Pentecost Sunday! I won’t let it pass without giving thanks for the Spirit-wind that rushes through my life. In and out, at times a gentle breeze, at times a rushing, mighty wind. I enjoy a windswept life, always able to count on the wind of the Spirit to move me where I need to be.
The Holy Spirit, though, comes in other forms. How it comforts me to experience the Holy Spirit as a descending dove, peaceful, gentle, bringing the accepting voice of God as it did in the story of the baptism of Jesus.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1: 9-11)
I do experience that kind of Holy Spirit — the descent upon me of a gentle peace, a comforting presence that declares, “You are my beloved daughter.” What an uplifting experience that affirms who I am. I need the Holy Spirit who whispers to me, “You are enough.”
Still, the rushing, mighty Spirit-wind is what I long for. It’s what I hope for. I wait expectantly, full of faith that I will know beyond a doubt the very moment that the Holy Spirit comes upon me.
Like the wind that appeared on the Day of Pentecost, the wind of the Spirit breathes life into me, again and again.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
After this, in a time of confusion over what had happened and the claim that the people were drunk with wine, Peter stood up, lifted his voice, and preached a sermon.
. . . this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:16-18)
My how we love the Spirit’s wind. But something else appeared on the Day of Pentecost. Fire! The Holy Spirit as flame can be shocking. It can be fierce and unbridled, the power of fire, the incinerating blaze — all-consuming, refining —a force that can destroy in an instant.
Can I be grateful, also, for the presence of Spirit fire in my life? Is it Spirit fire that gives me tenacity? Is it Spirit fire that refines me with flame that, even when reduced to ashes, I miraculously emerge alive, completely changed, with a heart rekindled and a soul ablaze for God’s greatest use?
One of the most moving hymns for Pentecost was written in 1983 by Thomas H. Troeger.
Wind who makes all winds that blow—
gusts that bend the saplings low,
gales that heave the sea in waves,
stirrings in the mind’s deep caves—
aim your breath with steady power
on your church, this day, this hour.
Raise, renew the life we’ve lost,
Spirit God of Pentecost.
Fire who fuels all fires that burn—
suns around which planets turn,
beacons marking reefs and shoals,
shining truth to guide our souls—
come to us as once you came;
burst in tongues of sacred flame!
Light and Power, Might and Strength,
fill your church, its breadth and length.
Holy Spirit, Wind and Flame,
move within our mortal frame.
Make our hearts an altar pyre.
Kindle them with your own fire.
Breathe and blow upon that blaze
till our lives, our deeds, and ways
speak that tongue which every land
by your grace shall understand.
I dare not add a single word of commentary to the sacred message of that hymn, but this is my sincerest prayer:
. . . Come to us as once you came; burst in tongues of sacred flame!
Light and Power, Might and Strength, fill your church, its breadth and length.