Last week Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus in the garden on the day of resurrection.  The writer of John echoed images from the Garden of Eden.  Resurrection ushers in a new creation—all is new again.

Today the disciples huddle together behind locked doors.  They likely had heard the Magdalene’s report (she might even be among them) but it didn’t make any difference.  They are frightened and laying low three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, afraid of what might happen next.

They’re trying to lock out enemies.  And a friend walks in.  Inexplicably, Jesus stands among them, offers a blessing of peace, and shows them his wounds.  Great joy and celebration ensue.  Then he breathes upon them and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit.

This act of breathing Spirit upon the disciples also echoes the creation stories of Genesis. God breathed life into the original human, who came from the earth.  In echoing the creation story, John reminds us once again that in resurrection the cosmos and everything within it is recreated.  New life is being breathed into the world.

And the breath still moves among us.  That’s a hard to grasp idea, but I tried to get to in a poem I wrote a couple years ago:

Taking It All In

I like to think of sharing air with sweet Jesus,

smiling and sorrowful and conjuring strong blessings.

I like remembering today’s air gave life to Lord Buddha,

steadily attaining the mind’s release.

Did the dust I inhale once make him sneeze?


I know this air carries also

the saliva from a slave woman’s scream.


I like to imagine the otter’s splash

and the rain forest’s rhythms

forming the vapor lining my lungs.


All the earth enters me through this breath,

singular and slow

each atom already awakened

through infinite lives

shaped astonishingly

pulsing now through mine.


Imagine that some of the air Jesus breathed is in this room, now.  The air enlivened by his breath of Spirit moves among us, re-creating us.  You might think of it, I suppose, as Jesus performing CPR upon the world.  That is the spiritual possibility pointed to by today’s scripture.

“Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus says in verse 22 in most translations.  The Complete Gospels translates that verse to read, “Here is some Holy Spirit. Take it.”  In that rendering if the Greek, it seems to me that the disciples (or us) are given a choice.  Take it.  Or leave it.  Receiving the Spirit requires some willingness.  And some attentiveness.

But attentiveness to what?  There’s a lot going on in this passage.  It’s worth noticing, though, that Jesus says “Peace be with you” three times.  That makes it the most important message the writer wants us to hear.  Peace be with you.  May your relationships be restored.  May you know wholeness and healing.  May you be well.  May you walk in peace.  The manifestation of life’s power over death is the blessing of peace.  That blessing also still moves and vibrates in the air around us, just as the Spirit breathed upon the disciples dwells in the atmosphere.

Yet still, like the first disciples, we spend time locked up, sheltering in place.  We try to hide ourselves or protect ourselves from danger and risk and challenge.  We may huddle up inside of jobs and bank accounts and safe homes and routines that keep us safe from disruptions in our individual lives (we hope).  And despite whatever walls we put around ourselves, whatever doors we lock, the risen Christ can appear (though in ways we might not see).  Life, and the power of life, and the reality of new creation, persist and overcome.

The air that moves among us carries words of blessing and the Spirit of new creation, as surely as it did for the disciples.  It finds its way into whatever rooms we hide away in.  The Divine comes among us, still, and says “Here is some Spirit.  Take it.”

May we have the courage to accept the invitation and lay claim to the vibrant creation it offers.

-Rev. Ruth Moerdyk