Wind of the Spirit
Topic: Biblical Verse: Acts 2:1–2:21
The Festival of Pentecost
May 18-19, 2013
“Wind of the Spirit”
Growing up on the Great Plains in northwestern Iowa, one of the things I vividly recall is the wind. It seemed to me that the wind was constantly blowing, and often not just gentle breezes but strong and gusty gales that had the power to flatten crops in the field or tear shingles off the roof. Out in that area of the country, there is really nothing to stop the wind – no mountain ranges or other natural barriers except the groves of trees planted as windbreaks around farms. So the wind sweeps down from Canada with all its raw power and force, unhindered and unimpeded. Have you noticed how much wind we’ve experienced in recent weather patterns here in our area? In talking with other people, they have noticed this as well – so I know it’s not just me! So, what’s up with that? I don’t mean the big wind events like last summer’s derecho straight-line wind storm, or Hurricane Sandy at the end of October. It just seems like there’s more wind than what we’re used to. I’m not a meteorologist, just your average ordinary person who watches the weather. There’s a whole lot of wind going on today as we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost. That amazing story of the day of Pentecost from today’s epistle lesson in Acts tells us: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they [the disciples] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). And so as we give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the theme for this message, based on that Epistle lesson, is “Wind of the Spirit.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
What gets translated here in Scripture as “Spirit” comes from the Greek word πνεÏµα, where we get our word “pneumatic,” that is, something containing wind, air or gasses. And this Greek word in the New Testament is rooted in the Hebrew word from the Old Testament, ruach, meaning wind, spirit, breath. So when we are talking about the Holy Spirit we are talking about wind, a dynamic movement of the air, God’s breathing into us the breath of life. This is what we sang in that powerful setting of Psalm 104: “When you take away our breath, we fade.. When you send forth your Spirit, we are renewed, we are renewed.” That powerful Spirit-driven wind that swept down upon those first disciples really and truly did renew them! No longer were they hesitant, faltering and uncertain in who they were and what the Lord Jesus called them to do. With the coming of the Spirit, new life and vitality was breathed into them and they were now transformed into bold, confident and unapologetic ambassadors of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Witness Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in today’s Epistle lesson (Acts 2:14-41) as he called the people to repentance, pointing out to them that the coming of the Lord Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of God’s Word (see Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1). And this is the work of that Holy Spirit, then and now: to call us and keep us in the one true faith, in all that the Lord Jesus has done for us through his life-giving death and glorious resurrection from the dead. Simply put, the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, breathing into us the new life of the forgiveness of sins, restoring to us the joy of salvation, and granting us confident hope and trust in God.
Let’s think ahead to those sultry days of summer where there is not the slightest breeze, when the combination of heat, haze and humidity makes you work up a sweat by just walking out the door. What’s it like to try and fly a kite on days like that? Duh! It’s kind of hard to fly a kite if there’s no wind. I’m indebted to John DeVries for what he wrote in Why Pray? about this: “The Western church may be compared to a little boy trying to fly a kite on a windless day. He runs furiously up and down the sidewalk, pulling his little kite behind him, and as long as he runs, the kite flies. The moment the little fellow stops, the kite plunges to the ground. His problem? The wind isn’t blowing. The Western church, with its members burned out from endless programs, seminars, classes, committee meetings, planning sessions, and organizational flow charts, is much like that boy. We are too often trying to carry the church and its programs by our own efforts. The wind of the Spirit is not blowing. What the church desperately needs is a new wind of the Spirit; but when the Spirit comes, we must not stop working or consider our work less important. The Spirit fills our work and lifts it up, far beyond the world of human expectations and limitations, doing ‘immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’” (Eph. 3:20, pp. 67-78 in Why Pray?).
So, how do we recapture the wind of the Spirit? Wrong question! We don’t capture the Spirit at all; it’s the Spirit who captures us. Let me repeat what John DeVries said: “We are too often trying to carry the church and its programs by our own efforts” (Ibid). When we try to do that, we find out pretty quickly that things start to dry up and get stale; that breath of fresh air so needed to fill our sails and send us out is just not there. Instead of looking at ourselves and our own puny resources, let us look to the Lord. My own Confirmation verse is found in today’s Gospel lesson where Jesus tells us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). After we’ve chased all over creation trying to fly our kite, after we’ve exhausted all our own resources, after we’ve done everything in our power but there is still no wind of the Spirit, then God can finally step in and breathe into us his life-giving Spirit and that blessed peace which Jesus alone can give. My friends, we can try too hard, and in so doing, we come to rely more on ourselves and our own efforts than what God’s almighty power can do with the wind of his Spirit.
The wind of the Spirit can blow quietly and gently, but it can also blow with tremendous force and power as it did on the day of Pentecost when 3000 people came to faith and were baptized (Acts 2:41). How is the wind of the Spirit blowing upon us today? “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). As the Spirit comes to us through Word and Sacrament, always pointing us to the redeeming work of Jesus, that Spirit transforms us – as it did those first disciples – from being passive and hesitant bystanders into steadfast and committed disciples of Christ, who are ready, willing and able to follow where the Spirit is leading. May the wind of the Spirit blow mightily in our lives. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and kindle in us he fire of your love. Amen.