Christ is Risen!
I love that we repeat those words throughout these seven Sundays of the Easter season. For seven Sundays, a week of weeks, we hear about the resurrection. And the more we hear about it, the more we see that while it begins at Christ’s empty tomb, resurrection cannot be contained there.
New life overflows, spilling out of the tomb and into the lives of the disciples, spilling out of their locked doors and into the most public of spaces, spilling out of their little fishing boats and into all of creation. In today’s gospel Simon Peter even dives into the sea, as if he is going to share new life with the fish and urchins and bull kelp… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
For what interests me as much as the water Peter dives into is its cousin, the air, that invisible gaseous mixture of oxygen and nitrogen and traces of argon and carbon dioxide and other rarer and obscurer molecules that we are usually oblivious to but that we spend our lives swimming in, walking through, falling through, sometimes flying through if we have the right equipment but always, always, always breathing in and out if we want to stay alive.
Our Scriptures reflect the centrality of our respiratory system. In the opening chapters of Genesis, the very first thing the Creator does after forming humanity from the land is to breathe into the new creature; only when it has breath does the creature become “a living being.”
Formation, breath, life: It is the same pattern used in our gospel text last Sunday, when Jesus re-forms his band of disciples with his own wounded hands, breathes the breath of the Holy Spirit into them, and sends his apostles out to proclaim the gospel of resurrection life to the principalities and powers.
There is a dark irony, then, in our reading from Acts this week. Last week, we found Peter and the apostles, breathing the breath of the Holy Spirit, standing before the high priest to proclaim the gospel of resurrection life. This week, we find the photographic negative of that story. Saul is “breathing threats and murder,” the breath of death, and he stands before the high priest to ask for search warrants with which he might stamp out the new life that is spreading throughout the land...