A sermon for the Day of Pentecost, May 28, 2023. The scripture readings are Acts 2:1-21. Psalm 104:25-35, 37, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, and John 20:19-23.
At last Saturday’s Ordination and Consecration of Bishop Matt Heyd, the Holy Spirit was all over the place. There was a lot of red, like today, reminding us of the Spirit’s fire. As we heard scriptures and songs in other languages, it felt a little Pentecostal, because we understood what we needed, even when we weren’t looking at a translation. There was the singing of the ancient hymn, “Come, Holy Spirit,” just before the bishops laid hands on their new colleague, Matt. The preacher talked about “conspiring with God,” which is to listen for and let the breath of God flow through us and for us to live, and talk, and act, motivated by God’s very breath. And then, for me, the Spirit showed up at just the right time, as we were feeling a little bit of the humidity in that giant space, packed with people, and like a miracle, some giant, unseen fan began to blow. I was thankful for that wind, whether it was from the Spirit or a thoughtful cathedral employee. But then again, maybe that was the employee, letting God breathe through the simple act of thoughtfulness.
On this Day of Pentecost, we (again) try to open ourselves more fully to the gift of God’s Spirit, and we, like most of the Church, struggle with the images. The Spirit of God at the beginning of creation is like a wind, or like a breath. This Spirit hovers over the creation of all things. In the Wisdom Literature of the Bible, the Spirit is personified as a woman running through the streets, Lady Wisdom, seeking for any who will stop and listen to what she has to say. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit descends like tongues of fire and does quick work at helping all of the disciples who have gathered—disciples from all directions and languages and cultures and backgrounds and differences—understand each other. Of all the work of God’s Spirit, helping people who are very different from one another be able to understand each other while retaining their individuality and difference—that is surely the work of God, and work we should pray for and welcome.
The Holy Spirit sometimes comes in overpowering ways, like a wind that clears away all that is old and needs to go, making way for God’s new life among us. And sometimes the Spirit is like that still, small voice heard so long ago by the Prophet Elijah, in 1 Kings 19. Elijah had run out of options. He was tired of doing all the talking, the authorities were after him, he felt alone and afraid. But when he finally slowed down, when he finally gave up, there in a cave God’s Spirit came not in the huge wind, not in the earthquake, and not even in the fire. But at that place and time, God’s Spirit came to Elijah like a whisper, like a breeze that only slightly stirs. But it was enough for Elijah, and he got a second wind.
Of the many images for the Spirit, this idea of God’s Holy Spirit being like a “second wind” is one that resonates for me.
A second wind is that holy help from God that comes at just the right time.
A “second wind” can come in the form of a friend, or a colleague, a stranger, or even a family member. And (of course) sometimes WE are urged by God to be the second wind for someone else.
I remember when I was in my early teens and I used to mow the grass and take care of several yards in our neighborhood. Sometimes, because of thunderstorms or my own doing other things, the grass would get really tall and I would have just a few hours to get a whole lot of work done. On several occasions, I remember being furious with the world, mad at everybody, hating the lawnmower, and wishing I were a rich kid and could be sitting by a swimming pool somewhere. As I was struggling with tall, wet grass, my brother would show up. He would have a story or two and would talk my ear off. He might infuriate me by suggesting a quicker way to get the work done (which I would resist, but then see that it was, in fact, a better way). Eventually he would leave, but I would finish up my work really quickly. His visit gave me a second wind. Whether he was motivated by his own need to have an audience for his stories, or whether my parents suggested he stop by, or whether it was the Spirit of God—it worked like the Holy Spirit for me.
I think this idea of a “second wind” is what Jesus gives in today’s Gospel. Earlier in chapter 14 of John, the Apostle Philip wants to see God and Jesus tries to explain to him that by being in the presence of Jesus, Philip IS seeing God. But Phillip worries about what will happen when the vision fades. What happens when it doesn’t feel like God is around? What happens with faith fails? And Jesus promises that the Advocate will come—the Holy Spirit of God advocating for us, advocating for the way of love, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit will teach you, remind you, be with you. God will bring you a second wind that will bring peace. This is the Holy Second Wind of Jesus.
In what ways might you need a “second wind” in your life? Is it in your work? Your relationships? Your own personal development in some way? Whatever it is, I invite you to make it your prayer and invite the Holy Spirit’s active presence.
However we picture or imagine the Holy Spirit, may we be open to the Spirit’s power in our lives. May we be alert to the second winds that give us strength, and may we be alert to God’s spirit when we are called to offer that support and strength for one another. Come, Holy Spirit, renew us with your second, and third, and hundredth holy wind. Amen.