Beth Cottingham

On June 9, Christian churches celebrated Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came as Jesus had promised. (Acts 2:1-21) The reading from Day by Day expresses the importance of perspective of this sacred day.

John 20:19-31. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The work of the Holy Spirit has been limited in our minds by association with high energy, uncontrollable emotion and incomprehensible phenomena. Consider our use of the terms “Spirit-filled,” “Pentecostal,” and “miracle,” all of which describe the work of the Holy Spirit--partially. While the Spirit does work in dramatic ways, we must not let that drama blind us to the other, more mundane, manifestations of the same Spirit.

In today’s reading, Jesus delivers the Holy Spirit not with fire and tongues but with common breath, just as the Creator breathed life into Adam. The result of this gift of the Spirit is responsibility rather than nature-bending miracles or speaking in tongues. The Spirit-filled in this story are those who are given the everyday work of reconciliation, the remission of sins. Each breath we take is a gift of the Spirit, and with each breath we are commissioned to do God’s work of healing in this world. Not much drama in that, but plenty of responsibility.