Reading through this passage in the book of Acts 2:1-21 – about the Holy Spirit coming upon those disciples, unifying and enlivening them to carry forward the ministry of Jesus – do you notice the positive energy just brimming in this story?
So much life and goodness just bubbling over:
Followers of Jesus, once divided over language barriers … are now able to understand and communicate with one another, and connect together on a human level.
The Spirit of God is poured out, not just on a `special select’ few, but on all “flesh” – embracing all people – men, women, slaves and free, daughters and sons, young and old.
And all of them begin to praise God for all of God’s good deeds, past and present.
They begin to prophesy, envision, and believe in God’s good purposes for the future.
And they all feel the support and care for each other, experiencing a belonging and unity, not only with each other, but with God.
All this good, positive energy!
This is what the Spirit of God does: She brings refreshment, new life, new breath … oxygen not only for the lungs, but for the heart, mind and soul.
A couple of months ago, I was talking with a teacher of sky-diving – someone who teaches brave souls how to fall out of an airplane safely.
It was an interesting talk.
Our conversation drifted into describing what one’s face and skin exactly feels like when falling through the clouds.
… not just what it feels like to glide through clear, blue-sky air, but through a cloud.
Was there a difference?
Was it more scary?
Did the wind or air in a cloud feel or smell differently?
The teacher said that while divers move quickly through a cloud on the way down, and while their vision is momentarily obscured by the wispy white-grey, it’s the tiny water droplets in the cloud which spray on the face, that are so refreshing and exhilarating … even more so than falling simply through clear and dry sky.
This invigorating, refreshing, life-stirring experience of sky-diving in the open air and especially through clouds is similar to what I imagine the Spirit of God bringing to our hearts, minds and souls as we live our lives.
The Spirit of God always, always, expands our horizons in hopeful ways, opening up a world of possibilities, setting us free to do courageous things, and inspiring us to new acts of love, mercy and service to others.
I like what Isabel said about her church.
Isabel migrated to the United States some twenty years ago – “illegally” and without proper documentation – but since then has found a loving and caring faith community to belong to:
Isabel says this: “Church is the only place I can breathe….It is the one place where I am defined as a child of God, and not by the fact that I crossed a border without papers.”
Church is the only place I can breathe.
Isabel has found that new air, that new oxygen – that life-giving definition of herself – NOT as some “illegal migrant”, or “person who made a mistake or bad decision” – but rather, as a precious “child of God.”
We can truly breathe, and rest, and draw in that life-giving, loving “oxygen” when we know we’re loved no matter what.
This is the Spirit of God…. life-giving oxygen, not only to the lungs, but also to the heart, mind and soul.
The Apostle Paul said as much when he wrote to the Roman church (Rom 8:14-17) about the Spirit of God, leading us NOT to “a spirit of slavery, to fall back into fear…” but rather, leading us to feel that we truly belong to each other and to God, who gives us an expansive, refreshing openness to life and to others.
A week or so ago I was part of conversation with a few of us here at the church, and we were musing about the Church’s role and mission in the world.
We talked of how fear, and worry, and what we call “analysis-paralysis” (over-thinking something) – how all of that can be suffocating, sucking all the life, creativity and energy out of us.
And for some reason, mention of airports came into the conversation.
We compared the Church to an Airport.
Many of us are familiar with airports and airplanes, and know that, especially over the last decade or so, security in airports has become a more visible reality.
There’s been increased and more elaborate procedures of passenger body scans, metal detectors, personal luggage examinations, and document verification…
There’ve been repeated reminders over the PA system of suspicious-looking or unattended baggage,
…more frequent presence of security personnel holding guns and walking through airports…
All of these processes and procedures have been put into place to try to clamp down on threats, and maximize the security of airports.
In this age of fear of terrorism, in this super-charged culture of security, and clamp downs and lock downs, it’s a real wonder…
… that airplanes are still able to take off and fly at all …
… that airports are still open for business …
… that passengers can still fly.
It’s a wonder that the mission of the airport – to conduct the flow of air traffic, and allow passengers to fly, and to get to their destinations safely – that mission still carries on – despite the increased fears and the forces and pressures that want to clamp down and lock down airports.
To their credit, airports have figured out a way to successfully manage the increased security processes in such a way as still allow passengers to get into that airplane, and take off into the air.
Next time you’re manoeuvering through airport security measures, and finally getting into an airplane and taking off into the air… think on this:
Think on how the Church’s mission – to serve, to care, to forgive and show compassionate love in the name of Jesus to others – think on how that mission can still carry on and be allowed to take off and fly, even in the midst of today’s worrisome and fearful environment of shrinking resources, budgets and burdensome building structures…
Despite these forces and pressures that want to clamp down and lock down … think on how the church can still do what it is meant to do…. to be open to the life-giving Spirit of God, and allow the original mission and ministry of Jesus to still keep taking off and flying on!