I know a lot more about insulation than I did a few months ago. Thanks to the efforts of some of our Trustees, we’ve received several estimates for insulating the church. Our new addition is, of course, insulated, but this old building where we worship leaks heat like crazy. We have the thermographic pictures to prove it, taken all around the building to show the places where heat is being lost.
That would be all the places.
Insulation companies have checked the depth of our walls and given advice about how to insulate the attic, too. Even though we keep the thermostat at 55 when we’re not using it, in the winter the furnace has to work hard to keep even that moderate temperature in this big, high-ceilinged space.
And I know we don’t like to think about fire in our church, but I also learned that being so poorly insulated increases the damage a fire could do. So this is about more than keeping the heating bills down and helping the environment by burning less oil. Insulating the church will be frugal and green and also safer.
How many of you remember when the Vestry burned down? When people talk to me about it, they sometimes have trouble remembering the year. It was a long time ago, but it feels like it just happened. When fire comes, it’s devastating. Even in memory, it still feels fresh.
Yet we associate fire, something that destroys, with the Spirit of God.
“Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.” It’s strange how sweet that sounds. Like a gentle spring rain, or a soft sea breeze—Holy Spirit, touch me. Some people like to think of the Holy Spirit as the feminine person of the Trinity. They associate her with the Spirit of Wisdom, called Sophia in the Old Testament. I wouldn’t want us to let that feminine association make the Spirit sound too gentle, though. Let’s not give into stereotypes. Sometimes “fresh” is the kind of new that burns.
On Pentecost the Spirit of God, gendered or otherwise, came in tongues of FIRE and a MIGHTY WIND. The Spirit of God rushed into the place where the disciples were gathered, and blew them out of hiding and out into the world. The Spirit of God blew through them and in them and started something new.
When we pray for God to act, when we call on God’s Spirit, we had better be ready. Fall afresh on me, the hymn says, and then it goes on: “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.”
The Spirit will change us. All that melting and molding and filling and using will change us. But I think most of the time when we call on the Spirit we’re saying something more like, “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Just don’t touch me *too* hard. Tap me on the shoulder; let me know you’re there. Send a gentle breeze to remind me I’m yours. Just don’t blow me too hard.”
Of course, once we pray, it’s beyond our control. If we sing it like we mean it, the Spirit will change us. The Spirit will change us as more than individuals. The Spirit will change us as a church.
The disciples and the other followers of Jesus were not a church yet, of course. They were a group of worried, grieving men and women, afraid for their own lives, afraid that the higher authorities might do to them what had been done to Jesus. In their grief and their worry, they huddled together, which was good, and they prayed, which as it turns out was risky. All that praying brought down the Spirit of God. All that praying brought in a new way of being faithful. All that praying blew the Spirit right into their hearts and their minds and their bodies. The Spirit moved them out into the world to share the Good News with everyone they could reach. And in doing that, they became the Church, the Body of Christ. And despite the challenging environment of a hostile culture around them, they began to live into the mission of dreaming dreams and seeing visions and making a new community in Christ’s name.
God spoke, and for once, people understood. They understood God, and they understood each other.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. What might happen if, as a church, we sang these words together?
Here’s another interesting thing I did not know about insulation. I had heard the phrase “blown-in,” and in my mind there was a picture of some piece of equipment like a reverse vacuum cleaner forcing insulation material into the cavity between an interior and an exterior wall. What I hadn’t heard was that when they blow the stuff in, they can also blow the wall out.
I fully expect the more knowledgeable among you would find the mental picture that phrase gave me pretty amusing. Although I quickly refined it when Kristi, who was telling a story about having her house insulated, saw the look on my face and explained that the wall didn’t actually explode.
But the act of blowing the insulation in has the potential to shift the wall.
And when the Spirit blows into our lives, shifting us is sort of the point. The Spirit comes to make us different. But the Spirit doesn’t just do things *to* us. The Spirit stays *with* us, like the insulation in the walls. The Spirit comes to stay. Oh, we may need a new infusion from time to time; perhaps, like old insulation, we have become too settled. Maybe we’re losing heat instead of generating fire. Maybe we’re more aware of the places the wind blows through us instead of into us.
But the Spirit has come to stay. The Spirit of God is also called the Comforter, the Sustainer and the Advocate. In the letter to the Romans, Paul says that when we are so low we can’t think of the words to pray, the Spirit of God will intercede for us. The Spirit of God will pray *for* us, not just about us, but in place of us. The Spirit of God can be that intimate, that protective and that loving. Even when we feel there are too many cracks in our walls, even when we think our flame has sputtered out for good, God’s Spirit will be with us, praying when we cannot.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. What will happen when we sing these words together? Maybe we’ll discover something God is calling this church to do. The Spirit expands us, sometimes beyond our comfort level. And every now and then the Spirit really does blow our lives wide open.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us. Burn us, heat us, move us, change us. In the name of the One who breathes new life. Amen.