I wonder if I'm the only one who's been a little confused when people talk about being filled with the Spirit, or being moved by the Spirit, or being led by the Spirit?
What, exactly, are they talking about?
And have I ever felt anything like it?
In this story, the movement of the Spirit is dramatic and palpable: a wind that fills the whole house, that alights like tongues of fire on the heads of the disciples, and causes them to understand one another, though they all speak in different languages. It is a moment when diversity of culture and language is drawn into sudden and momentous unity. When difference is not wiped away, but brought into harmony. It's big -- and everyone who was there will never be the same again.
Does the Spirit always move so visibly? And while we're asking questions, what is the Holy Spirit, exactly? It's by far the most slippery third of the trinity. We're pretty sure about God the Creator, pretty sure we know who Christ is, but the Spirit -- what is that?
Looking for answers, we might turn all the way back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis, chapter one, verse one.
In the beginning,
when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
A “wind from God,” the ruach in Hebrew, which means God's breath.
God's breath moved over the face of the waters,
God's voice is what separates the water from the land,
and the darkness from the light.
God's breath, God's Spirit, God's ruach,
is that part of God that is active and moving among us,
a wind from God that sweeps over the face of our lives.
This idea is played out throughout the texts of the Hebrew Bible,
and our New Testament texts.
So, breath is kind of a funny thing, isn't it? Our breathing is coordinated by a part of our brain that keeps all our systems functioning. We don't have to think about beating our heart -- our brain takes care of that for us. Our breath is the same way -- whether we're aware of it or not, we'll keep breathing.
Perhaps the breath of God is not so different.
Most of the time,
we don't even notice the gentle in and out
of the Holy Spirit,
breathing in our lives.
But if we stop for a moment,
cultivate an awareness of God's breath,
we begin to perceive the quite rise and fall
that's been there all along.
Part of developing spiritual practices in our lives
is learning to sit and listen
for the movement of that wind.
At times it is imperceptible.
At times we see its movement only in retrospect.
At times we feel it's rhythmic movement in and out:
God's steady breathing.
At times it is the rush of wind
palpably moving through our lives.
I've felt the movement of God's spirit
in all of these different ways as St. Lydia's has grown and changed.
At times, it has felt like Pentecost:
Sitting on a train with Rachel and sharing with her the idea for this church.
Knowing that she absolutely shared the vision,
the world of possibilities
that were beginning to open before us.
Knowing with certainty that our lives had suddenly shifted.
At other times, I have lost track of the rhythm of God's breath.
In the moments when St. Lydia’s seems stuck with no where to go,
when there's not enough money in the bank to make next week's payroll,
or when we face conflict or difficulty,
I've been able to discern God's steady breath only in retrospect.
And at times,
like at yesterday's community meeting,
I've felt that steady, dependable, gentle moment,
in and out,
as we move forward together,
building trust and sensitivity and compassion
slowly but surely,
God's Spirit breathing into all of it.
Part of our call as a community
is to learn to listen for God's breath:
God's Spirit in our midst.
To learn to sit, and listen, and discern,
wait for the invisible weathervane of our community
to shake, then turn,
pointing the way forward.
We will listen each Sunday in worship,
in moments of grace,
as well as moments of conflict.
In Community Meetings.
Over budgets and constitutions.
leases and contracts.
In the most mundane or frustrating moments,
and the most elevated, mystical moments,
We'll be asked to listen as the wind stirs,
as God exhales
and the weathervane turns.
God's breath is moving over the face of this Church:
of St. Lydia's.
The question today is for you --
where do you see the Holy Spirit moving
in your lives
and in this community?