Morning breath

March 23, 2008

The first thing the resurrected Jesus does in the presence of his
disciples in the Upper Room is breathe. Before his famous back and
forth with Thomas, before he offers his bloody hands and side, Jesus
breathes, offers his peace, and then he breathes peace on the
disciples.

At Duke Chapel we exchange the peace of Christ each Sunday.

It
is done in the southern way of firm handshakes, solid eye contact, warm
greetings, all tidy and polite. Jesus does not abide social graces.
Jesus passes peace with his breath. Forget handshakes and sunny “good
mornings.” Jesus comes close. He invades personal space, gets in the
face of his disciples, and breathes the breath of peace through his
wounded body.

Peace and wounds dine together during the Easter
season. Jesus is raised from the dead, and as the rising of Jesus’
light falls on the brokenness of the world, Thomas recognizes the
resurrection in the wounds of the cross. In Thomas we see the hope and
possibility of the empty tomb, a sign of John’s New Jerusalem, and the
suffering and death that continue to plague the earth. In Thomas we see
the grittiness of Easter.

Easter is always at risk of being
domesticated and sentimentalized, a forever-after ending to a Disney
animation. We’re eager to replace the scars of nails and spear with
butterflies and rainbows; to ambush gospel hope and the resurrection of
the body with spiritual ideals and heavenly metaphors. But Easter is
not the end of the fairy tale, a once-a-year cherry atop a tasty good
life. Easter begins the church’s real work.

Jesus breathes
the Spirit of peace on his fearful disciples and commissions them for
ministry in the Easter church. Neighbor love and peace-making do not
happen at a distance, he insists; they happen by sharing personal
space, getting close to the wounds of the world, and exchanging breath.

Blessed are those who get close enough to breathe on one another.