God gave us amazing gift of his breath

In the second Biblical creation story of Genesis 2, the blueprint of how we are made is articulated in verse 7: "... 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."


God's breath gives life to a pile of dirt! Wow! It is understandable why the psalmist praises God with the words of Psalm 139:14: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works that I know very well."

We are fearfully and wonderfully made -- in one package the earthly and the divine. What a magnificent gift from our creator, God.

This gift does, however, present a few problems. It is easy to see how we are of the dust. A simple comparative analysis of dirt and flesh shows that both, more or less, contain the same elements (iron, nickel, zinc, calcium, potassium, carbon, etc.). We are also created with the ability to experience the world about us with our senses -- sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch -- and through those senses experience the many pleasures of this world that God pronounced good at creation.

Because of this sensual connection with the world and all its attendant noise, we tend to forget why we are alive in the first place -- God's breath, his Spirit. Therein lays the tension that is with us all our lives. How do we honor and balance the gift of our body and the gift of our spirit?

The French cleric and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin posed this question, "Are we earthly beings on a spiritual journey or spiritual beings on an earthly journey?"

The only answer to this question is a resounding YES! From the dawn of human history, every society and every culture has left records that God, in one form or another, has been central to their lives. Every one of those stories tells of a longing for God. Our human story says that we are wired for God.

This Sunday is Pentecost, when, through the Acts 2 story, we will once again be with the disciples in the upper room as a powerful wind (God's breath) sweeps through the house and the church is given life. This story depicts the power of the Spirit with all sorts of things happening, like "tongues of fire" and strangers speaking and understanding each other's languages.

The celebration of Pentecost gives us the opportunity to revisit our creation story and open the door of our hearts to honor God's Spirit and God's life-giving breath in every one of us.

This doesn't have to be dramatic like the original Pentecost experience. It's probably best if done quietly. As you finish reading this, close your eyes and take in a breath ... breathe in God's breath. Come, Holy Spirit .

The Rev. Joe Bowden is assisting priest at Church of the Holy Comforter, an Episcopal church in Martinez.