Creation, Re-Creation, New Creation
Reflection by The Reverend Ted Witham
It’s happening again. God is repeating history.
In the Biblical languages. ‘breath’, ‘Spirit’ and ‘wind’ are the same word.
God breathes into the man of mud and he becomes a living breath (Genesis 2:7). Or you can read it: At creation, God breathes his Spirit into human beings, and they become living spirits.
Not just human beings, but every living thing.
Psalm 104 paints a spectacular picture of all of the Lord’s ‘manifold works’: the heavens ‘stretched out like a tent-cloth’ (v.3), ‘the earth on its foundations’ (v. 6), the sea and the mountains (vv. 7 and 9), wild and domestic animals (v. 12), the birds (v. 13), and the water and food to provide for them all. Human beings have a place to work (v.25).
God’s world is a supremely fertile and attractive universe. And it all depends on God breathing God’s Spirit:
When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit they are created. (Psalm 104:29b-30).
So on the first Pentecost, God was doing both a new thing and repeating an old thing. God was breathing His Spirit into human beings and all creation, and giving them new life.
But there’s more. The first human being was an individual, Adam. At Pentecost, communities spring to life, not just as individuals; a community of disciples able to pass on the word of Jesus – the first Church members. An even larger community of listeners is brought into being: its separate components are listed:
“Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs…’ (Acts 2:9-11)
In other words, the whole known world is gathered into a community. They are gathered by hearing the same language: the very opposite of the scattering into mutually incomprehensible language groups at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Community happens where we talk to each other and understand each other.
The Spirit still breathes into our lives, gathering us into communities. During these strange days of pandemic, for example, members of the St Mary’s community in Busselton have continued the enormous task of providing meals three days a week for those who need them. As they work together, Spirit is breathed into the workers to gather them closer to each other, and the people who come to the Family Centre are also held in community.
‘God is faithful’ (I Corinthians 1:9), so we can expect God’s breath to breathe into us again and again, bringing us new life and gathering us into godly communities. This is the promise of Pentecost.