God Breathes Gently Acts 2: 1-21

what_nowHas the wonder of Easter worn off? It has been seven weeks since we declared with bold voices: “He is risen, He is risen indeed” It was 50 days ago when we invited everyone to sing the Hallelujah Chorus; relishing in the Easter miracle, like the end of a great play. He has risen, now what? The early followers of Jesus may have felt some of this same confusion. The story wasn’t over, but they couldn’t have known things were just getting started. Though Jesus stayed with his followers for a few weeks, fifty days later they were left alone to sort out what to do next.

Fifty days later, things got interesting with a fantastical scene as people, including Jesus followers, gathered for the Jewish High Holy day of Shavuot. What people experienced on that day stretched their language to the point of poetic hyperbole. They said the arrival of the Spirit was so palpable it was like a mighty rushing wind filling the entire room. Everyone’s presence was transformed in such a way it was like fire had fallen onto their heads and their words broke through the walls and into the streets.

Anyone run for cover during the weather last night, spending some family time in the bathroom or closet? Folks in Van, Mineral Wells and other parts of North Texas have heard a sound like the rush of a violent wind filling the entire room. Sadly, the chaos resulted in destruction and even death for some while others nearby were spared. As storms passed over our house last night, I thought of Pentecost; a preacher is never fully off work.Spring Storm

I wondered if the first Pentecost was like a spring storm? Were the people assaulted by the Spirit like a tornado that caused them to run and hide under desks with their hands over their heads to shield them from the chaos? That makes Pentecost a terrifying scene and perhaps it was a knee bender in more than one way. Fear and trembling isn’t what we usually associate with the Pentecost experience, more like joy and wonder.

My youthful experience with the Holy Spirit consisted of a baptized version of my conscience; acting like a cartoon angel sitting on my shoulder telling me what is right and wrong. Reading this story as an adult caused me to wonder if I was missing something of the Spirit. This happens when we read of the crazy, tangible, and active stuff God does in the Bible. This Good Book is so full of color and fire and God’s tactile presence, that includes the breaking open the Red Sea, the voice of God thundering from Sinai, a small band of trumpets knocking down city walls, heavenly fire cast down to destroy false Gods, not forgetting resurrections from the dead.

jumpDo we expect to witness the Spirit doing fantastic things? Surely, each one of us must wonder if we will ever see the things we read in the Bible happen under this roof? We want to be present when 5000 people are fed as five loaves and two fish are multiplied. We would love to witness the faith of the ill making them well and literally see the blind regain their sight. We’re not sure if those things still happen. Thus, a spirit of resignation has fallen on Christ’s 21st century church, though we still believe and pray. We continue to come weekly and confess these things that happened so long ago are true, yet we’re unsure if they’ll happen ever in our lifetime.

I admit, the story of Pentecost is a bit insane. Let us not allow it to become a foreign account of strangeness that happened long ago. The Spirit isn’t confined to the past, only offered in this story as a memory of the glory days when God was close enough to touch and see. Pentecost didn’t just happen back then for those people. We didn’t come the morning to only remember something in history. We came wondering can it happen again.witness a miracle

God hasn’t changed nor left us alone with only stories from an old book of the way things were when God was obviously more present and active. Pentecost can happen here and now in our midst. We can live the story that began long ago by becoming a part of it. We know the Pentecost story not just because we read it each year from Acts 2. We know the story of Pentecost because at a point in our lives God broke in and changed us by the pulsing of the Spirit through our hearts. The Spirit showed up in our lives and we embraced it; realizing it had been there all along.

John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” is considered his masterpiece. It stands as one of his most important achievements in all genres of music. Coltrane’s liner notes on the album reveal his intention to offer the song and album as a humble offering, a way of telling God thank you. Earlier in his life, he had lost his job with the Miles Davis Band because of his battles with alcohol and heroin. His own words declare God saved him. So he records “Love Supreme” as a prayer with his sax and his ensemble.

John-Coltrane-A-Love-Supreme-LPThe motif of God’s love is interpreted musically in a repeated riff that he plays in all twelve keys of his instrument. Coltrane concludes his solo and quietly begins to chant, “A love supreme … a love supreme,” singing the same four notes played by his bassist. After chanting “A love supreme” sixteen times it slowly tapers off, knowing they had expressed God’s love in every voice they could conceive. There was nowhere God’s love didn’t get the last word according to Coltrane. Persons of little faith speak how; “A Love Supreme” has let them have a glimpse of God.

How would a self-penned essay describe our faith journey? Many of us don’t think of our faith in terms of Pentecost. Though, we grew up in a tradition that valued the unlikely conversion of a drug-addict-turned-preacher or the atheist-turned-apologist. Yet, our experiences don’t align to that kind of salvation drama. We came to faith more subtly, like waking or standing up. Our spark caught fire after years of stoking. The slow train of faith took us to the right place, but sometimes we feel our faith story lacks pizzazz because there was no fire and thunder blasting from the clouds.

Yet, we might write in our faith essay that God breathed gently and spoke to us in a whisper; no, not in thunderous voice and as loud as a rushing wind. Sometimes the Spirit is gentle, it’s as light as breath. There is not a formula for the way God’s Spirit shows up. We can’t put it in the order of worship- Greeting, Scripture Reading; Spirit Anoints Church, Chaos Ensues, followed by a wonderful Organ Postlude.God in Bottle

We wish we could put the Spirit experience in a Mason jar with a tight lid, and then seal it. Then we could open it up when we need a divinity jolt. We wish we could tie the Spirit up on the front porch and peek out the kitchen window every once in a while to make sure it was still there. But, God’s Spirit is wild and unpredictable and cannot be contained. While sometimes it may come as a mighty wind, there are many other times it alights lightly on our hearts, so gently we barely feel it but it is a real spiritual experience.

A question threads itself through the Bible: “Is God with us?” The way the question is answered changes throughout history. Let me suggest a more important question, “Do we intentionally look for God who is always with us?” God is with us! Let us pay closer attention, so we might see the majesty of God in the grandeur of a new day. Look, God is holding our hand as we trek through a desert time in our lives. Open our heart and feel the joy of dancing with the Holy One as we cooperate with God and partner with other persons being the hands and feet of Christ on earth. Can we feel the gentle wind of God warm our hearts on this Pentecost Sunday?

Breathe SpiritThe word for Spirit in all languages is wind of breath. God isn’t far; God is as close as our breathing in and out. We have never been alone, because the God who threw out the stars and spun out the universe also breathed life into all things, including our own souls. Exhale deeply, and then inhale; every breath we take is the Spirit of God enlivening our spirit. This will continue until we breathe our last breath on earth, which will become our eternal breathe. In the meantime, breathe; God’s Spirit is as close on this Pentecost Sunday as it was on the first Pentecost Day.

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