(On the Day of Pentecost) the disciples were all together in one place.
And suddenly . . .. there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind
and it filled the whole house.
Until I was nearly in first grade,
my family lived in the back of a grocery & feed store
in Leary, Texas – population supposedly 200.
Actually, Leary in 1950 was just our store, the gas station,
the post office, and a country schoolhouse
all lined up along the same side of a 2-lane highway
and the highway was not very busy.
Not a lot going on in Leary – and my family never went anywhere.
It was a small place for my small life.
But across the highway, there was a railroad track,
and every morning a train came from somewhere in the East
headed toward another terra incognita in the West.
Each afternoon, a train would come from somewhere in the West
barreling toward the mysterious East.
I was mesmerized by the implication
that there was somewhere else,
and people actually went there.
It was then that I heard my first song about the Holy Spirit.
Before there were separate charts for pop, county, etc.
there was just The Hit Parade
and Gogi Grant’s number one song went like this:
In a lonely shack by a railroad track
He spent his younger days
And I guess the sound of the outward bound
Made him a slave to his wand ‘ring ways.
And the wayward wind
Is a restless wind
A restless wind so prone to wander
And he was born the next of kin
The next of kin to wayward wind.
I learned about the Holy Spirit
half from the Bible and half from Gogi Grant.
But fortunately for my orthodoxy,
Luke and Gogi were saying the same thing.
Luke begins the disciples
were all together in one place.
But look what happens in the rest of the Book of Acts
The Spirit blows the disciples out into the world.
And today, the Spirit blows apart our little enclaves of likeness
to take Christ out to strangers who need him.
But people tend to resist being unsettled.
We don’t go easily.
That’s why the Bible calls the Spirit a violent wind.
Episcopalians don’t like that very much.
We prefer to sing,
Like the murmur of a dove’s song
or, There’s a sweet sweet Sprit in this place.
We want a settled, comforting faith,
an amiable, polite comradery.
Episcopal religion has been summed up as
We are saved by taste and not by grace
lest anyone should be embarrassed.
We are not so inclined to be driven out into the world
by a violent wind.
But the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,
sent Philip out into barren Gaza
to baptize the Ethiopian Eunuch,
and inspired Stephen to the confrontational preaching
that got him martyred.
The Spirt does not leave us sitting still in our comfort zone
but drives us out on an often-challenging mission.
The besetting sin of Episcopalians is complacency.
We have preferred nice furnishings, sophisticated music,
and a pleasing ritual to getting our hands dirty.
We like to gather with each other all in one place, preferably well-adorned,
but that’s when the Spirit blows in like a violent wind
scattering us into the world.
The Church has often -- perhaps usually –
tried to shut this disruptive Sprit out.
When Pope John 23 convened the 2ndVatican Council he said his purpose
was adgiornamento-- to open the windows.
The windows had been kept tightly shut lest the wayward wind
blow thorugh the Church and drive us God knows where.
The wayward wind
Is a restless wind
A restless wind so prone to wander.
Naturally there was resistance.
Naturally there was backlash.
Episcopalians have no monopoly on resisting change.
Resistance is natural.
But why would one choose to allow the wayward wind into one’s life
or the life of one’s community?
Because, like the place where I grew up,
the village where we live is too small.
Our faith is too small. Our God is too small.
Our life is too small.
We were made for something bigger than this,
something more interesting, more heroic.
That train going by tells us there is a mystery out there.
God has places for us to go and people for us to see.
The Holy Spirit takes us, in the words of the great theologian Dr. Seuss,
On Beyond Zebra.
The Holy Spirit is a restless wind carrying us into a life worth living,
a life of challenge, adventure, and value.
Now let’s get specific – as in down and dirty -- about life in the Spirit.
The exact same Spirit that made Jesus the Christ makes us Christians.
In Luke, Chapter 4, Jesus sets it out crystal clear. He said:
The Sprit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, . . .
freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free.
When we are doing those things, we are living in the Spirit.
Giving out sandwiches is a step in that direction.
But when Congress entertains a Farm Bill that would condemn
multitudes to hunger, you can’t make that many sandwiches.
The Spirit must speak out.
Sending people to lead worship in a prison is a step,
but when our nation incarcerates 2.2 million citizens,
a 500% increase over the past 40 years,
when we lock up a dramatically greater percentage
of our population than a totalitarian regime like Russia,
a percentage out of all proportion to any democracy,
three times that of Canada, Australia, or Spain,
thoughts and prayers are not enough to set the prisoners free.
the Spirit compels us to act.
These are just two examples.
The Spirit drives us out of our comfort zone
to bear the love of Jesus into a world
of all manner of diverse people in desperate need of his love.
Why would we wantto go there?
Because their need is our terra incognita, our mystery land,
the place we meet God
in the hungry, the naked, the alien whether he has papers or not,
and in the prisoner.
If we don’t find God there, we won’t find God in the bread and wine
on a Sunday morning with our friends and families.
I am leaving you now just as you are embarking
on a bold project to grow, to build, and to beautify.
I wholeheartedly endorse your dreams and aspirations.
Our faith includes the beauty of holiness.
It includes art and song, poetry and prayer.
But I urge you, I implore you
whatever your build, build it with the windows open
-- not just because the Bible tells (us) so
-- rather, because life in the Spirit is the only life worth living.
I urge you to the life of bold adventure, Tennyson describes in Ulysses.
Come my friends
Tis not too late to seek a newer world
Push off . . .. For my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset and the baths
Of all the Western starsuntil I die.
It may be the gulfs will wash us down.
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles. . ..
We are not now the strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are we are, . . .
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.