Breath

Connie Ridgway

May 20, 2018

Text: from The Message: Ezekiel 37:1-5, 7, 9-10.

God Grabbed me.  God's spirit took me up and sat me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones.  The Holy one led me around and among them — a lot of bones!   There were bones all over the plain, dry bones, bleached by the sun.
The Holy One said to me, Son of Man, can these bones live?  I said, Master God, only you know that.
He said to me, Prophesy over these bones: Dry bones listen to the message of the Holy One!
The Holy one told the dry bones: Watch this: I'm bringing the breath of life to you and you'll come to life.
I prophesied just as I'd been commanded.  As I prophesied, there was a sound and oh, rustling!   The bones moved and came together, bone to bone.  But they had no breath in them."The Holy one said, Prophesy to the breath.  Prophesy, son of man.  Tell the breath, The Holy One, the Master says, Come from the four winds.  Come, breath.  Breathe on these slain bodies.  Breathe life!
So I prophesied, just as the Holy One commanded me.  The breath entered them and they came alive!   They stood up on their feet, a huge gathering.

Acts 2: 1-8. 

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Without warning,a there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from.  It filled the whole building.  Then like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world.  When they heard the sound, they came on the run.  They when they heard, one after another their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck.  They couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, "Aren't these all Galileans?  How come we're hearing them talk in our mother tongues?"

From the Revised Standard Bible:

John 15:26:

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.

From the Revised Standard Bible and the Orthodox Jewish Bible:

Romans 8: 26. 

The Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray,
but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
The Ruach HaKodesh Himself intercedes on our behalf with labor pang groans not intelligibly uttered.

Ruach Hakodesh is Hebrew for Holy Spirit.  Ruha D'KDASh —is Aramaic Qadash: Holy: Point or pivot upon which everything turns, and the image of a circle unfolding from a point with power and heat.

On this special day of Pentecost and recommitment for the 8th Day Faith Community, it's a privilege and pleasure to offer a teaching today.  It’s based on the lectionary scriptures for this week and their connection to the class that our New Creation mission group is leading about Jesus' words as a Middle Eastern prophet and mystic.

I'd like to focus on a word that appears in all of our lectionary scriptures today: Spirit.  Spirit.

In the four Gospels, {according to Neil Douglas Klotz, who wrote The Hidden Gospel, our class text), Jesus refers to "spirit' more than one hundred times.  In both Hebrew and Aramaic, the same word (Ruha in Aramaic, and Ruach in Hebrew), stands for several English words: Spirit, Wind, Air, and Breath.  In the Middle Eastern tradition, when we meditate on these Scriptures, we consider all the possible meanings simultaneously.  And there are many-layered ways of considering a word's meaning: Intellectual, Metaphorical, and Universal or Mystical.

According to Klotz and Andrew Gabriel Roth, another Aramaic scholar, "Aramaic is rich in sublime word-play."  It requires us to shift our consciousness from the separations between spirit and body, and between humanity and nature, to that of Unity.  For, in Hebrew and Aramaic, the word for God is "Sacred Unity."

In all Semitic languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic —one word holds multiple meanings.  Aramaic is a language that links Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths.  Perhaps, on Pentecost, when we read about people in Jerusalem from every corner of the known world, hearing the apostles prophesying in their own language, perhaps we can aspire to linking through this language to a wider sense of community beyond our familiar borders.

In the Aramaic Dictionary on the Atour website, which calls itself "the home of the indigenous Aramaic-speaking Christian Assyrians of the Middle East," the words Breath, Wind and Spirit all have the same root, RuOKHaA, and were used interchangeably throughout our lectionary scriptures for today.

For instance, in Acts 2:2, it refers to the "sound like the Rushing of a Violent wind", then in 2:4 they were "filled with the Holy Spirit" Both words, wind and Spirit, have "RuHa" as their translation.

In Ezekiel, 37:9: Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
37:10: I prophesied and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude."

The words Wind and Breath have the same word, "RuHa"

[As an aside, I find it fascinating that the word "Prophesy" is used in terms of evoking a living Spirit out of something that had been dead.  In Klotz's rendition of the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:11, prophets are not fortune tellers but feel disunity of the land/people intensely, because they act out of being filled with the Spirit.  I wonder, can we, Filled with the Spirit of God, Prophesy to that which is dead and needs revival?]

In Psalm 104 from our Lectionary, 104:29 "When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust."  Breath, Spirit.  The same word, RuHa.

And in Romans 8:26: The Spirit intercedes for us in sighs too deep for words ((D'RuOKHeA).  Sighing, a powerful form of breathing, a groaning as in labor.  Spirit, Breathing.  RuHa.

In John 15:26, the Spirit comes as an Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Helper.

Can we, filled with the Spirit, filled with nourishing Breath, be advocates and comforters for each other?  How can we Breathe new life into our community?

I have a personal journey of seeking the Spirit.  I was a member of 8th Day Faith community from 1981-87.  Then, after a divorce, I felt discouraged and unsure of whether I was still even a Christian.  I left the community, and studied massage therapy.  What a surprise and a wonder, when, while doing body work, in my hands I experienced a sense of Energy between myself the other.  It felt like the Holy Spirit, this energy, this heat that breathed between me and the person on the table.  The Holy Spirit linked not only with breath, but with Fire/ Heat, as in Acts 2:3.  And, of course, as all of us who have tried to start a fire, we must Breathe upon it!

My dear friend, Patty Wudel of Josephs House, has taught me and many others how to match our breath with another, as a beautiful and intimate way to experience the Spirit of Sacred Unity between us.  At Josephs' House, they accompany each person by matching their breathing with the dying person as he or she transitions from this life to the next.

How can we, in the 8th Day Faith Community, match our breathing with one another, to come into harmony with the Breath of Life and be the Spirit's Advocates in the world?

The word for "God" in Hebrew is Elohim (which by the way, is plural), in Aramaic is Alaha, and in Arabic is Allah: all mean "The one," or "Sacred Unity," whereas our word "God" comes from German, meaning "good."

From a Middle Eastern point of view, we are not separate from Sacred Unity.  Feeling the sound and breath in your body can be a bridge between your own experience and the meaning of the words.  We are emulating the Holy One who spoke creation into existence with Breath and Sound.

A way we can understand our inter-relationship with everything on the planet is by studying how our breath interacts with other aspects of creation.  We exchange breath with plants: they give us oxygen, we give them carbon dioxide.  We literally must breathe in order that the plants we use for shelter and food can stay alive and grow, and they must breathe for us to receive literally the Breath of Life.

How do we as a community embody that Spirit and connection between us?  Can we be more literal about it and breathe together?  Can this be a way to prophesy, by breathing new life/spirit into our time together?  Chanting and repetition of sacred words has long been a spiritual tradition in all religions, including Christian.  Says Klotz: "In Jesus' native Middle Eastern tradition, the Sound of a word is considered to have innate power beyond the word's literal meaning." It is a way of taking within ourselves the essence of the teaching.

I invite you to use midrash, studying and debating the many meanings of scripture, to deepen your contemplation of the word that we often translate as Yahweh.  I remember hearing the well-known Jewish Rabbi Arthur Wascow speak on Martin Luther King's birthday in 2009 about how the word YaHWeH, is really about breathing, YH , WH.  He had us breathe in "YH" and breathe out "WH" Klotz says that in midrash, we attempt through contemplation to make a scriptural passage or a saying of a holy person into a living experience that can meet the challenges of the present." (The Hidden Gospel p2,).

So, I invite you to breathe with me.  On the in-breath, "YH" and on the outbreath "WH" Let's do it several times together.

Please sing with me:

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us (2x) Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us....  Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us.

Meditation: Feel the breath— coming in,
approaching fulness,
when inhale pauses, then turns over
When it goes out
When it approaches emptiness,
When it turns again and starts to come in.

"You thought you were Dust; and now you find you are Breath. (Rumi)

 


Some quote and references for your study:

[atour.com: Welcome to the home of the indigenous Aramaic-speaking Christian Assyrians of the Middle East.  The Assyrians of today are the descendants of the ancient Assyrian people, one of the earliest civilizations emerging in the Middle East, and have a history spanning over 6760 years.  Assyrians are not Arabian or Arabs, we are not Kurdish, our religion is not Islam.  The Assyrians are Christian, with our own unique language, culture and heritage.  ]

Acts 2:1-21:

2:2 Rushing of a violent wind 2:4 Filled with the Holy Spirit

2:17 "in the last days I will pour out my Spirit, upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young shall see visions and your old shall dream dreams.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

37:9: Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal and say to the breath: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

37:10: I prophesied and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude."

37:14: I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil...  Psalm 104: 24-34

104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.  When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created.

Aramaic Translations of words:

Romans 8:23 D'RuOKHeA (Common, Plural Emphatic) Acts 2:2 RuOKHaA (Common, Singular, Emphatic) Acts 2:4 B'RuOKHaA (Common, Singular, Emphatic)

Same word: for "violent wind" in 2:2 as for Spirit in 2:4

Same word for Spirit as for Breath.  Wind, Breath, Spirit

Romans 8:23: We who have the first fruits of the Spirit (D'RuOKHeA) 8:26 The Spirit intercedes for us in sighs too deep for words ((D'RuOKHeA) SAME WORD AS BREATH or WIND!

"With reference to....the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision."