Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Welcoming the Wind

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

We’ve pointed out before that the word for Spirit is the same word for wind and breath. It comes as little surprise when the presence of God leads Israel out of Egypt in the form of a storm cloud, and the same storm settles on Sinai for a while as God’s people make covenant with the Lord there. The same glory cloud fills the tabernacle at its dedication at the end of Exodus. The Spirit is not pictured as a gentle breeze. The Spirit is a storm, a hurricane, a tornado, a great wind that blows as it pleases. It’s that great wind that hovers over the face of the deep in the beginning in Genesis, the same wind howls over the great flood waters and dries the face of the earth for Noah and his family. The same wind blows and drives back the waters of the Red Sea, revealing dry ground for the children of Israel to cross over. The wind turns and the seas close back in drowning Pharaoh’s might.

The Spirit drives, the Spirit moves, the Spirit pushes, the Spirit is a powerful storm. We see this vividly portrayed in the book of Judges. The Spirit came upon Othniel and he went out to war against Cushan-Rishathaim, King of Mesopotamia. The Spirit came upon Gideon and he called Israel to battle. The Spirit came upon Jephthah and he attacked the people Ammon and there was a very great slaughter. The Spirit came mightily upon Samson, and he tore a lion apart with his hands. Later the Spirit came upon him again, and he killed thirty men of Ashkelon and stole their clothes. Samson tore apart ropes again when the Spirit descended. When Saul was anointed king, Samuel said that the Spirit would come upon him and he would become another man. And when the Spirit came upon him, he suddenly began prophesying with the other prophets. Later when he was hunting down David, the Spirit came upon him again and he stripped off his clothes and laid down naked, prophesying some more. When the Wind of God fills a man, he becomes another man. He takes up arms, he marches to battle, he tears lions apart, kills men, bursts ropes, he does and says strange things. When the Wind of God fills a man, he becomes the storm of God’s presence. He becomes the place where the wind of God roars. He runs and fights and tears and speaks and struggles as the Wind of God. He is driven by the Spirit and becomes a new man. He is carried along by the storm of the Spirit.

We see the same thing in Jesus. When He was baptized in the Jordan River by John, as He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove. And while he may have a harmless appearance, Mark’s gospel makes the role of the Spirit explicit: as soon as the Spirit comes upon Jesus, it drives Him into the wilderness to do battle with Satan. Like the judges of old, the Spirit comes upon Jesus for war. But the implication is that the Spirit is the one driving and empowering Jesus now. The Wind of God has filled Jesus, and He is now the center of the storm cloud. After Satan is overcome, Jesus goes to Galilee and begins preaching, he begins doing battle with other evil spirits, he begins waging war against sickness and death. And it is the Spirit driving Him, the Spirit empowering Him, the Storm cloud of God filling Him and pushing Him on. And ultimately the Spirit drives Him to the cross, blowing him to His death, the Wind of God beats against Jesus, and drives life completely out of Him. But it is the same Wind, the same Storm that howls over the horror of death. It is the same Wind that hovers over the tomb and the grave. It is that Holy Storm that rolls away the stone and raises Jesus on the third day.

And what is rather startling and even unnerving is the fact that this Wind was unleashed at Pentecost. One of the striking transitions from the Old Testament to the New Testament is this promise of the Holy Spirit for everyone who repents and is baptized. God has become promiscuous with the Holy Spirit. One might say it’s a bit irresponsible. Sort of like letting five year old boys run the world. God pours out the Spirit rather recklessly in the New Testament whereas he was a lot more conservative and careful in the Old Testament. But it’s that same Spirit Wind that comes roaring through the upper room at Pentecost, and the same electrical storm breaks out on the heads of all disciples gathered together. And then Peter has the guts to tell everyone listening to his sermon that they too can have the storm. Repent and be baptized and you will be filled with this same rushing, uncontrollable wind.

Of course we have been considering Job the last number of weeks, and we have pointed out a number of times the regular references to wind. It all started with the “great wind” that broke down the house where Job’s children were feasting, but it didn’t stop there. The storm has only grown. The words of the rhetorical combatants are repeatedly referred to as wind. The great wind has continued to blow. But if we have learned anything we know that the Wind of God is behind all the wind and the Wind of God is blowing somewhere; the wind is driving Job toward something or someone. Just as the Wind of God filled Jesus and drove Him into the wilderness to do battle with Satan and later drove him around Israel, delivering its final blow on the cross, so too Job has been taken up into the Wind. Job’s life is not the same; he has been turned into another man. And even his friends and family do not recognize him.

But it is this same Spirit that is promised to all those who repent and are baptized. The same wind that carved the original creation from nothing, the same wind that howled through the desert and came upon men for war. The same Wind hovers over the waters of baptism. The same Wind promises to fill you, Timothy and Roman, the same Wind promises to turn you into other men and drive you throughout this life toward the life of Jesus, driving you ever nearer to the presence of God.

So the exhortation to you Timothy is to welcome the Wind and do not be afraid of the Storm. It is after all, the storm of God’s goodness. Likewise, Levi and Jodi, teach Roman to love the Wind. To learn to walk in the Spirit and to let the Spirit drive him wherever it blows. And always remember that today, Timothy and Roman, you are new men. You are young; you are reborn by the water and the Spirit.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

No comments: