In Wind and Fire by Samantha Crossley+

Pentecost Sunday
Ezekiel 37:1-14

Acts 2:1-21

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,

Now hear the word of the Lord!

It’s Pentecost. Wind and fire and speaking in tongues. Why are we talking about old prophets and dry bones?

Ezekiel was a prophet who served a people exiled, bereft of home, status, privilege, hope. By God’s bidding he demonstrated the most spectacular, deeply meaningful transformation that his people could imagine, beyond what they could imagine. His prophesy is a metaphor, the story tells us as much, but contains no less truth for being metaphor. By his prophesy, Ezekiel frees God’s people to accept the Spirit of God blowing life into the dry bones of their existence, breathing hope into their souls.

Fast forward to New Testament times. A motley crew of fishermen and tax collectors and assorted misfits, common-folk and hangers on who had followed Jesus huddled together, praying, sorrowful, trying to figure out what to do and who they were. Jesus had promised them an Advocate. They waited together as he had bid them. They had no place to go.

A rush of wind and an burst of flames and all the world changed forever. The church was born, the promise of Jesus fulfilled in the most unexpected, unimaginable way. Within the course of a few hundred years, the transformation of these common-folk in this Galilean backwater ultimately changed history.

I think it’s interesting that as we hear about this cacophony of fire and wind and multilingual discourse, we never learn what was said. The Holy Spirit spoke through the Galileans to each person, each in his or her native tongue. And yet, we do not know the words.

Here is what we do know: The Spirit of God transforms – breathes hope into despair, life into the lifeless, and the Spirit is universal.

Luke, the author of Acts, makes it clear that experiencing the Spirit is not the right or privilege of a select few. Peter’s speech makes it clear enough – I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit. In patriarchal, hierarchical 1st century, you cannot get any more egalitarian than that. Luke, the author of Acts, actually does take it further, though, although it is less obvious in our modern context. Luke made it clear to his readers that the power of the spirit extends still further.

In that list of names that Georgeann so bravely read for us from Acts, Luke includes a geographical cross section, but also reaches across time to pull in long lost brothers. According to Jacob Myers (Working Preacher) “The Elamites were nearly wiped out by the Assyrians in 640 B.C.E. and were eventually absorbed into the Parthinian Empire. The Median Empire entered into a political alliance with Babylon and was later absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus II.” The Medes as a distinct group had been gone more than five centuries before Jesus’s birth. But, both the Elamites and the Medes included descendants of the 2 lost tribes of Israel. Luke makes it abundantly clear that the Spirit comes for all the world, including long lost brethren, eschewing barriers not only of race, gender, and status, but also of time, ancient grudges and political barriers. In wind and in fire the Holy Spirit came to them all, and the church was born.

And what of the Holy Spirit and the church today? In this age of concrete evidence? In this age of “spiritual, but not religious”? Author Peter Senge says, “I think people are attracted to Buddhism because it presents itself as a way of life, while Christianity presents itself as a system of belief.”

Tradition says the Spirit came to the disciples as they huddled in the upper room. They were doing their prayers and observing the Feast of Weeks – the Jewish Pentecost, choosing who would take what roles. I have little doubt they were also worrying about how to pay for the room, how to get their supplies without getting snatched up and crucified, and how long they could do all this before they must go back to practical reality; become once again “fishers of fish”. (David McKee, personal communication) The Spirit called them to action. The Way became their Way of Life.

And this we must also do. We think too easily of church as something we do. The church, led by the Spirit, is something we are. We come to this place, to this table for solace, and for pardon, certainly, but must be ever mindful that we come also for strength and renewal to serve the world in Christ’s name. Not the world in here – the world out there. We must let the Spirit do her work, through us.

Today, we complete our yearly symbolic journey from ashes to fire. Out of the ashes of Lent we are bid to examine our own scattered dry bones, to jettison the detritus of our lives, the baggage that is not of God, the hate, the apathy, the anger, the fear. Easter comes with hope and joy, and the example of ultimate love. And we celebrate. The bones of our lives move back together, but still we do not have life. And then we come to Pentecost, to the fire and the wind that lends life and hope and purpose.

Someone in Lynn’s bible study this week asked how we know that the Holy Spirit is with us. My initial internal reaction is that the spirit has always been with us; think back to the book of Genesis with the wind from God blowing over the formless void. And I believe that the spirit has always been with us. But that doesn’t really answer the question. How do we know? The Spirit made things pretty obvious in this event, but does not always choose the approach of beating us in the head with a metaphorical 2×4 to get our attention.

Sometimes we find the Spirit in a return smile, a trusting hand curled around your loving finger, gentle ripples over still clean water, the fresh smell of a green place preserved, the shy gratitude of an outsider (of whatever kind) accepted without question.

To expound on the words of The Reverend Anthony F.M. Clavier, The Holy Spirit moves in the water; in bread, and wine, and oil; and in our prayers, private and collective. Above all, the Holy Spirit drives us out of the safety and security of our local Upper Rooms, our faith communities. The Holy Spirit pushes us beyond ourselves, our abilities, expectations, and safety levels, to serve, to love, to live….

Today we celebrate the birth of the church. We acknowledge our own rebirth into Christ in the renewal of our baptismal vows. We commemorate the recurring journey from winter to spring, from ashes to fire. Open your hearts and minds to the action of the ever-present Holy Spirit.

God will put his Spirit inside us, and these old bones will live…

Hallelujah!

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