“Catching the Wind” Pentecost Sunday Acts 2:1-21 5.20.2018
Holy Spirit. The Greek is hagios (holy) and pneuma (a breath, or a gentle wind). So a better translation of Holy Spirit might be Holy Breath or Holy Wind. Let’s try it: In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Wind. It only sounds weird because we are used to Holy Spirit instead of Holy Wind.
Think about it. Holy Wind is much closer to the reality of God’s third person.
A wind moves things.
- Think of leaves blowing around on a blustery autumn day or snow blowing in a blizzard.
- Think of the loud flapping sound of a flag on a flag pole on an unrelentingly windy day when you think the wind might actually rip the flag right off the pole.
- Think of the wind filling the sails of a sailboat moving it swiftly through the water.
- Think of hurricanes & tornadoes.
- Or think of standing by the seashore or on top of a mountain on a sunny day with the wind blowing so hard in your face that it makes you squint.
Think of how alive you feel in those moments.
Wind is about movement.
I must admit that I have sort of a love/hate relation with mighty winds. Growing up in the mid-west I was always cautious of darkening skis in the west with the wind getting stronger & more powerful.
I enjoyed feeling that wind blowing all over me, but I was also mindful of the destructive power of the wind. I lived through many tornadoes in and around St. Louis, MO. My parents told me that I actually slept through a tornado or two. Throughout history humankind has thought of ways to utilize such power.
Today, wind power is considered one of the most promising forms of renewable energy, but it can be notoriously difficult to catch. One of the problems is that the best winds don’t tend to move at ground level. Instead, they do their blowing six miles up in the air, at the height of the jet stream. At that level, the winds are stronger and blow more consistently, carrying up to a hundred times more energy.
But how can humans harness this power? Conventional turbines on towers won’t get us close enough. There is a company that has developed a flying generator, one that looks like a cross between a kite and a helicopter.
Picture an H-shaped frame with rotors at the ends of the four points, tethered to the ground by a long cable. The rotors provide lift, like the surface of a kite, and as they lift the frame they also turn motors or turbines that generate electricity. This electricity is then transmitted to the ground through aluminum cables.
But what happens if the wind stops blowing? Here’s the cool part: The motors can be used in reverse as electric motors. If the wind slows down, the motors turn the rotors to keep the generator in the air.
All of this points to the simple fact that it seems that if you want to catch the wind, you have to put yourself where the wind is blowing.
Call it the Pentecost model, because the same principle applies to the Christian church. If the Christian community is going to tap the limitless energy of Holy Spirit wind power, then it’s going to have to position itself correctly.
Fortunately, the book of Acts I believe provides us with a blueprint for building a church that can catch this wind; this Holy Wind. It suggests that there are four points to put in place, kind of like the four points of a flying generator: Community, Communication, Courage, & Clarity. With these four points in the right place, we can feel “the rush of a violent wind” (Acts 2:2), and capture the energy of the Holy Wind.The Community Point.
Acts tells us that on the day of Pentecost, the apostles of Jesus “were all together in one place” (v. 1). They were not in different places, but were gathered in the same spot, on the same page, reading from the same sheet of music so to speak.
The church is a gathering of people to be infused with the Holy Spirit.
As the church around the world we:
- We gather in worship & we gather in small groups.
- We gather in choirs, classes & work crews.
- We gather to eat, to pray, to play.
- We gather to study the Bible, to discuss ethical decisions, to explore heritages & Christian teachings.
- We gather to plan, to be educated, to become open to new visions for the church.
- We gather with children, youth, and senior citizens.
- We gather at noon, we gather in the evenings, we sometimes gather at outrageously early hours in the morning for breakfast, or worship, or something else.
- We even gather at times to disagree.
The beginning of the Christian Church was the GATHERING of the disciples in Jerusalem – a community.
The renewal of the church in our own day begins with OUR gatherings, our faith communities. Renewal of the church does not revolve around the pastor of the church. The church is renewed when the people of God gather in community to be infused by the Holy Spirit; to be infused by the Mighty Wind, period.
We can’t gather “in theory.” We have to actually gather in time and space. It is only when we devote ourselves to sharing time and space together that the church has any chance of the liveliness described in the Bible.
A living, growing, spiritual, joyful church doesn’t come cheap. The price is always a commitment of the people: that they will share time & space together.
Community is critically important, because when the Holy Spirit came with a sound “like the rush of a violent wind” (v. 2), it came to one group in one house. “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” (v. 3).
Pentecost was a communal experience, a communal gathering, and it was only because they were together that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (v. 4). It is only when we are “all together in one place” that we can catch the Holy Wind, and begin to use that which God wants to give us.
Which brings us to The Communication Point.
The apostles in Jerusalem “began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (v. 4). This amazed the devout Jews from every nation who were visiting or living in the city, because they knew that the apostles were Galileans — persons not famous for their foreign language abilities.
You may know this riddle:
- What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
- What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
- What do you call a person who speaks one language?
Well, in the first century, the punch line would have been: Galilean.
But on Pentecost, the apostles were chattering away in the native languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Romans, Cretans, Arabs and others — in these diverse languages, they were “speaking about God’s deeds of power” (v. 11).
The apostles had been given a gift of communication by the Holy Wind of God so that they could tell people about the good news of Jesus in a clear and compelling way.
We need to position ourselves to put this gift to work today. Not only by supporting worship services in languages other than English, but by using communication techniques that reach a new generation of potential believers – use of social media for worship, for stewardship, & ministry in general as an example
We need to look seriously at how we do everything for the future. As Bishop Unti said several weeks ago in the adult forum, “Experimentation is the key. In the future congregations need to take a risk, fail, risk, fail & experiment in doing new things over and over again.”
All of which is going to require The Courage Point.
Acts tells us that some of the residents of Jerusalem sneered at the apostles and said, “They are filled with new wine” (v. 13). They didn’t want to hear the message of the Galileans, so they tried to write it off as drunken babbling.
But Peter raised his voice and addressed them, “People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose” (vv. 14-15).
It took guts for Peter to stand up to the sneering crowd. It took Spirit-powered courage; the work of the Mighty Wind of God.
Remember that this was the very same Peter who — just a few weeks earlier — had slinked away from conflict by denying Jesus three times. But on this day, Peter didn’t shy away from conflict. Instead, Peter stood up to his detractors and said that the speech of the apostles was a fulfillment of ancient prophecy. “This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel,” said Peter: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” (vs. 16-17).
Peter made a strong stand for what God was doing in the world at that particular moment. We are challenged to do the same, especially when people dismiss or question our practice of the faith.
We don’t have to engage in philosophical arguments, instead our challenge is to point out what God is doing in our churches, communities, nation and world. Always ask yourself, “What is God up to?”
- When we come together in fellowship like we do after service & other times, that is a God-moment.
- When estranged family members come together, that’s a God-moment.
- When an unexpected healing occurs, that’s a God-moment.
- When warring factions make peace, that’s a God-moment.
Peter courageously pointed out a God-moment that he saw in his world, & so can we.
This brings us to The Clarity Point.
When the apostle Peter spoke to the crowd, he didn’t invent a whole new set of Holy Scriptures. Instead, he clarified a passage from the Prophet Joel that had been confusing before, but now made perfect sense. Peter provided a commentary on this Scripture lesson that awakened people to the power of the Holy Spirit and the significance of God’s Son, Jesus.
Making the message of the Bible clear is one of the most important ways in which we position the church to catch the power of God; to catch the Mighty Wind of God.
To me, that the Holy Spirit is called the mighty Wind of God means that the experience of God’s Spirit is not always going to be nice, orderly or proper, as we tend to define these terms today in our church’s culture; and it is in fact going to be a little scary and life changing.
Peter’s message was clear: Salvation is no longer limited to just the Jews; Gentiles can be saved as well. It’s a surprising twist in the biblical story, and Peter suddenly makes clear what God is doing.
So these are the four points of a Holy-Spirit-harnessing church wrapped around the Mighty Wind of God – A Community of faith that Communicates with Courage & Clarity is going to be in a position to catch the power of God; the Mighty Wind, and put it to work in the world.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, May, 2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, you can CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 5-20-18” name of the sermon.