Feel that breeze today?
Wind power is a big deal across the globe in this 21st Century. All across the landscape, giant wind mills are popping up, towering above farms and fields with large blades turning with each gust.
The power of the wind flows through the turbines and becomes electric power that brings to life anything that needs to be plugged in … including the computer I am using at this very moment.
We know so much about wind power today … but still, we don’t know where the wind comes from or why it moves a certain way. Oh sure, scientifically we can explain the occurrence – it involves cold air and hot air and certain molecules – but that doesn’t mean we really know.
After all, wind is more than just cool summer breezes, cold winter blasts, hurricanes and tornadoes. It is also present when we open a bottle of Coke, peer inside a warm oven or simply exhale a breath of air.
This all comes to mind as we ponder today’s liturgical readings for Monday of the Second Week of Easter, which challenge us to consider the workings of the Holy Spirit moving like the wind among us in very powerful but mysterious ways.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles – the book that describes the events that took place after the Resurrection of Jesus – we are dropped into the scene of the Apostles who had just been released from custody. They are free, but have been threatened to stop their silly preaching or face consequences.
In that room, as they gather in a circle, they pray as a group and invoke the power of the Holy Spirit, which had been promised to them to be their guiding force. And while in this prayer, the gusts of the spirit are felt.
“Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
“As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
This spirit should be very familiar to us, as it was to them.
God blew into the nostrils of man to form life in Genesis. He sent the four winds to bring the rattling bones in the Book of Ezekiel to life. Those winds whipped across a dividing sea to save Moses and the enslaved Hebrews. And in a few weeks, we will celebrate the blast of spiritual breeze that lit tongues of flame at Pentecost, the beginning of our Church.
Like the Apostles we pray to the Spirit. We are empowered by its presence. We are in awe of its work.
But we are puzzled by its origin and the way in which it moves.
So, too, was Nicodemus in our Gospel reading today. He questions the way Jesus speaks of being “born again,” choosing to take an extreme view in his query.
“Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?
“Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’
“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus was having a hard time understanding how all this works. Jesus tells him not to even try.
We also have a hard time understanding the ways of the winds today.
The Spirit is moving … no question. But why does it seem to blow in one direction today, and then the opposite direction tomorrow? Why does it appear to bring joy and happiness on a Tuesday, but death and sorrow on a Friday?
Jesus’s message today seems to be connected to an Old Testament reading out of Ecclesiastes, a book that strives to get to the heart of the big questions in life, namely the value of human life and our pursuit of the truth behind the mysterious ways of the Lord.
In Chapter 11, verses 4-6, the author Qoheleth teaches that we should not waste our time and energy.
“One who pays heed to the wind will not sow, and one who watches the clouds will never reap. Just as you know not how the breath of life fashions the human frame in the mother’s womb, so you know not the work of God which he is accomplishing in the universe.”
In other words, we should recognize and embrace the workings of the Spirit in our world today, but we should not waste our time trying to figure out why God does what God does.
As the Apostles came to realize, there is a bigger picture here. We are human and we cannot see it in the same way God sees it.
However, if we open our hearts and souls to the breezes of the Holy Spirit, then our actions will be less about ourselves and our own desires and more in tune with what God has planned.
And so we pray …
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”