A few weeks ago, I attended one of my husband’s doctoral recitals at UNT. He is a saxophonist and, for one piece, he played with a quintet of other woodwinds. What struck me most powerfully, besides its beauty, was the fact that there was no director. Just six individuals, keeping an eye and an ear toward each other as they made music.
This was a good conspiracy. The less common definition of “conspire” is “to act in harmony toward a common end” (see merriam-webster.com). It comes from the from the Latin “conspirare,” from the root parts “con,” which means together, and “spirareto,” which means breathe. Originally, to conspire was simply to breathe together.
I know, my English degree is showing as we explore these word roots, but language is important. That’s why we spend so much time in the words of Scripture. Words have power. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
God’s word goes out and does not return empty. In Hebrew, the word for wind/breath/spirit is “ruah.” Usually, you can’t see your breath. It’s intangible; you can’t grab it. When all is well, we don’t think about it too much. But the ancient measure between a living person and a dead person was breath – one had it and the other did not.
In that recital, the musicians were conspiring. They were literally breathing together as they brought forth something more wondrous than any of them could have alone. I could see it in the movement of their shoulders and hear it in the rippling waves of sound that came from their instruments. And most magnificently of all, even as they breathed together, they listened to one another, balancing the volume of each part so that no one was dominant or out of accord.
There are so many lessons we can learn from the arts. It’s powerful to breathe with our fellow creatures and with our Creator. When I breathe with others, when I get down to the basic things that make us human – like wanting the best for our kids, longing to feel safe and secure, needing enough food each day – I am able to have compassion. I am able to see deeper than the picky, pesky things that separate us and see them as my brother or sister, struggling just as much as I do just to breathe sometimes.
When we breathe with our Creator, when we allow our spirit to be one with the Holy Spirit, who knows what we might do?! We become comforted such that we can offer comfort. We are set on fire for God, our souls restless for justice and righteousness. We are empowered to be change agents in a broken world desperately in need of good news that transforms.
This Sunday at the Krum Church, we’ll affirm that Easter people witness. It’s a word that’s gotten a bad reputation, as we might recall a street preacher with a bullhorn, condemning people to hell without even knowing their names. Or the awkward teenager handing out sinner’s prayer pamphlets which promise to bring eternal life without relationship.
Being a witness is our Christian calling and I encourage those of us who are shy about it, because we’ve seen it done poorly or hurtfully, to reclaim it! Being a witness is simply about being someone who has seen something happen and is willing to tell about it. I pray that you have seen the word of God work in your life. That is something to talk about!
One of our gospels states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:1-4). May the life that comes through Jesus Christ –abundant, overflowing, grace-filled – come into being in us. And may we have the courage to tell someone!