Pastor's Corner: A chinook wind
Last updated 1/8/2021 at 7:45am
As another chinook wind blows in, I feel the urging to contemplate the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is associated with the natural phenomenon of wind, active at creation as Gen. 1:2 notes "a wind from God swept over the face of the waters."
The Spirit is a spirit of life, the very breath of God. "Ruach" is the Hebrew word, which appropriately and beautifully requires a bit more breath from the human voice, an added oomph to pronounce.
God's Holy Spirit is also associated with the personification of Wisdom, as can be witnessed in Proverbs 1:20-21: "Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks."
With all apologies due to the Magi at the forefront earlier this week in the celebration of Epiphany, the Spirit is a generous giver of precious gifts. The prophet Isaiah enumerates them as wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, reverence and the fear (or, in some translations, wonder) of the Lord.
We often reference the trickiness of the Holy Spirit, perhaps the hardest one to pin down when thinking of the trinity, and often pushing us beyond the limits we would set for ourselves or feel bound by in serving God.
Like a wind, the Spirit can be unpredictable, fierce and certainly beyond our control. Yet we try to harness it and put it to use, just as we might try to capture wind's energy to power our homes and communities or travel by sailboat (or, say, hang glider, in the case of the very adventurous). When we can catch a ride with the Spirit, it drives our passions, our devotion and it aids and guides us for the purposes of fulfilling God's kingdom in the here and now.
The Spirit is fiery, as the miraculous scene at Pentecost portrays, and can inspire that "fire in the belly" that helps us to get things done.
The evangelist John introduces the Spirit as "Paraclete" in Greek, meaning "advocate" or "helper": "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you." (John 14:16-18)
To advocate on another's behalf requires a certain fire and passion and the Holy Spirit provides it in abundance. We receive it so that we are empowered to do very much the same for others in need of such help. It is not easy work and so it is essential that it be connected, as John states, with truth.
Truth has been battered in recent times and indeed there is ample evidence in the world we live in today that it is all too often rejected. Especially if it challenges people and defies preconceived notions. But at the root of the word "paraclete" is the descriptive "coming alongside."
If we have the truth intimately with us, close enough at hand to reach out and to touch, and better yet, if we can let it in, there is much we can do as God's children.
I want the Spirit of truth to be right by my side. I ask that the Spirit might do the potentially painful work of searching out my own preconceived notions, biases and resistance to challenge and change.
And I acknowledge just how tricky that is and that it can actually be scary to get what is asked for in such an instance.
It is helpful to remember the Spirit also has a softer edge, showing up in the symbol of the dove, as seen at the baptism of our savior Jesus Christ (Mark 1:10-11). Peace in the midst of a powerful tearing of the heavens. Assurance that God is present even amid the most awesome of storms. Comfort associated with the heavenly voice that speaks "You are my Son, the Beloved. With you I am well pleased."
When our identity is authentically bound to Christ and the Spirit is present and moving with us, these words echo to our ears, our minds and our hearts as well. Whether as a mighty wind or a gentle whisper, may they be joyfully received.
The Rev. Sean Janssen is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Havre and Christ Lutheran Church in Big Sandy.