June 17, 2017

Inspiring Winds

Pentecost is here again.  It doesn’t seem so long ago that we celebrated it.  Last year I remember that we had so many folks here from Fort MacMurray that we decided to not use flame and fire for our service.  We did some serious rethinking and scrambling to come up with wind images, and the folks who had fled the fire were most appreciative.

But this year, I don’t know what to do.  Wednesday the wind was spectacular and fierce.  On this block, trees were blown over, rain barrels knocked over and the screen door to the church office was pulled right off its hinges.  The only thing that kept it from heading to the river was the chain and metal piston that attached it at the top of the door jam.  I looked outside my window and it was like a grey fog there was so much dust and dirt blowing down the street.  I honestly wondered if it was a tornado, and if I would be heading to Kansas on a rocking chair!

Wind is dangerous, and unpredictable.  It is noisy and flighty.  No wonder the people in Acts came running to see what was happening.  Luke, the writer, combined the two most dangerous and unpredictable forces of nature, fire and wind, to describe the workings of the Spirit amid that confused gathering of disciples.

It was also transformative.  The disciples were meeting yet again behind closed and locked doors, afraid of going outside their safe place.  Going out into the dangerous world of deceitful politicians, violent foreigners, and religious spokesmen who were more interested in power than in justice.  And yet despite all that, they burst out into the open with joy and enthusiasm, full of the Spirit and unwilling, no, unable to keep their story a secret any longer.  That the one they had followed as a friend turned out to be so much more than they had first thought, and his teachings so different than the other rabbis, that they could not explain it in any other way than that he was the true Emperor.

Augustus Christos? No way! From that moment on, Jesus Christos was their ruler, their guide, and the one they pledged allegiance to, making them traitors to the very empire they lived in.  Even torture and death would not, did not stop them.  They forgot that they were ignorant peasants, they forgot that they were poverty-stricken, they forgot that they had no education or fancy clothes or rich bank accounts or clever leadership training in public speaking.

They were inspired to go and make a difference in the world. A world that doesn’t look too much different than today.  Or does it?  We now understand the importance of human rights, something that was unheard of in Roman Society.  We have a dislike of slavery, something seen as commonplace back then.  We have public schooling, we have much better healthcare and a democratic system that the Romans would have envied.

But we too live in unsettling times where we don’t trust politicians, authority figures and those we think we should depend on to guide us through the challenges we face.  With attacks in London, confusing definitions of freedom of speech, elected officials getting into physical altercations with reporters, and the fearmongering that is being spread, when we are hearing about bullying and discrimination in the RCMP and bank tellers being pressured to sell, sell, sell, it’s hard to know who to trust or how to care about what happens to our neighbors.

We need a support person, a cheer leader to get, as my teenagers used to say, ‘our mojo going’.  We do that by remembering that, in the words of 1 Corinthians, we are many parts of the one body, we are all given different gifts through the Spirit.  Our gifts won’t make a difference if we use them as individuals for our own benefit, but as part of a community, watch out world!

We are all part of a community for an important reason.  We share our gifts together and we become more than the sum of our parts.  Peter didn’t start the church by himself. 

Jesus gathered a community and trained them to work together.  Paul, as soon as he came into a new town, made friends of folks before he taught them what he knew.  We gather in community because we are stronger that way.  We get inspiration from one another and from gathering together.

Inspiration.  What is the root of that word?  ‘Spiri’ – the latin root for breath or wind.  In spire means breath in that keeps us going.  Spiri, the root of the word Spirit.  For those of you who speak ancient Greek or Hebrew, the same word for Spirit also meant breath.  Breathe on me breath of God.  But where do we turn for that inspiration?

I met someone very inspiring to me at Olds, a neighbor from Lister hall at University.  I hadn’t seen her in over 35 years, and I was astonished that she was United Church.  I asked her when she became United, and she said she grew up in the church.  How come I didn’t know that, I asked her.  Because you were a very cynical, angry atheist!  She was more surprised than I was to see me there.  And her example of courage and kindness that inspired me when I was young was the Spirit blowing me back into church community. 

The Spirit moves to inspire us in unexpected ways.  All that wind on Wednesday didn’t touch my empty plastic flowerpots sitting in the front yard.  It is a mystery I can’t comprehend.  The Spirit blows fiercely and with fire and energy when we least expect it, but also gently and lovingly at other times.  The Spirit is not a tame lion, and will inspire us not to play it safe but to convert and support wild-eyed bitter atheists like myself in ways we can’t imagine.  The Spirit is not done with you yet, or us yet, or even the world yet.  God so loved the world, and God is not stopping.  Thanks be to God!

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