Pentecost Sunday C-19
you come from nothingness and go to nothingness,
and when you are still,
there is nothing we see, nothing we hear,
and you surround us in our not seeing and not knowing.”
(Excerpts from the poem Wind, wind – a reflection on the Spirit, by William Loader, an Australian Bible Scholar are used throughout this sermon.)
Hidden in plain sight. Undetected, even as with each breath you fill our lungs. God is like wind. Since ancient times, when children asked ‘Who is God? Where?’ Parents, grandparents, and village elders pointed to the wind. “That is what God is like,” they said. “There.”
When I was a kid, the Chinook winds came to the Front Range in Colorado each January. In the dead of winter, somehow, warm dry air from the upper atmosphere, gets squished underneath cold wet air passing over the mountains. The result is a violent wind that rushes down the mountainside as if it were riding upon a sled, thirty, sixty, even ninety miles per hour. Those chinook winds shook our house, severed limbs from trees, and knocked many of them down. But always afterwards came warmer temperatures. After the Chinook winds, it could reach fifty degrees in the depths of winter.
“Wild, wild wind,
you whip the seas, whirling great water spouts and fountains,
crashing on the foamed edges of the shore,
sweeping the unsuspecting fisherman from the slippery rocks,
terrifying force, uncontrollable, beyond our power.”
Our bible says, “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). Today the power of wind turns great windmills that provide light for homes and entire communities. We observe the power of wind.
Yet, just like the wind, we do not always know where to find God or how to follow the way the Spirit would lead us. Our bible tells such colorful tails of God’s presence. Not only wind but fire! The power and presence of God was unmistakable. Leah, being confirmed in faith today, I tell you the truth, sometimes you will long for such a compelling sign. Often, God’s purpose can be too difficult for any one person of faith to determine for themselves. That’s why in the Lutheran church, especially for really big decisions, we place our trust in the combined wisdom of the community to set the proper course to follow the winds of the Spirit. We pray and then we vote at committees, councils, congregations, Synod Assemblies and Churchwide gatherings.
That’s what your church did yesterday, at the Synod Assembly of Metropolitan Chicago, in order to choose a new Bishop, Yehiel Curry to succeed Bishop Miller when he retires this September.
Bishop Elect Curry was born in Chicago’s Riverdale neighborhood on the far South side. He is the seventh of eleven children. Even after his father was murdered on Chicago’s streets, the strength and values of their loving family persisted. He attended college at Lewis University in Romeoville. He said he felt moved to by the story of five-year-old Eric Morse who died after two other children held him out a 14-story window because he wouldn’t steal.
Bishop elect Curry became a Chicago public school teacher in the elementary school all three boys had attended. Later, he would become a lay mission developer at Shekinah chapel and attend seminary at the same time. He became a Lutheran at St. Stephens in Chatham where he learned about and became involved in SIMBA, “Safe in My Brother’s Arms,” a leadership development program for African American boys, ages 8-17, at St. Stephen’s in
Cornel West once said, “Never forget justice is what love looks like in public.” Leah, Bishop elect Curry’s personal story shows us that in addition to the collective wisdom of the Christian community, another good, time-tested, and reliable way to follow the Holy Spirit in our life is to get close and walk with people who are suffering now. Among the poor, the sick, the outcast, the imprisoned, the immigrants—that is where God is. That is the mission field to which we who are baptized into the living temple, the Body of Christ, are called to do God’s work with our hands.
Jesus said, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.8). Like the wind, God’s grace is an ever-present natural force at work in the world giving shape to the landscape of human lives and communities.
This week people around the world stopped to pay tribute to the historic legacy of an important anniversary. You might have heard something about it in the news? (It’s a trick question.) Of course, I am not referring here to D-Day but to what could be called the birth of non-violence day. On June 7th, 1893 a lawyer named Mohandis K. Gandhi was thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and his luggage tossed after him, when he refused to vacate his first class compartment, for which he had a ticket, and move to the third class rail car with all the other people of color. Gandhi famously said, “Yes, you may [push me out]. I refuse to go out voluntarily.” Non-violent civil disobedience was born.
Gandhi called the struggle for non-violent change satyagraha. We don’t have a good English equivalent for this word. It means something like ‘holding on to truth-force.’
Jesus said, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ (John 8:31-32). Gandhi taught us another reliable, time tested way we can hoist a sail and follow the holy spirit –by clinging always to the truth. The truth is of God. Truth is another name for the Holy Spirit. Leah, you can be sure to walk with God by clinging to the truth.
Following after the Holy Spirit is often scary. It is often disruptive and challenging to the people, places, and institutions we know and love. Like Mary Magdalene, who you wrote about in your confirmation paper, we quickly discover even the church dedicated to following Jesus is in constant need of reform.
But, Leah, I tell you a secret, God is with you –always—and will never abandon you no matter how well or how badly you become at following the direction of the Holy Spirit in life. But here is water and the word. Here is bread and wine. Here in this place people find refuge and a way to return to themselves. They find fellowship, common purpose, and have their human dignity restored in community, drawing close to the poor, and walking in truth.
As Bishop elect Curry reminded us yesterday, everyone has a place at this table and will find food for their life’s journey. Here, Make America Great Again is seated next to Black Lives Matter. Leah, here you will find LGBTQIA+ belonging with cis-gender and hetero folks. Seated beside you are men and women, black and white, Latino and Asian, young and old, sick and able bodied. Here, together, is food to satisfy our hungry hearts and souls as we journey together in faith all the days of your life, until we are called home to rest in God.
Wind of nothingness and awe,
wind of knowing and unknowing,
wind of bearing and begetting,
wind of secrets and mystery,
O wise, wise wind,
whisper to us your grace.