“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2) *Or, while the spirit of God.
Breath. Wind. Spirit. In the book of Genesis it brings order out of disorder and gives definite form and shape to that which was previously “formless.” The great diversity of things, their unique and individual form and substance, is a gift of God. Each one distinct and not the other. Each one known to God and loved by God. Without the wind of the Spirit this beauty would remain unknown and indiscernible. From the river to the tree, from the monarch butterfly to the pinnacle of God’s creation and his great joy, the human being,
“Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
Human beings are made in God’s image and filled with “the breath of life.” God’s spirit, his breath, is the foundation of all life and chiefly of human life. God’s breath animates each one of us whether we know it or not. Human life, from its formation and development hidden away in the womb through birth and every moment unto death is sacred because it is generated and sustained by the breath of God himself. Human beings are God’s special project. Each and every one. Period.
“I can’t breath.” (George Floyd)
To take away the breath of another human being is the greatest sin that humans can commit against one another (Genesis 9:6). Not only because humans are God’s special project, made in his image. Yes, for that reason but also because it robs someone of their vocation (Genesis 9:7). When someone’s life is taken their future is taken away from them. Who knows how they would have lived? Who knows how they would have received the gifts that only God can give? Who knows how they would have in turn offered those gifts back to God in love?
George Floyd had the breath sucked from his lungs. We are witnesses of that. “I can’t breath.” “Please, please, please,” with a grown man’s knee on his neck he cried out, to his mother and to God. “I can’t breath.”
“Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46)
They say that a crucifixion is death by asphyxiation. Over the period of hours or days the weight of one’s body makes it difficult to breath until finally one can breath no longer. On the cross Jesus breathed his last as he offered himself to the Father. Offered himself for the sin of the world. Offered himself to make us whole, each one of us and all of us.
Somebody once said that current events, “make a lot more sense once you accept that demons literally exist and are actively roaming the earth.” That’s true but it misses the point that evil is irrational. You can’t explain evil. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit. And God doesn’t explain evil but rather suffers it on the cross and exhausts it. “By his death he defeats death,” is the proclamation of the Church. What we are witnessing now are the dying breathes of death. Its final gasp as its pale, hollow, and twisted corpse is done away with for good.
But a crucifixion isn’t just an execution, it’s also a humiliation. “This person is less than human.” That’s what a crucifixion says. So, in a very real sense, the humiliation and execution of George Floyd before our very eyes—and the humiliation and execution of every unarmed black man, woman, boy and girl in the United States of America from Emmett Til to Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and Ahmaud Arbery and on and on—is a participation in Christ’s own suffering. What you witness when you witness these killings is the suffering of our blessed Lord played out in realtime.
These killings can be nothing less than this because on the cross Jesus Christ identifies himself with the humiliated. He came, he comes, and he is coming to take the humiliated and all those that we have deemed disposable and to lift them up with himself. And on that day he will tear down to the ground every unjust and demonic system that perpetrates such despicable indignities against beloved creatures of God. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.” So don’t get too attached to the present order.
“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2)
Pentecost is God’s promise that things are about to change and the Holy Spirit is the downpayment. The wind of God’s Spirit has blown once more. First to create, now to renew. First to enlighten, now to burn. Not as a gentle breeze but as a violent wind to burn up the chaff and blow it away. This is the true and only hope of the world, that God himself will burn and refine. Because what we’re doing obviously isn’t working. We are not capable of making the world a better place. Progress! What progress? Look at the world as it burns and as breathless bodies lay in our streets. This is our doing.
Our only hope now is the hurricane of God’s love. Only God can heal. Only God can transform. Only God can judge. Only God can renew.
Come, Holy Spirit.