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'The Bright Wind Is Blowing'

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'The Bright Wind Is Blowing'
Sermon for Pentecost (and Heart&Soul) Sunday

Read : Ezekiel 37: 1-14; St John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15; Acts 2: 1-11 (NIV) 

'Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.' (Acts 2: 2 )  

The General Assembly is well under way, and a cynic might say that the one thing it is not short of is wind, much of it of the hot air, gas-bag variety. 

We do want wind at the General Assembly, but not that kind. We want the wind of the Spirit a driving wind so strong that it shakes the mighty trees in the forest, yet a merry wind so mild that it gently breathes the breath life. And what better time to seek for and to welcome that wind of Pentecost than today, Pentecost Sunday? 

The General Assembly needs the wind of the Spirit: without the Spirit we are just tinkering with the Church, sewing new patches on old garments, putting new wine into old bottles, the very things against which Christ gave us so trenchant a warning. Without the Spirit, the Church is dead. 

But when the Spirit does come, what wonders can happen! Suppose you were able to watch and listen to the events of that morning on the first Pentecost day, what would be the first thing you would notice? Would it be the sound of that mighty rushing violent wind which St Luke describes in The Acts, rather like a 'hollow shuddering sort of roar rushing round and round the house, as if a giant no one could see were buffeting it and beating at the walls and windows and breaking a way in?' (cf. 'The Secret Garden' chapter 5 Frances Hodgson Burnett) 

Or would it be the sound of feet running through the streets - men, about eleven or twelve of them, pelting helter-skelter out of the house and making for the centre of the city? As they go, it becomes clear that they are not masters of themselves. There's a look of glory shining on their faces, and a shout of joy leaps from their lips. The joy comes out in no articulate utterance, but tumbles from their throats in an ecstasy of sound. 

It's easy to say that they are drunk, though it is somewhat early in the day for that. It is easy to say it, if you are free to say it; but most of the folk who first witnessed it were not free to say it. They came from a medley of races and a miscellany of languages, and they were captivated, enraptured, their eyes streaming, their faces turned upward, their hearts eager to hear and understand what was being said. For the same Spirit who was inspiring the Apostles to speak in tongues was also invading their hearts, and was interpreting to them the message that was tumbling in such a cataract of happiness from the apostles. 

Peter was the first to stop speaking in tongues and to recover the mastery of his own mother tongue, and he at once began in clear language to tell them what was happening, to recite the ancient prophecies that all speak of Jesus, and to talk of new miracles that all tell his power. That Pentecost Day was the day when the Church first learned to glory in the life and power of the risen Christ. 

But it is worth noticing that the thing that made the world sit up and take notice was not the rushing, violent wind, nor the speaking in tongues, but was simply a new coming of God into the hearts of the disciples. God gave himself to them as completely in the Spirit as he had already given himself to the world in Christ. The apostles became changed people, radiant with the image of God's love, fit and ready to do God's work, and those around them who witnessed the extraordinary surge of new life in them wondered, believed, and rejoiced. 

Today we wait for the coming of the Spirit, to our Kirk in Scotland meeting in General Assembly, and to our Kirk here in St Cuthbert's meeting in fellowship and love. The wind is blowing, the wind of the Spirit, sometimes like the wind in the trees that shakes every last leaf as though it were a rag, and sometimes as silently and regularly as the breath we breathe. And when we are open to the Spirit, when the national Church of Scotland and the Parish Church of St Cuthbert's are open to the Spirit, we can become in our day what the apostles were in theirs, a mighty force of revolution for God. 

But for a Pentecost to happen on that national and congregational scale, must it not also happen on the personal and individual level? The truth is that the possibility of such a Pentecost begins with us, with you and with me. And so, I invite you to share with me this prayer of the hymn writer Bryan Jeffrey Leech and to make it your own prayer so that Pentecost will happen to us, and from us will surge out into the congregation and nation and make the difference we all so much want and need. Here is the prayer: 

'O holy wind of God now blowing,
bearing the seed that God is sowing,
you are the life that starts us growing:
Spirit, now live in me.'
('O holy dove of God descending' Verse 3 Church Hymnary : Fourth Edition No. 591 Canterbury Press 2005 )

Rev Charles Robertson, May 2018


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