“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2 NRSV)
Whenever I read this verse, I’m reminded that it doesn’t say “gentle wind” but “violent wind.” That makes me think about growing up in Northwest Iowa where we were always vigilant about watching the sky on a hot and humid day (which was many of those summer days). Tornadoes were always a threat, and they could come up unexpectedly without much warning.
Everyone knew where their cellar was or where the safety plan was if they heard tornado sirens. The interesting thing about tornadoes is that they whip up violent winds to the point of mass destruction. A tornado can touch down and destroy one house, jump over the next house and hit the following one. No one can predict the path, but everyone knows to get to safety (except maybe the storm chasers).
I would guess that the “rush of a violent wind” would have surprised the disciples who were assembled together waiting to hear from God. Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit, and they were praying, praising, and waiting as he instructed them. They probably didn’t have a clue about how this would be accomplished, and it’s doubtful that they expected a violent wind and tongue of fire along with all the other things that happened on that Pentecost day.
But maybe that’s how God gets our attention some times: doing the unexpected in BIG ways. Usually, I focus on how touches our lives in small ways through others and through events that help us to grow in faith gradually. However, Pentecost is a different story.
Not only did the violent wind get the disciples’ attention; they were emboldened, given a courage they previously had been lacking. Suddenly, they were no longer afraid but excited, empowered, and able to share the message of God’s love in Christ regardless of criticism, threat of arrest, or whatever the case may be.
In one of the church’s I served, there was a couple who saw all the cars in our parking lot and lining the streets on Sundays, so they were intrigued. One morning they stopped to see me, and their comment was, “Something big must be happening here. We always see so many cars!” The witness of the cars made a statement that something BIG was happening!
However, a truer witness would be when people want to become part of the church because they see the church at work in the world. The people come to church to be renewed, remember the story, and then to be sent into the world to BE the church in the world.
They witness through words and actions whether it’s at home, work, with friends, at an organization to which they belong, in the market place, or wherever they encounter someone else. People CAN tell when someone follows the ways of Christ, even though they may not be able to name it.
Tornadoes are rather unpredictable, but the wind of the Spirit is steady and sure. The idea of the violent wind is more about living in the power of the Spirit and allowing the Spirit to work through us as the Church.
How do you see the Spirit at work through your church?
In what ways have you all made a statement that something BIG has happened?
How will you open even more to the Spirit’s work in you?