I’ve often heard it said that faith is caught, not taught. During the Easter season, things shift in the lectionary which, on Sundays, ordinarily takes the first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures and the second from one of the Letters (Epistles). The change is made so that we might hear the stories of the early Christian movement and how the Spirit was working in the communities gathered around the charismatic leaders. This morning we have the quintessential example of Christian community in the first reading where, in ACTS 2:42-47, we hear of Christians “holding all things in common, dividing their property and possessions according to each one’s need…” which in our world and time seems incredible, although a worthy ideal and the likely goal of communes and monastic communities and perhaps small rural communities that we might find scattered throughout the world.
My thoughts this morning we spurred on, however, by the second reading from the first letter of Peter, that impulsive, fiery, deeply devoted apostle who wrote the following lines about faith in Christ. Although you have not seen him, you love him; even though you do not see him now but believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. (1PT 1:9) I learned early on in religion classes that “faith is a gift” and that “it is our duty to fan the flames of the Spirit into life.” This morning I found myself asking myself, “How does that happen?” It is certainly true in my life that I have been gifted with the Christian faith – otherwise why would I have spent the last 50 years in a religious community trying to live as a faithful Christian.
Going back to my initial statement above, however, I think the answer to my question of fanning the flames is two-fold. I do believe it is my responsibility to spend time and energy in “the cell of my heart” nurturing my relationship with God in silence and reflection. Concomitantly, however, I believe that what Jesus did on Easter night in his visit to his disciples in the upper room (JN 20:19-31) is still happening for us. We have only to feel it, to recognize it. John says, “Jesus came, stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”
How do we breathe the Spirit on one another? Is it just at ceremonies like sacramental Confirmation or Ordination where the bishop lays hands on the heads of the candidates? Maybe it’s every time we offer peace to one another at a religious service or an interfaith gathering…Energy exchange may be even more elemental than that, bringing the Spirit to life in song – in a prayer circle, perhaps…
Yesterday, I heard again a song by Sara Thomsen that I have come to value as a good example of all these words of mine. It’s one of those songs where the refrain gets a foothold inside and will not let go. I will repeat only the last verse and that refrain here and hope that you get the point or search out the entire song to catch the Spirit that is living and active to this day and beyond.
By breath, by blood, by body, by spirit, we are all one.
The fire in my heart, my soul flame burning/ Is the fire in your heart, your soul flame burning./ We are Spirit burning bright, by the light of day, in the dark of night./ We are shining like the sun, and like the moon, like the Holy One. By breath…