Pentecost Sunday: June 5, 2022
The sky turned a sickening green. The rain came down hard. I looked out the window to see giant trees whipping back and forth in quick succession. The sirens started to blare. I knew this wasn’t just a regular thunderstorm, but something far worse- I knew this was a tornado. I remember running from the front of the house back towards the bedroom and telling Daniel it was time for us to go downstairs. I grabbed our cat who sat nonchalantly on the bed and we headed quickly downstairs. Daniel could hear the sound of a train which is so often how people describe tornadoes. Within a short amount of time, it was over. Soon, people were out to survey the damage. An EF 1 tornado had struck North Minneapolis and all around there were damaged buildings and mighty trees uprooted by the winds.
We really don’t realize the power of the wind until we have an event like a tornado or a hurricane. The wind can be as gentle as the cool breeze on a summer day. It can be as beautiful as a windmill farm as the giant blades are turning over and over through the power of the wind. If you drive down Interstate 35 in Iowa or Interstate 90 in Western Minnesota, you can see hundreds of these turbines going round and round and generating power for millions.
But it can also be a wind that can uproot big trees and pulverize buildings. The same day Minneapolis was struck by a tornado and an even larger tornado, an EF 5 struck the town of Joplin, MO killing over 150 people. One of the memorable images was when the twister hit one of the city’s hospitals. The hospital was damaged right down to its foundation and had to be rebuilt as a result. I can remember being in Iowa a few years ago for a funeral and just as we are getting ready a powerful derecho or straight-line wind came through causing damage throughout central Iowa. The wind is a beautiful thing. But it nature always reminds us that the wind does what it wants and it can change your entire life in the blink of an eye.
Today is Pentecost Sunday and this is the text we read all the time. Most of you know the story. The disciples and other close friends of Jesus are up in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Jesus had just left them days before. He told them to wait in town. They had no idea what was going to happen, but they followed Jesus and waited.
I don’t know about you, but I might be a bit cranky after a few days of waiting for…what? What were the disciples supposed to wait for?
That’s when it happens. The sound of a rushing wind comes in. You can imagine the doors being blown open and then there was fire that was probably fanned by the flames. Like a tornado, the wind that the disciples encountered on that Pentecost changed their lives. It was the wind, the Spirit that changed the disciples from being so scared to becoming bold and going beyond their safe zones and sharing the good news of Jesus throughout the known world.
Why does Pentecost matter to us? Why do we celebrate it every year? Why does the Spirit coming like a wind matter?
It matters because we can’t do this on our own. We can’t do all of this church stuff in our own power. We can try, and we have done it, but more often than not we fail. When the church becomes just about us and it isn’t about being empowered by something greater than ourselves, church can become a fruitless exercise.
But when we are empowered by the Spirit is when we can do mighty things. It is how Peter, who was always putting his foot in his mouth became someone who could tell the story of Jesus to thousands,
Early last week, we got the notice to vacate by July 31. I went to see a potential rental in Little Canada on Friday. We are talking to potential project managers to help organize what we should take with us and what needs to be thrown away. This is all happening. But as we prepare to move and when we do move into that new place, we have to ask ourselves how are we feeling empowered by the Spirit? Because we can’t move and do the same things we did here. We will be given new wineskins and a new context. How will we speak to this new neighborhood? The days of waiting for people to come through the doors of the church or thinking the pastor will bring all the people are gone. The church of the 21st century is now much like the church of the first century. The church we find in Acts grew because people had ears to hear the prodding of the Spirit. That is what we have to do now. You and I have to be open to what God is doing in the world and join in God’s work. You might think that we can’t do this. There aren’t enough people, we are already tired. But the thing is, God always seems to take the things that don’t seem possible to do God’s work in the world. Just as the disciples were empowered by the wind of the Spirit, so can we- if we are willing to trust God and not our own power.
A few years ago, Daniel and I along with my parents were visiting Mackinaw Island in Michigan. Daniel went to a store on the island and bought a kite. Now I had never gone kite flying before. I had always wanted to, but never had the opportunity. He taught me how to keep the kite flying in the lake breeze. Pretty soon I was flying this kite as it did amazing flips empowered by the wind.
That is how the Spirit works in our lives. I pray that we can be empowered by the Spirit to do mighty things for the kingdom of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.