Holy Manna: March 6, 2023

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 3:1-17

There’s an awful lot to unpack in this passage from John. Even if your knowledge of Biblical verse doesn’t extend beyond signs held up behind the goalposts of sporting events, you are likely familiar with the fundamental Christian credo expressed in John 3:16. But the part that speaks most to me is in the middle of this passage, and the Greek word that translates as both “wind” and “spirit.”

When my son, who recently turned 44, was in high school, one of the bands he introduced me to was an LA-based ensemble known as Tool. These days, I tend to describe them to the more staid among my peers as a “guilty pleasure” — although as time goes by I wonder what I have to feel guilty about. All these many years later, they are still around and producing some amazing music. Despite their being lumped into the genre of “Heavy Metal,” their songs have always struck me as nearly symphonic in their composition. Their most recent album, released in 2016, includes a song called “Pneuma”, which translates from Greek as “the vital spirit, soul, or creative force of a person.” I share some of its lyrics as another way of thinking about what Christ had to say to Nicodemus.

“We are spirit bound to this flesh
We go round one foot nailed down
But bound to reach out and beyond this flesh
Become Pneuma
We are will and wonder
Bound to recall, remember
We are born of one breath, one word
We are all one spark, sun becoming
Child, wake up
Child, release the light
Wake up now
Child, wake up
Child, release the light
Wake up now, child”

I first “awoke” on April 15, 1951. I have reawakened at various times in my life to the spiritual world as I “reach out beyond this flesh,” and I am assured that I will awaken again, bound to recall (remember) that I, like all of us, are born of one breath, one word.

Lord, I journey to you, my starting and ending point, with one foot nailed down in this material world. I thank you for surrounding me with the sound of the spirit and, in hearing it through my life, with the assurance that I will be born anew.
-Michael Boss