“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit . . .”
Sunday, May 31, was Pentecost. This feast day comes fifty days after Easter. It is marked by a furious wind and fire that brings power to the disciples. Remember that ten days earlier, Jesus ascended to heaven. He physically leaves the disciples for the last time, and he promises that they will not be alone. They will receive the Holy Spirit. So, it is that ten days later wind and flames change their lives forever.
We are living through life changing times. On March 15, we gathered in our building for the last time. I think most of us thought this would be a few weeks at most. In fact, I remember thinking that I hoped the quarantine would last until Holy Week because I wanted a little break! Ha! Be careful what you ask for. We have had 11 Sundays of worship online. We have had 11 weeks of endless news conferences, mixed messages from leadership, and worry about others, our economy, our community, and ourselves. Now we wear masks if we leave the house. “Zoom Meeting” is part of our vocabulary. We count distance and people any time we venture beyond our living room. I have prayed with others over the phone more times in the last three weeks than I have in my entire 34 years of ministry. We are weary. We are ready to go back about our business. The problem is we are not sure what that means anymore.
I think the disciples felt the same way. What did it mean to teach, preach, heal, and call people to new life without the physical presence of Jesus? They were not exactly sure about their next steps so they are just hanging out in this room, while there is a big festival bringing people from everywhere to Jerusalem. Without warning, there is a violent wind and tongues of fire are resting on them. The Holy Spirit is there – in that room, in that wind, in each of them, dancing on them. The Holy Spirit will guide them, encourage them, and give them a way forward that they cannot even begin to imagine.
It is the same for us. The Holy Spirit is the least talked about part of the Trinity in most Presbyterian churches and yet, the single most important experience of God we can have. The Holy Spirit lights a fire in each of us – a fire of love, a fire of compassion, a fire of justice, a fire of generosity. As work groups meet to talk about how we gather again in our building, the Holy Spirit will guide them. Make no mistake about this, friends. The Holy Spirit is alive, well, and breathing into each of us, allowing us to discern a new path, encouraging us to make brave decisions. As the work groups meet to talk about how and when we will gather in our building again, WE will go about being the church. The church is not closed. We do not need a building. All we need is the Holy Spirit and the church will continue to be alive and well. Do not be afraid of the new way. Do not be afraid of changes. Do not be afraid of continued online worship, or parking lot worship, or any other kind of worship. We are the church. The winds of the Spirit blow freely. Do not fight the wind but bend into it and God’s will is done in our world. It’s a furious wind, indeed, bringing fresh air to stale rooms.