the world with the Word, the eternal life by faith in Jesus. Through their word, through God’s Word, this Spirit creates saving faith when and where it pleases Him in those who hear the Gospel. Today we commemorate the day when God first poured out His Spirit on those gathered together in Jerusalem so that, filled with the Holy Spirit, He might get the ball rolling—the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments, the making of disciples of all nations beginning in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. So today is kind of like a family reunion with all those who have gone before us who have been reborn and made alive by the Spirit, the Wind, and the Breath.

Let there be no doubt we’re talking about God. God is Father. God is also Son and Word. And God is Spirit, Wind, and Breath. “Ruach.” The word means Spirit and Wind and Breath.

It all started with Him, you know: the Spirit and Wind and Breath “hovering over the face of the waters.” “And God said, ‘Let there be…and there was.” The light was good. And the heavens were good. The seas were good. And the vegetation and seed, and the lights and seasons and day and night were good. And life was good in all its kinds. And man…. Man, in the image and likeness of God; with dominion over the creation; with the blessing of God on him, and it was so, and it, and he was good. You were good.

Jesus calls the Spirit, the Wind, the Breath “the Helper,” because we need help. We need help because of sin, which changed God’s good creation to be not so good. He helps us by convicting us of sin, awakening us to our need. He helps us by convicting us of righteousness, which can only be not of our own but as a gift of God. And He helps us by rendering judgment on the would-be ruler of this world. He comes to help us, to free us from the slavery of sin.

Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones was a vision of “the whole house of Israel,” at the time captive, enslaved with little hope and no future. Old, dry bones lying all around in a valley. “They were very dry,” which means they’ve been there a long time—no skin, no muscle, no tendons, no vessels, no blood, nothing. Very, very dry. Dead…we call it. But this is also a picture of us and of the whole world.

The mystery is that we are all born into this world with God’s gift of life. “The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). Just like with the bones of Ezekiel’s vision, even with sinews and flesh and skin, not until God breathed did they become alive! The breath, the wind, the Spirit of God made alive.

This has happened over and over and over again through the generations until God created you and you took your first breath! Ahhh! Maybe you cried at the sensation of a slap on your backside. Maybe you just sighed! But you breathed. Breath entered and you were alive. And you are alive. And you haven’t stopped breathing since!

But you will! One can hold one’s breath for only so long. Sleep apnoea causes high blood pressure and heart problems. But it is, after all, sin and death that finally takes our breath away. And there is nothing we can do about it, which is why we need help, we need The Helper.

The Helper is the wind, the breath, the Spirit who makes alive, the Spirit of Christ who gives eternal life. That Day, that great Pentecost Day the signs of a sound like a mighty wind and what looked like little flames of fire drew everyone’s attention. That “everyone” included people from every nation under heaven in town for the required Pentecost festival. (God’s timing is best!) But it wasn’t the sound or the sight but the word of God, each hearing in their own tongues the mighty works of God, the Gospel of Christ, that brought light and life to all who heard.

And it was that day, not with sounds of mighty winds or flames of fire, but with sounds of gently dripping water and the simple words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” that you became alive, alive again, born again, born from above by water and the Spirit, the wind, the breath. And this gift of life is ever new, deathless, eternal, for it is sustained and enlivened by the daily forgiveness of sins, the rich indwelling of the Word, the love, joy and peace of Jesus Christ.

The wind, the breath, the Spirit. The glad fellowship of the great family reunion of those gone before us and those still to be. Catch your breath today. In Word and sacrament breathe the Spirit’s grace, see the Father’s face, feel the Son’s embrace! Alleluia!