Welcome to friends and visitors. This morning’s Service is brought to us by Jennifer Sanders. Please listen the audio recording by Jennifer and follow the text below if you wish.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
We breathe peacefully and calmly for those that can’t. We breathe and become connected to the earth and to the sky and to all living things.
Good morning and welcome to Ditchling audio service. My thoughts and heartfelt wishes to you all reading the service from home.
May this time that you spend reading bring comfort sustenance and connection.
As I begin our service today, in the usual way by lighting the chalice, I invite you to light a candle where you are too.
May the flame we see or imagine bring a spark of hope. A light that illuminates what is present in our lives, a warmth to our soul and a reminder of the connection we share with each other as Unitarians
Let us come to a period of stillness and prayer
Great spirit of love, light and hope we come together in this moment to give thanks for all that we are and all that we have.
It has been some weeks that we have been displaced from our physical connections within the church and yet as you read this I hope it will help to imagine your connection to the church community at Ditchling and further afield.
Let us be reminded of the love, compassion and generosity of our own hearts and those of others.
May we seek to find the peace within our inner selves despite the outer changing landscape.
May we feel the blessings of each moment as we worship together.
The following is a poem by Kabir the 5th-century Indian mystic poet and saint and is called The Breath of life
Are you looking for me
I am in the next seat
My shoulder is against yours
You will not find me in the stupas
Not in Indian shrine rooms
Nor in synagogues or cathedrals
Not in masses or kirtans
Not in legs winding around your own neck
Nor in eating nothing but vegetables
When you really look for me
You will see me instantly
You will find me in the finest house of time.
Kabir says “Student tell what is God
He is the breath inside the breath”
The focus of our service this morning is the breath. Something that for the great part of our lives we take for granted. For most it happens automatically. We don’t think about it much. There may be moments of our days that we become more aware of its magical properties.
For those who can, our daily walk outside or the exercise in our own homes, whether that be climbing the stairs or doing some housework – not something that is top on my list I have to say, we may notice the rising and falling of the chest more , the need to take in more oxygen as the heart beats faster . The need to breathe more deeply.
Then when this passes and we forget; it’s like time, it just passes as does our breath. We forget the miraculous mechanical masterpiece that makes up this seemingly automatic response to bring forth and retain life.
I was reminded, having looked up its mechanics, that breathing consists of two phases: inhalation and exhalation. When you inhale, the diaphragm—a dome-shaped muscle separating the lungs from the abdominal cavity—contracts. This allows your lungs to expand and fill with air. On the exhale, the diaphragm returns to its normal position, air is expelled, and the lungs shrink back to their original shape.
The respiratory centre of the brain stem involuntarily controls our breathing without our having to think about it.
There we are, breathing, an automatic and often mindless process, and yet its implications for all of our wellbeing are profound.
As we witness or perhaps experience personally the effects of Covid 19, we have been reminded in the most brutal of lessons, that the breath is the most priceless commodity. It’s a gift to those of us that can inhale and exhale without aid, without fear, without thoughts of where the next breath will come from and yet can be taken away by a silent yet devastating virus.
Dr David Knott is a consultant surgeon at several London hospitals. He is also a world-renowned trauma surgeon who, for over 20 years, has worked with agencies such as Medicine sans frontier offering his skills as a volunteer to save lives and train other surgeons.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, last week, he spoke about his experience working to save Covid-19 patients on ventilators at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
Despite near death experiences in Syria he called the pandemic the most frightening enemy he has ever faced
“To be with patients so seriously sick for 13 hours a day, wearing masks on their face which cause so much discomfort,” said Dr Nott. “I have never seen people work so hard, so desperate for each individual patient to get through their sickness…”
It seems this desperate intensity to will someone to breathe as it becomes such an effort can often be overwhelming and sometimes the disease wins.
He talks about the main problem being that patients become too tired and “can’t breathe any more”.
In the past week I have found myself listening to accounts of those who were unable to be with their loved ones as they took their last breath, our prime minister who has recovered having been on a ventilator, a programme on the tv about birth and witnessing new borns sometimes struggling to take their first breath with anxious parents waiting for the first cry as their tiny lungs fill with air for the first time.
Only a few days ago did I receive perhaps the most uplifting email for some time when a couple whom I married 3 years ago, and who had struggled to conceive, sent a picture of their newborn baby boy. A new life and a miracle.
And then I found the recording I took of my mother’s breathing in the last few days of her life.
That comforting and yet so painful sound of her laboured breathing until the out breath was not followed by an in breath and that precious life force was gone not to return.
Breath and breathing …It’s the first thing we do when we’re born and the last thing we do when we die.
It’s easy to get caught up going form task to task without stopping to take a moment to breathe.
In his book ‘The Naked Now ‘ Richard Rohr talks about the sacredness of breath.
“Yahweh The Jewish name for God is a mixture of the masculine weh and the feminine yah. Yah is feminine within us, receiving spirit, the breath of life, and our exhalation weh is masculine, giving spirit, the breath of life. This is embodied spirituality.
It is rarely spoken and it’s correct pronunciation is an attempt to imitate the sound of inhalation and exhalation. We do that every moment: our first and last word as we enter and leave the world… The one thing we do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world”
When Jesus was on the cross seemingly his last words were “Father, into your hands I give my spirit.” and he breathed his last.
With the resurrection Jesus shared with his disciples “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Our spirit is the essence of who we really are, and our spirit and our breath intermingled as one. It’s electric, living, pulsating with life.
As God is spirit and as God breathed into us the breath of life, so our breath is our closest point to God. What is lacking often is that awareness.
In the words of Bob Holmes “In this time of Covid 19, take time with eternity and breathe. “
Breath Prayer is a way to make the unconscious conscious and become closer to God.
So we take some time to breathe together.
Please settle yourself in a comfortable position trying to ensure that you will not be disturbed for the next few minutes. The words of this breath prayer are written by Bob Holmes. At the end of the breath prayer we will listen to a piece of music.
The Breath Prayer
As you begin, take two or three deep cleansing breaths.
Take a moment to still your heart.
Then gently turn your focus to your breath and follow your breath with your awareness.
Fully breathe in this moment
taking time with eternity.
Let the stillness soak into your being.
Breathe in forgiveness
and breathe in grace,
Breathing out gratefully,
releasing your spirit to expand.
By faith, breathe in the Spirit
and breathe out, giving thanks
You might silently say ‘thank you’
Breathe…embracing belonging, releasing gratitude.
Release, like a trust fall into the arms of God
focusing in the presence of the eternal.
Breathing in and out.
Rest and soak in the presence of God.
We give thanks for the breath of life that we have in this moment. We pray for those who now struggle to breathe. May they know the deep love that surrounds them at this time.
We give thanks for the lives that have been lived and those that are just beginning.
We find comfort within our community and pray for all who may feel alone and isolated.
As we touch and comfort our tender hearts we reach out in prayer to those that are yet to find a connection to spirit.
We give thanks for the sacredness of breath. Amen.
Poem: The Breath of Life by Philip Burley
May we go in peace in love and in hope one breath at a time.