Breathing together

Daily Reading for May 14

Did you know the word “conspire” means to breathe together? Take a breath. Now blow it out again. There! You have just launched a conspiracy. You can hear the word “spirit” in there too—to conspire—to be filled with the same spirit, to be enlivened by the same wind. That is why the word appeals to me, anyhow. What happens between us when we come together to worship God is that the Holy Spirit swoops in and out among us, knitting us together through the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the breaths we breathe. It can happen with two people and it can happen with two thousand people. It can scare us or comfort us, confuse us or clarify things for us, but as far as I can tell the Holy Spirit never bullies us. We are always free to choose whether or how we will respond. . . .

In the book of Acts, we learn the good news of what God did through the Holy Spirit, by performing artificial resuscitation on a room full of well-intentioned bumblers and turning them into a force that changed the history of the world. The question for me is whether we still believe in a God who acts like that. Do we still believe in a God who blows through closed doors and sets our heads on fire? Do we still believe in a God with power to transform us, both as individuals and as a people, or have we come to an unspoken agreement that our God is pretty old and tired by now, someone to whom we may address our prayer requests but not anyone we really expect to change our lives?

From “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit” in Home By Another Way by Barbara Brown Taylor (Cowley, 1999).

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