Breath -- Wholeness

Luisely Melechio-Zambrano

May 10, 2020

Texts: Acts 6:1-7
          1 Peter 2:4-9
           John 14: 1-12

Hello Eighth Day!   For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Luisely.  I am Crisely’s sister, Alfonso’s sister-in-law, and Santiago’s aunt. 

Would you take 30 seconds to remember anyone who has mothered you, loved you into being, in your life?  I’ll tell you when the 30 seconds are over.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Something we can thank our mothers for is that each one of them, no matter what, gave us enough life to take our first breath.  So in gratitude for them and in celebration for the life given and constantly received I invite you to breath with me.

If it’s comfortable and you are able, place your hand on your ribs.  And inhale through your nose feeling your ribs widen as much as is comfortable for you.  Pause a bit and then allow all that air that filled up your lungs to release with ease through your nose.  We’ll take five breaths together in this way, if you’d like.

Inhale-hold-exhale {x5} and notice

Some of us may have felt tension that we didn’t know was there and some of us may have felt relief of that same tension. 

We have a tendency to change our breath, the depth of it and its rhythm if there’s been trauma or if there’s pain, whether that’s physical, emotional, or any aspect of ourselves that we don’t have the capacity or desire to hold.

Intentional breathing is a way that we can start to integrate and welcome those parts of ourselves and only to the degree that we desire.

This invitation to our deepest breath, to living into all parts of ourselves is an invitation I found in our readings today.  In each one we have an invitation to include the “neglected,” “rejected,” and holy parts of ourselves and our community.  [Perhaps the way that our mothers accepted and loved us or someone else who loved us in that “whole” way, welcoming our deepest breath and loving our most neglected, rejected and holy parts.] So we remember and honor our mothers or anyone who has “mothered” us or loved us in this way as we delve into the sacred text that invites us to believe in the wholeness of our community, the wholeness of ourselves, and the wholeness of God. 

In Acts 6:1-7, we hear of how the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jewish Christians) raised their voices in complaint against the Hebrews (Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians) for the way their widows were being neglected in daily distribution of food.  So they called together the community and selected reputable ones among them whom they felt were filled with the Spirit and wisdom.  Once the community approved, those selected received prayers and had hands laid upon them before beginning their work to feed the hungry.  The word of God continued to spread and the number of followers increased greatly.  “Even” a large group of priests, aka, people of power, were becoming obedient to the faith.

This reading presents a scaffolding for communities when we’ve forgotten that we are one, when we’ve forgotten our wholeness. 

Those from the affected community speak up for the most vulnerable in their community. 

This made me think immediately of how people in New York are speaking up about the discrepancy between the policing of white New Yorkers violating social distancing versus brown-skinned New Yorkers violating social distancing.  Videos came out showing the brutality and pictures comparing the two realities were shared through social media.  The community brought to light the stark difference between the crowds gathering in Manhattan who were receiving free masks from police officers versus police officers slapping, pushing, and sitting on the necks of people of color as they walked down their sidewalks.

It also made me think of the prayers that I heard from this community last Sunday and previous Sundays, raising concerns for those whose needs are yet to be met, with hopes of finding ways to meet them: whether it’s cards and calls to Barbara and Jimmy or Sonny, funds for rent/electricity/food for different members of the community in need, or meals for Emily and Matthias as they nurture Nathan Pacific.  You all and those who are speaking up around the world for those in need are like the Hellenists, trying to “re-member” the forgotten members of our communities.

The leaders call the community together to select reputable ones, filled with the Spirit and wisdom to delegate the work needed and tend to those most in need. 

The community is included to find a solution together and to select, among themselves, reputable, Spirit-filled people who are wise.  There is an inclusion even in this method.  [Before I go on about inclusion, I must bring up an obvious exclusion in the text which is the exclusion of women.  As you may have noted, I’ve decided to contextualize the text and pray that generations to come will keep on broadening those that are included and pointing out our blind spots in where we are failing, like we point out our ancestors blind spots today.] The ones who will respond are from the community itself and they are selected by the community and known by the community. 

Not only is the gathering and selecting from the community important, but also the requisites for the job.  Precisely because they were to tend to the most vulnerable among them were they selective, choosing reputable, wise, Spirit-filled people, people they could trust with the most neglected members of their community. 

The approval from the community was necessary before blessing them and appointing them to do the work.

The community calls forth those that will tend to the most in need and prays and lays hands on them.  The community consecrates and blesses those that will be their hands and feet in bringing the community to further wholeness.

Once the parts of the community that weren’t being breathed into or feed were tended to the community flourished even more…

The Word of God continued to spread and the numbers of followers increased greatly. 

By including the neglected parts of the community, the community grows and faith increases. 

“Even” a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. 

This line is important because it shows that even the people in power were changed by the inclusion of the least powerful. 

In calling attention to the needs within the community and finding ways to tend to those needs, Eighth Day is its fullest self.  Eighth Day is nourished and filled with life. 

In reflecting back to the wider community New York’s injustices, not only can more safety and justice and life come to communities of color, but police officers can be fuller versions of themselves, more human, “becoming obedient to the faith.”

We are the voices that complain about injustice, gather, select, bless, and increase the depth of the breath of the Body of Christ when we decide to recognize that we are not whole when neglecting any part of our community.  Our community breaths deeper when we breathe life into all corners of our community, especially those most traumatized, most in pain, or most cut off.

Acts 6 invites us to believe in the wholeness of our community and live into the Mystery and depth of our living breath as a community. 

1 Peter 2:4-9 further invites us to accept the rejected, in Jesus, in the Body of Christ and in ourselves.

The passage with the living stone, rejected by human beings, but chosen and precious in the sight of God as Jesus, then invites us, the Body of Christ, to be living stones as well.  The passage asks us to “Behold,” to notice, in the present tense, the stone.  The stone can be read as the living stones in our community, who are rejected by human beings, but chosen and precious in the sight of God.  Whoever believes in the chosen-ness and preciousness of the stone “shall not be put to shame.  Its value is for you who have faith.” We will be blessed by the cornerstones, by the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the sick whom we recognize as holy and value and place in a place of value in our community.  For those that do not have faith in that truth, “a stone… will make people stumble and a rock that will make them fall.  They stumble by disobeying the word.” We stumble as a community when we reject the dignity and the preciousness of our members. 

WE are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own.  It is not an individual thing, WE ALL TOGETHER, the whole Body of Christ, are chosen.  And WE are “called out of darkness into God’s light.”

Now, with that note, I invite us to read the passage from a different angle.  Still understanding the truth about the communal wholeness, but now noticing how it can be a passage that calls us out of darkness into God’s light within ourselves.

What are the living stones within us that we reject?  What aspects of our being have we failed to see as chosen?  As precious in the sight of God?  There is a moment of consent in the passage that is typical of God.  “Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” Let yourselves… Allow your whole self to be accepted, you already are accepted by God, how can we “Behold” this truth? How can we believe in our closeness and our preciousness in a way that “shall not… put [us] to shame.” The value of our rejected parts are seen by those with faith.

For those without faith in our whole preciousness, then the part we reject in ourselves becomes our cornerstone and is a stone that will make us stumble and a rock that will make us fall and possibly others.

You, dear ones, are chosen, royal, holy and a people of God’s own.  So that you can announce praises of the One who called YOU out of darkness into God’s light.

It is very hard to reject our “ugly” parts while accepting what is perceived as “ugly” outside of us.  What we repress, reject, or deny within ourselves we tend to repress, reject, or deny in the wider community.  In order to be whole we need to allow God’s breath in us and through us to touch all parts within us, the neglected, the rejected, and the holy parts within us.  In doing this, we will allow God’s breath in us and through us to touch all parts within our community.

Now to the gospel reading.

John 14: 1-12 has SO many nuggets of truth and richness.  Despite a true temptation to go on and on about all the wonders of this passage, I will stick to those that stay with our theme of wholeness (which honestly feels like the whole passage). 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

“You have faith in God; have faith also in the ways God is embodied and incarnate within your community.  In concrete, in-the-flesh ways.”

“In God’s house there are many dwellings.” All are included, the neglected, the rejected, the holy aspects of yourself and the community.  It is in being welcomed by God that those parts of ourselves have any hope of being welcomed by ourselves and healed.  And by being welcomed by God and ourselves and others, then we have a model to follow to then welcome and include others.

“I will come back and TAKE YOU TO MYSELF, so that where I am YOU also may be.” Jesus is letting us know that we have union with God. 

Jesus is so clear of this union, so clear of who he is and what he is.  He exemplifies his wholeness, his oneness with God and his identity as Love.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  THAT UNION WITH GOD IS THE WAY, THAT UNION WITH GOD IS THE TRUTH, THAT UNION WITH GOD IS THE LIFE. 

No one comes to God except through love incarnate. 

“If you know me, then you will also know my Father, from now on YOU do know God and have seen God,” says Jesus.

This is huge.  Our faith calls us to believe in a God who is 100% human and 100% divine, 100% union of creation and Creator.  This Mystery can be life-transforming.  If we believe that God is incarnate, then our God is not a distant God.  Our God has been known and seen by YOU.  Our eyes can then see that our division or distance from God is an illusion.  We are whole in God.  Jesus accepts this reality and his true identity. 

We like Thomas, may doubt it or be confused by it.  Or like Phillip, it can pass right over our heads, and Jesus will keep trying to help us see that there is no inherent separation between us (the Body of Christ) and our God; any separation is simply blindness. 

“You still do not know me, Phillip?” says Jesus, trying to get him to get it.  “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.”

“How can you say ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

I’m sure we’ve heard this passage so many times, but I’m sure Jesus asks it of us today, “You still do not know me, Luisely?  Whoever sees my creation, Michael, Santiago, polar bears, Eighth Day welcoming and feeding the hungry or scared, those tending to the sick, those dying of COVID-19, those in prisons, the BODY OF CHRIST united on this Zoom call, has seen God.”

Do you not believe in that wholeness?  Do you not believe in the incarnation? 

“The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own.”  Jesus is intrinsically one with God, with his Abba, and his Abba, intrinsically one with him.

He names this over and over again, “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” God working through us, with us, and in us.

He seems to beg us, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me or else believe because of the works themselves.” Believe in this wholeness, in this oneness in this Mystery, if not for Jesus’ own sake, then for the life and Mystery that unfolds from him. 

After referring to this wholeness (which is the Mystery of the Trinity) he says to us, Eighth Day:

“Amen, amen, I say to YOU.  Whoever believes in me [in this union I have with God] will do the works I do and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father.”

And he drops the mic.  Beloved Eighth Day, it seems that Jesus, throughout this gospel, is reiterating over and over again the truth of his identity and his wholeness and oneness with God, not for his own sake, but to build up for the last sentence.   

If we can wrap our heads around the reality of the incarnation in Jesus, of God’s union and FULL and COMPLETE presence in Jesus, then maybe, just maybe, we can believe in that reality within ourselves and our community.

Then we, Eighth Day, can do the works Jesus did, the work of inclusion, the work of wholeness, the work of remembering, the work of breathing the Breath of God into every crevice of this world and of ourselves.

He hands us, the BODY OF CHRIST, the torch, because he’s going to his Abba.  May we continue to practice saying yes to this invitation Eighth Day. 

In a similar way, our mothers [whether biological or simply those who mothered us] prepared us for this.  In our relationships with our mothers we experienced being in our mothers and our mothers being in us.  We experienced someone inviting us to do greater things than they themselves did, we experienced someone handing the torch to us.  These concrete experiences with our mothers allow us to imagine a love as great as the one Jesus describes.  May we live and embody this wholeness in our community, this wholeness in ourselves, and this wholeness in God.