Sadly, it’s common in modern America to think Christianity is primarily about personal salvation and prosperity, as if "The Way" Jesus taught is to just breathe God in to primarily better the believer.
There are many who seem to pitch this popular notion that Jesus' way is about just breathing in God and basking in the delight and the glory the Spirit brings. And the Spirit does bring us all that good stuff, delight and glory and personal salvation and types of prosperity; but, to stop our faith at the intake of God into our lives, at getting things for ourselves, is to remain a child in the faith.
Mature Christians breathe out. That is to say, fully engaged followers of Jesus do not live in faith by focusing primarily on their own salvation and prosperity. We live and breathe in faith for the salvation and the prosperity of all creation; because, as the Christmas story (that we will soon be remembering) frames it, Jesus came to bring "peace on earth, good will to all"
We sometimes forget that breath is an important part of our tradition. In Genesis, we are told that human life begins with God's breath. Chapter 2 (7) tells us that "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."
There is a wonderful Jewish tradition that God's name, Yahweh, is in our breath. If you stop and listen you can indeed hear "Yahweh" in each breath you take. Breathe in, and listen for the "Yah."Ě And as you breathe out, listen for the "Weh."Ě Try to just listen to the in and the out-ness, the "Yah" and the "Weh." It won't hurt. It's just breathing. Hear it? Yah-weh. The name of God is in our every breath! That fits right in with Paul's teaching that we live and move and have our being in God. We are so soaked in God that our every breath names the Divine. Yah-weh.
It's a merry coincidence that for English-speaking Christians, God's name includes "Weh,"Ě a sound that can be heard (for us) as a pun on "The Way" Jesus taught us. Metaphorically we breathe in, take in the Holy Spirit, God - "Yah." And we breathe out, give back to the world the Spirit, God - "Weh."Ě We take God in and we breathe God out.
"Breathe in God's Spirit, breathe out God's Love"Ě is a metaphor for how we act with the Spirit, the wind of God as it were, in the world.
On Jesus' Way, Christians are to be God's instruments in the world. The "Way"Ě Jesus taught is the "Weh"Ě we breathe the Spirit out into the world in our words and actions. The "Way" is the Weh - the breath of God - the active moving of Love into the world.
This week, take time to listen to God in your breath. Breathe in the "Yah,â" breathe out the "Weh."Ě And consider how God calls you to breathe the Holy Spirit's action into the world. And then breathe in God and make sure to breathe out God into the world.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org and his vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/AGodVlog?feature=guide.