Wind and whisper

It’s Pentecost, our celebration of the origins of the church by the coming of God’s spirit. Check out the story in Acts 2.

Jesus’ friends are depressed, frightened, closed in, praying, alone. The spirit strikes suddenly, frighteningly—like a mighty wind—and blows them out into the streets. Things change. New ways of being God’s people are forged.

The spirit can be a mighty wind. As a matter of fact, the word πνευμα (pneuma) means both spirit and wind.

When the spirit wind blows into a community of faith or into you, it is the kind of thing that knocks you off your feet with wild unpredictability. It is getting accepted to the school of your choice or landing the job you’ve always dreamed of. It is like new love, or like a dog hanging its head out the window of a car going 60 miles an hour, or like Justify storming down the home stretch in the Derby. It is the exhilaration of welcoming a soldier home from combat. It is getting great news from the doctor. It is a bunch of children giggling, squirming, singing at their after school program. It is the faithful rallying for hunger programs or getting excited about new and old forms of worship.

But the spirit isn’t always mighty wind. Pneuma can actually be translated three different ways: as spirit, wind, or breath. Sometimes instead of wind, we get only a breath. A whisper. The tender hug of the One who cares, supports, loves, rather than the fist bump of exhilaration. Not the excitement of new love, but the familiarity of a long-time love. Not the dog hanging its head out the window of a speeding car, but dozing in the sun.  Not the stallion streaking down the track but foals grazing in the field.

The whisper of the spirit is the exhale you make after you’ve heard bad news and realize you have been holding your breath. The whisper of the spirit is the sigh of a sleeping child. The whisper of the spirit is the breath of a bugler playing taps for the soldier who didn’t make it home. The whisper of the spirit is the quiet voice of encouragement to get up and try again after you didn’t get into the school you wanted or land the job you dreamed of. The whisper of the spirit breathes life into a home or a community that needs it. It gathers up the ones who are chased by the wind out of an upper room where they had waited alone and whispers, “Now what are you going to do?”

Alone and worried doesn’t work for the spirit of wind and whisper. What works is gathering, and then dispersing. What works is finding the right words and acts to be Jesus to your own community. What works is using your own energy to take God’s mighty wind and quiet whisper out the doors, so that everyone might experience the wind of exhilaration and the whisper of encouragement.

This is both power and gentleness. This is the legacy of spirit.

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2018


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