During my long-ago baseball-playing days, there was a play I still remember. I was playing first base for my team when the batter hit a high pop-up in my direction. I called for the ball, got into position to make the catch and held my hands up as I waited for the ball to come down. Suddenly, I found myself on the ground, flat on my back, unable to breathe. The guy who hit the ball ran straight into me, lowering his head and ramming my chest with his batting helmet. He knocked the wind out of me.
It was a bush league play.
My coach ran out and helped me start breathing again, and I stayed in the game. When we got the other team out, and they ran onto the field to take their positions, we noted that the guy who ran into me changed the position he had been playing -- from third base to centerfield.
I guess they thought something might happen if I had the opportunity to run or slide into third base. It seems they thought I might do something after getting my breath back.
Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, and churches throughout the world recalled the day when the Holy Spirit rushed onto the scene like a violent wind. A few posts ago I linked you to Acts 2, which describes this event.
This was, of course, after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He had spent the biblically-required "40 days" teaching his followers, and reminding them of what he told them before. Then, as we read in Acts 1, he was taken up into God's presence. The disciples were left on their own, and waited together in Jerusalem for what would happen next.
In the days following Jesus' arrest, and now with him gone from the scene, likely for good, the disciples must have felt their breath was knocked out of them. What would they do? What COULD they do? Jesus wasn't there to lead or guide them.
The sound of the rushing wind as the Holy Spirit arrived, as promised by Jesus, gave them their breath back. Something was bound to happen. The disciples began to do something when their breath was restored.
As I told my congregation yesterday, Pentecost was like when God breathed life into the first human being: there was energy, power, and animation. Things were going to be different.
Peter seized on the opportunity to declare something new being born. He reached back to the language of the prophets to proclaim that because the Spirit of God was poured out, people would dream dreams, see visions, and prophesy. It was so strong, so startling, and so sudden even the sun, moon, earth, and sky would show effects. God’s presence was knocking on the door of human existence and interaction. Nothing could deny it. Nothing could keep it away. People wouldn’t understand it, know what to make of it, or be able to define it. But make no mistake: God showed up, filling the hearts and lungs and minds of people of faith, giving them an electric jolt, a powerful shove, lifting them above themselves, waking them up, pointing the way out the door, and launching them on a mission that still is going on two millennia later.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to pacify, mollify, or satisfy. When it shows up, it gets hearts pounding, jaws flapping, and feet moving. The world, its ways, and our accommodations to them can knock the wind out of us. The Holy Spirit gives us back our breath, and something happens —- something with the fingerprints of God all over it.