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Wind, breath, spirit, life and divine power

May 14, 2016

I love the sound of the wind. It is haunting. The wind whispers softly, the wind speaks through the leaves and branches of trees and shrubs, the wind speaks through the grass and the crashing waves. The wind also uses the rocks and the buildings to speak for itself as moans and howls.

I love lying in bed listening to the wind outside of my window. I find it comforting most of the time but when the wind roars it can be scary too. One house that we have lived in was overshadowed by large oak and ash trees. I remember one branch, not a particularly big branch, coming off one of those oak trees during a high wind. It landed as if aimed on the roof of a nice shiny Range Rover parked in the car park behind the Rectory. It wrecked the car and reminded me of just how much damage one of those trees could do to our house if one fell our way.

The wind is certainly many things, gentle and calming as well as wild and frightening.

The wind is so many things and that is definitely true in the Bible. The Bible words for wind, ‘Rȗah’ (Hebrew) and ‘Pneuma’ (Greek) are also the words that the Bible uses for Spirit. Rȗah is many things in the Bible, Rȗah is wind in Genesis 8.1, it is breath or spirit (and thus life) in Genesis 2.7 and divine power in Judges 3.10. In fact every time that Rȗah is used it always has a hint of all of these meanings at the same time: wind, breath, spirit, life, and divine power. This is very similar for the Greek word pneuma used in the New Testament. So whenever I read “Spirit” in the New Testament I need to remember that the author almost certainly had all of this richness of meaning in mind.

So now, with that foundation, I can start to think about the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2.1-21). On that first Pentecost day the Holy Spirit rushed into those first disciples and blew them out of the door. All of that wild Wind, Spirit, Life and Divine Power couldn’t be contained. The Spirit didn’t only blow them out of the room where they were hiding, the Spirit also blew out of them in words of praise and joy. It was so powerful that they couldn’t hold it in. If they had tried they would have burst.

Then everyone could understand their praises in their own language. This makes no logical sense, how can it be? It is only when I remember who and what the Spirit is that the penny begins to drop. The Spirit is ‘Breath’ the one Breath from which all breath and life come. It is this heaven sent voice that is heard through those disciples, this Breath that is beyond normal human speech, this Breath that is ‘Speech’ itself. This eternal divine Speech has no human limits so everyone understands what is said, they receive, they hear God’s words direct to them, not the language limited sounds that are coming out of the disciples mouths.

Then I think of the story of that first Pentecost: It does not say that one disciple was speaking Hebrew, another Greek, another Latin, another Parthian and so on. The impression is of all the disciples speaking, shouting and singing God’s praises all together. It is this sound, probably in Aramaic or Hebrew or a ‘heavenly’ language, that all heard in their own language. God’s Spirit was not only speaking through the disciples. God’s Spirit was also acting in all of those in the crowd making them understand what was being said.

But how could this be. The Spirit had only just been given to the disciples of Jesus? Then I thought, the divine Holy Spirit had just been given to those disciples in power, but that isn’t the only way that the Spirit works. The Spirit is in everyone. The breath/spirit of God is breathed into every living creature by their Creator (Genesis 2.7). Those people in the crowd did then have the ‘Spirit’ but perhaps better written with a lower case ‘s’.

That idea of the spirit with a small ‘s’ being in all people really speaks to me. I was 18 when I became a Christian and received the Holy Spirit. From then on my world changed forever. With the Holy Spirit filling me everything that I did and said felt different, fresh, new and vibrant. But one important point is permanently fixed in my mind: It was this – God had always been there. I had not realised it, I had not recognised the presence of the Spirit but when I was baptised in the Spirit my eyes were opened to the presence of God throughout my life. He had been there with me all along and I had never known it.

So when I read that account of the disciples rushing out, full of the Spirit, to tell everyone about Jesus I know what I have to do:

  1. I too have to be confident and speak out for Jesus, in words and actions.
  2. I need to let the Spirit show me what he is already doing in every person, Christian or not.
  3. Then I work to support what the Spirit is doing.

Like the wind in the grass and trees, the Spirit can be gentle and terrifyingly powerful both at the same time. I pray for more of that Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit to all people. I pray for eyes to be opened and lives restored. I pray this for myself, my church, my town, for all people.

As I write I’m listening to the wind again, the Spirit blows through me and I cry out: Come Holy Spirit, fill me with your life, your love, your power; fill me now, fill me every moment of every day!

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