The Day of Pentecost, May 20, 2018
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Iâ€™ve always been fascinated by the wind. When I was in my teens, I took a trip with a group to Staten Island NY, to visit, Wagner Lutheran College. One of the activities while visiting the campus, was to take a trip into the city to see a play on Broadway. Instead of driving over to Manhattan, they took us by Ferry. I loved standing on the deck of the ferry and feeling the wind blow.
Even now, when I know a storm is looming on the horizon, I will stand outside and wait for the squall line to come in so that I can feel the intense wind. I have been in the winds of hurricanes and blizzards because I am fascinated by the wind.
When I lived in Connecticut, I often remarked about the advanced warning of the wind. You could hear it coming for miles before it actually began blowing. My kids didnâ€™t understand it.Â They had never experienced it. A few years back when we were in Connecticut for a visit over Christmas, there was a blizzard that we were out in, and we heard a roaring sound, and I was asked what it was, and I said, â€œThatâ€™s the wind. It isnâ€™t here yet, but you can hear itâ€™s coming.â€ And it came, and it blew like a gale.
The wind can be good, it can be beautiful and yet we know it can also be destructive. But Godâ€™s holy wind is a life-giving wind.
This is the day of Pentecost, the day that the disciples received the Holy Spirit, which is described in the Book of Acts as a â€œrush of a mighty wind.â€ This year, we are using an alternate lesson, the passage read from Ezekiel, but it too speaks of the wind and the spirit.
This passage from Ezekiel recounts the Valley of the Dry Bones. It is a lesson most commonly used in the service of Easter Vigil, recounting the many ways in which God worked in the history of our world to bring. salvation.
In this lesson, the word for Spirit is â€œruach,â€ but it can also mean â€œwind,â€ or â€œbreath.â€ Here you can really substitute any of those meanings because they all fit.
The valley is filled with the dead exiles of Israel, those sent off to another land and dispersed by the Babylonians. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to those dead and dry bones. He says that the bones will come together, and the sinews too will come together. God will breathe life into them once again and return them to Israel.
This will not be simple mouth to mouth resuscitation, for breathing life into them. It is something bigger and something more powerful. God calls the four winds together and they powerfully blow life into them, like a gale. Â Itâ€™s a good time for us to imagine that this is no wimpy breeze. The breath of God is not gentle but strong and powerful enough to give life anew, to breathe life into the dead. Itâ€™s like the strong winds you experience before a storm, the winds that blow ships to and fro, or power giant generators, the winds that get a kite off the ground and up into the air and keep it there.
With that same wind, God gives life. God gives us life. God gives you life.
In addition to the Hebrew, â€œruach,â€ in the New Testament, the Greek word, â€œpneumaâ€ also means â€œwind,â€ â€œbreath,â€ or â€œspirit.â€ All of the possible translations lend something to our lessons for today. Nothing can happen, nothing can work, even we cannot work without the â€œwind,â€ the â€œbreathâ€ of God, or the â€œSpirit.â€™ Because it is that Holy â€œwind,â€ holy â€œbreath of God,â€ â€œholy spirit of God,â€ that breathes life into us, into our old tired bones. It blows like the rush of a mighty wind to bring us new life.
So, think about it for a moment. What is that breath of God that gives us life? What is God?
God is love and that is what he breathes into us, his love, his powerful and mighty love.
It is the love of God that gives us life. That is what God is, that is the stuff we are made of. What else could give life to old, dry bones? What else can make us feel alive? What else can give us hope, and peace and comfort? Only the love of God breathed into our dry bones.
When you are out in the fresh air, whenever you feel a breeze, or even better, a good stiff wind, remember the Spirit of God, given to you at baptism, that like a mighty wind, breathes love and life into you. Let the Spirit breathe new life and Godâ€™s love into you and into this congregation. God loves you. Let it set you on fire, and lift your dry bones into action, and into service in the name of Christ. Breathe in the love God and breathe out Godâ€™s love like a mighty wind.