top of page

EASTER II BREATHE ON ME BREATH OF GOD/ Christ Jesus Speaks and Life Comes forth from Death

Text: Edwin Hatch (1835-1889). Tune: Robert Jackson (1840-1914) 1 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do. 2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure. 3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity. REFLECTION
Breath is life and when we breathe our last, the life has gone out of us and we have died. Scripture speaks of the breath of God or Jesus from the creation of Adam through the dry bones of Ezekiel until Jesus breathes his last, or breathes on the disciples and gives them the Spirit. The hymn writer writes of several of those moments in his very simple but elegant song. God’s breath renews our lives, it puts us at one with God, and it gives us eternal life. While the John account is the text for today, something of the same thing happens in all four gospels. This week our Bible study group looked more closely at Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death—when he yields up his Spirit, which he does with his last breath. I had never seen it quite as richly as the scholar Frederick Dale Bruner does. Bruner reads it to be Christ releasing his Spirit into the world, into us and all creation. His proof is all the things that happen immediately after that. It splits the temple curtain from top to bottom, the earth is shaken, rocks are split, tombs are opened, the bodies of saints are raised from their tombs, the centurion confesses that Jesus is surely the Son of God as over against his accusers who have mocked him for claiming he was the Son of God. And those with him are frightened. Only the women, his ministers, looking on seem not to be. These are God’s words to the cross, Bruner says. The Nicene Creed confesses that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. So here in Matthew we have the Spirit released from Jesus’ body into all the world. And where it goes, death, even the power of stone, is broken up, the earth shakes. What a story! Scripture gives us several pictures of Jesus giving us the Spirit and we see immediately the power that releases into the world, especially in the Acts account with the rushing wind and tongues of fire. All breath—the power of the wind coming over us. To describe this we have to give accounts of something that happened in our lives. To be quite literal, we can think of real wind in our lives. Once we had a visitor from the Willamette Valley where the weather is on the whole mild. She looked at our oak trees and noted how fresh and lively they looked compared to the oaks in Salem. She surmised that our gale force winds that came with blizzards and spring storms had cleaned them out and done a kind of pruning. It was a parable of what happens in our lives. The wind or breath of God storms through us and cleanses our dead branches and prunes them like the gardener wanting to save the tree which could only be done with pruning and digging around it. Many of us have stood beside a dying parent or friend and watched as the death rattle begins and the breath fails. The struggle is real. When it is over, the life is gone and the body quickly becomes something else. Unresponsive and hard. A medical student long ago once mused to me how delicate and fragile the body is when it is alive—and it is treated with the most tender care. But when the breath is gone, the remains are just that. It is also possible to think of that in our spiritual lives. We are like corpses often spiritually. We feel unresponsive and dead to the life around us. We need to be raised up from that death nearly every day. There can be something painful about being alive again. When we are quickened by the spirit, we are able to feel joy, but also pain. I like the word "quick." When one touches the quick of one’s fingernail, it hurts. We used to say in the Creed the “quick and the dead” which we changed to “living and dead.” Quick means a liveliness to all that is around us. Once I heard someone say they did not want to be raised from the dead because life was too painful and more of it was not appealing. He wanted to be put six feet under and lie there undisturbed forever. Even if he were alive at the time, he seemed dead to me. While I understood not wanting to feel pain and suffering any more, I want to be fully alive, truly alive. Paul puts it best in Romans 5:3, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit like a schoolteacher brings us through these awful times, giving us the strength to endure, and grow up, because we have the strength to hope. Faith and hope end when we die because now they are no longer needed. We will be living in the fire of love with our Lord, our faith proven and hope realized. The breath of God in us is God’s Spirit filling us with life, cleansing us like a rushing wind, and giving life to the tongues of fire burning in us. The temple curtain has been split and Jesus lives in us through his Spirit. Christ is risen! HYMN INFO
Edwin Hatch was born in Derby and attended Pembroke College at Oxford. He served as Vice-Principal of St. Mary Hall, Oxford and later Rector of Purleigh. He wrote very few hymns, but this one has become a lasting contribution to hymns of Pentecost. His hymns texts appeared in a collection called Towards Fields of Light , 1890. There a several tunes for this, the most popular Trentham by Robert Jackson. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music, he played the organ at St. Peter's Church in Oldham for most of his life. My hymn on this topic can be found below. LINKS Northern Baptist Association Christopher Brunelle to Jerusalem MacKay United Church Choir The Orchard Enterprises

EASTER II BREATHE ON ME BREATH OF GOD/ Christ Jesus Speaks and Life Comes forth from Death
bottom of page