I like breathing. One of my favorite aspects of breathing is that I don’t have to think about it. It just happens as a natural part of who I am: a living being. When I do start to think about breathing, though, I become much more aware of the process. Breathe in. Breathe out. But even then there is a lot going on that I am not aware of.
Inhale. This is the part of breathing that feels the best. Each time I do it I am refreshed, and when I haven’t taken a breath for some time nothing feels better than sucking in couple liters of oxygen. This oxygen enters my blood and permeates my whole body with life.
I work at a church. I spend a good deal of time reading and communicating scripture to people. They come to our gatherings because they have learned that scripture is like bread. It sustains us. We take it in and, like Daniel, it fills our stomachs. Through song and prayer we ask God to enter into our midst, to fill us with the Pnuema, that Holy Breath. We take it in, and it nourishes us. We inhale.
Exhale. This part of the breath has to happen. Eventually you exhale or you die. It is the release that the body has to have after it has been nourished, in order that it might make room for more nourishment.
Missio Dei. Mission of God. That grand and wonderful narrative into which God calls us. One of my favorite parts of a life of faith is that each practice is intended to aid another practice. There is no end to the full life that Jesus promises. We are fed so we can serve, and we serve so we can worship, and by worship we are fed. God’s is a mission that calls us to participate in His Kingdom and to invite others to do the same. We practice Kingdom living on earth, as it is done in heaven, and we do it along side of our friends and neighbors who haven’t seen the Kingdom, who haven’t even been shown a glimpse. It is the most natural and necessary reaction to encountering the living Christ. We step into His mission.
As a church, it becomes our place of comfort to participate in a weekly service dedicated to being fed. We like food, even if it is baby food. Eventually, however, there comes a time when our bodies have been so filled nourishment that we have to have an outlet, or risk dying. We go to church, we are fed, and as the most natural, almost impulsive, result we step into the world to participate in God’s Kingdom. It is our outlet after being fed. It is our place of activity. It is our exhale.
Inhale. God loves you. Exhale. You love your neighbor.
There is a part of this life, this breathing cycle, that is not well captured by metaphors. It is one of the most profound ingredients to the faithful life that makes our exhales and our inhales all the more possible. It is community. God’s Kingdom is not a fragmented group of individuals who have learned the rhythm, but is a true and genuine community that has learned how to breathe together. They are fed, not only by God, but by one another. They live out God’s mission not alone, but as a whole. They are the church far and wide, the body of Christ with all its limbs and appendages, all its wounds and all of its joys. It is this community that Jesus said would show the world that He is real. It is this community that gathers to breathe in, and departs to breathe out – sharing the breath of life with the world.
Inhale. Missio Dei. Exhale. Missio Dei.