Deep breath

Jason Storbakken

(Isaiah 42:1-9; John 20:19-23)

Let us begin by sharing several breaths.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.




From Genesis to Revelation, God’s spirit hovers over the deep.

The Hebrew and Greek word for spirit (ru’ach and pneuma) is feminine. And this ancient feminine we call spirit is also called breath.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see that God breathes being into creation, raises Ezekiel’s army with this breath, and in Revelation resurrects the dead of every people, tribe, language and nation with the breath of life from God.

There are two movements of breath in the Scriptures. First, it is the physical breath of which the prophet Isaiah says: It is God who “gives breath to the people upon the earth and spirit to those who walk in it.”

This is the breath moving through our respiratory system.

Breath sustains us, fills us and empties us. Breathing is an act of giving and receiving. By simply breathing we are participating in creation in a meaningful way.

Plants and trees help humans breathe by providing us with oxygen, and our breathing helps plants and trees breathe as we produce carbon dioxide.

Before birth, when each of us was in our mother’s womb, our mothers breathed for us.

Our breath joins us to creation,

and joins us to one another.

We each breathe 22,000 times per day. But how seldom do we pay attention to our breath.

When we are aware of breath as we inhale and the air goes through the nose or mouth,

the diaphragm contracts,

the ribcage lifts,

and the air goes through all the little branches in the lungs to fill up the airs sacs,

and we experience physiological changes.

When we breathe deeply and in rhythm, we are able to cleanse 70 percent of the toxins from our body.

When we breathe deeply and in rhythm, we decrease anxiety and we increase peace.

Breathing is restorative to our soul and our bodies’ cells.

But there are times when our own breath is just not enough. When the spirit has departed.

In John’s Gospel, the disciples are scared. The leader of their movement, Yeshua ha’ Moshiach – the Messiah, Jesus – has been arrested, tortured, and executed. Jesus, the embodiment of the spirit of God, has expired.

Their hopes are crushed. They are hiding in a locked room afraid that the same authorities who took their Savior will now come and arrest them.


And then in a moment of wild illumination, Jesus appears in their midst.

Somehow breaking through locks and walls to say to them, “Peace be with you.” And the Scriptures say that when he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

 We encounter the second movement of breath.

We find a God who dies and rises again,

who gives life where there once was death,

and breathes when there is no breath left.

The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. They are able to endure and persevere. And even obtain greater gains and glory for the kingdom of God.

 Jesus’ spirit – treasure from heaven, life-giving water, campfire at night in the cold desert – enriches and nourishes and warms all who remain open and vulnerable to it.

This divine breath is not merely a mindful moment, but a million millennia in one meditation, an experience of the infinitude.

A love that lavishes and raptures us into eternity.

A holy movement of the spirit in us and through us.

So, I pray, as we go into this new season that we would be mindful that the Lord has already spoken:

“See, the former things have taken place,

and new things I declare.”

May the spirit fill us to fullness. May we live into the abundance and newness,

and draw strength and gifts and wisdom and a sense of awe and wonder

from that rich wellspring, that eternal source.

Let us live into the lavishness of God’s love – surrendering to that eternal ebb and flow of the spirit.

And let us close as we began this reflection…

sharing a moment, entering the sacred rhythm,

allowing spirit to empty us so that we might be filled again.