Let the Wind Rush In

Our house, built in 1928 and shaded by the mature maple trees on our block, stayed nice and cool on Friday, but by yesterday morning, I knew it was time to finish putting the screens in doors and windows. Most of the house has replacement storm windows installed in the early ‘80’s, and I can manage those myself and with Snowman’s help. But the sunroom has original windows with wooden screens you store all winter and big awkward storms that I have trouble lifting. And the screens for the back and front storm doors are a two person job. I asked my husband about doing them earlier in the week, but yesterday we could wait no longer. The house felt warm and still, but outside I could see the branches of the maple tree moving in a strong breeze. It was time to let the wind rush in.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush….in.

It really is the time of year I love most in Maine, and this week included my favorite moment of the year, the Lilac Moment, that gorgeous, anticipated and yet always surprising whiff of deep and ancient spring. After I got home on Thursday, I went into the backyard, and the moment had come.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in.

Fragrance and sunshine and breeze can bring back a moment from the past. Today we both remember the arrival of the Holy Spirit, as told in the book of Acts, and we contemplate the presence of the Holy Spirit among us today. The Holy Spirit is that sense of God’s presence that is sometimes ephemeral and other times nearly palpable, a gentle breeze or a roaring wind.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in.

But before the Spirit came, Jesus had to leave. We heard also this morning Luke’s story of the Ascension of Jesus. In those 50 days after the Resurrection, there must have been times of great joy and bewilderment and anticipation and disappointment. Every time Jesus appeared, there must have been a hope that he would never go away, that somehow all would be set right, that the new heaven had come on earth.

50 days goes by awfully quickly.

I begin looking for the lilacs sometime around mid-April. We have an apple tree that blooms anywhere between mid-April and mid-May, and when my eye catches those first buds of bright pink, I know we’re on the way to lilacs, too. Meanwhile, I’m working and getting children ready for school and walking dogs and checking the calendar for those concerts and school events that pile up in May.

Some years we get rain at the wrong time and the moment passes unnoticeably. I look out into the yard and see the white petals of the apple tree covering the wet ground and realize the hoped-for lilacs have gone by.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

Luke gives us no adjectives. He does not tell us the disciples were heartsick or inconsolable or perplexed or stupefied or joyful or contented. We only know they gazed toward heaven.

Of course, eventually they gathered themselves up. They regrouped. They returned to the Upper Room, and they prayed together, and then they chose a replacement for Judas. And after this re-organizing was complete, something unexpected happened.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in.

It’s a pair of spooky stories, isn’t it? First Jesus goes into heaven, quite literally ascending according to Luke, and then the Spirit appears in most dramatic fashion, as tongues of flame above the heads of the disciples, in the speech and understanding of all the faithful Jews gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest festival Shavuot, fifty days after Passover.

There is great excitement and confusion as people realize they can understand one another, these Jews gathered from all over the Ancient World. They had a common religion, but they did not have a common everyday language. How could they comprehend each other’s speech?

Now we hear the adjectives: All were amazed and perplexed!! And no wonder!! It must have been a crazy and chaotic scene. Some people even wondered if the others around them were drunk and imagining things.

Would you stand up and address the crowd at such a time?

Remember, the disciples have been keeping a low profile for 50 days, keeping out of sight of the authorities, hoping to attract no attention. But in the midst of this great furor, Peter speaks up: Peter who had denied Jesus three times, who continually got the wrong message, Peter will be the first disciple to speak publicly.

‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
(Acts 2:17-21, NRSV)

Many people have made many things out of the Pentecost experience, including some traditions around speaking in tongues that we may find uncomfortable, traditions that might incline us to simply relinquish the Holy Spirit to our Pentecostal brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yet every Sunday we sing praise to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

It’s a ghost story, a spirit story.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in.

It’s a story of the supernatural, and it reminds us that being a Christian is more than participating in an ethical system that teaches us to love others and treat them as we would be treated. It reminds us that we are part of a spiritual experience involving power and love beyond our capacity to reason.

Did you sign up for a spiritual experience? Be careful how you answer.

The Holy Spirit blows in the new and leaves no room for old attitudes or stale practices or stuck thinking.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in.

What would it be like to acknowledge that the Spirit of God blows through this church each time we gather here?

A little unsettling to some of us, I would think. We come to church for community, for comfort, for familiar stories and beautiful music. We come to hear about Jesus, whether we relate to him most as teacher walking dusty roads or as King ascended into heaven.

We come to repeat words that remind us of our ancestors and their ancestors, a line of faithful people stretching back beyond our memory, beyond Main Street Church or Old Mill Town, Maine, or the United States of America, across oceans and fields and rivers and deserts, to the beginning of what we call Christianity, to the beginning of what we call the Church.

And that is where we meet the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the animating force that moves among us, that turns a gathering of people into an act of worship.

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in.

I want to suggest something radical. A church that acknowledges the living Spirit of God in its midst will become alive in ways we cannot begin to imagine. The Spirit of God is always here with us. It’s we who do not always recognize the Spirit’s presence. If we could let go our preconceived notions or our intellectual distance, our well-taught good manners or our apathy of heart, what might we feel in this room today?

I suspect it would be irresistibly beautiful. You wouldn’t be able to keep it to yourself. You would tell your friends, and you would tell strangers, and you might even find yourself telling your enemies. The wind of God would move you, and the fire of the Spirit would teach you what to say.

Being a Christian is not just about having our own personal relationship with Jesus. The Spirit came not to one person but to a group of people. The Spirit came in tongues of fire and a mighty wind and spread among a larger group. They heard each other speaking, and they understood each other, and they kept talking.

They listened to Peter, who promised a world in which amazing things would happen.

And somehow they began living together in a way that over time and distance became church.

In that fresh moment, that spring birth of something new, I wonder how the air smelled?

The Spirit of God is moving. Let the wind rush…in. Amen.

4 thoughts on “Let the Wind Rush In”

  1. “the wind of God would move you, and the fire of Jesus would teach you what to say.” How beautifully put! This touched me deeply, and I thank you for writing it–the fire of Jesus has really animated your words in my heart!

  2. Wonderful. Indeed, what *would* our churches be like if we let the Spirit rush….in. Great question. Great challenge.

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