Spirit Power

Sunday, June 5, 2022
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

Acts 2:1-21

Have you ever been mesmerized by an eagle in flight? They are so majestic. Amazingly eagles can fly up to 125 miles with ever alighting. That equals hours in the air. It seems physically impossible. But the eagles don’t get exhausted because they SOAR on the wind.

Eagles generally do not spend a lot of time flapping and flitting here and there but instead, will sit on the edge of cliff waiting for just the right conditions before they take flight.  They have an innate ability to discern thermal air currents and when it the current is favorable, they surf the wind, soaring for miles.

Another curiosity about eagles is that they love storms! Most birds hide from storms, but eagles will use the fierce thermal currents to force them higher and higher and higher.  The last Steve McQueen flew gliders. Once in a TV interview he said that he got caught in a thermal jet of air in the Rockies that forced him up to 20,000 feet.  That is very high for a glider!  He then said, “You will never believe what I saw up there. I looked out the window, and I saw eagles. And they looked as though they were asleep.”

Today is Pentecost – the day when a powerful roaring wind brought the fire of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers. Not just twelve men, but 120 men, women, and children, were set afire by the Spirit of God. And the power and vision and courage they received ended up turning the world upside down.

By the time that day ended, over 3000 people were baptized. Right then and there. How did that happen? It had to do with the Spirit. And breath. And Wind.

The Greek word pneuma, is used here for the word Spirit. But pneuma also means breath or wind. The Hebrew word for Spirit, Ruach also means breath or wind. And the Latin word for Spirit is spiritus, and guess what it also means?  Breath or wind. Holy Spirit, Holy Breath, Holy Wind.

Anyone here like to Sail? Sailing is very different than rowing a boat, have you noticed? Rowing involves a lot of effort, a strong back and is rather slow going. But when you sail a boat, you position the sail to catch the wind, and then – you are off… racing with the wind in your face, waves lapping at your side. It is a lot of fun, and you can accomplish a lot without getting totally exhausted.

Curiously, the image of a sailboat has a long history in the church. If you visit the catacombs in Rome, you can find scratched on the walls one of the earliest symbols for the Christian church. It is a boat. The ecumenical movement represented by the world council of churches uses a sailboat as its symbol as well.

You can even see boat imagery reflected in the architectural structures in some church sanctuaries. The part of sanctuary where people sit is call the nave – from the same Latin word that we get our word NAVY. And the ceilings of many classic sanctuaries are made in the shape of a boat’s hull.  Upside down, mind you – but the hull imagery is intentional.

This idea of a boat portrays the church as a place of safety in sea of evil and persecution. The church also helps transport believers on their spiritual journey. When early Christians drew a boat as symbol of church, they NEVER drew a rowboat. It was ALWAYS a SAILBOAT with a mast and yardarm forming a simple wooden cross.  It was a boat that moved with the wind.

These images of an eagle soaring or sailing a boat are instructive for us as we live the Christian life – both as individuals and as a community. If we try to do God’s work in our own strength, we will surely burn out. In fact, it is impossible. Jesus said in John 15:5; Apart from me you can do nothing.

But if we hoist up our sails through prayer and ask for the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us, we can ride on the wind of God.

But HOW? How do we discern the currents of God’s spirit? How do we receive the power of the Holy Spirit like the believers in the early church?

Before Jesus rose, he told his followers to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from heaven. For ten days they gathered, praying, listening, and waiting–with great expecation. Kind of like an eagle on the side of a cliff waiting for an updraft of the wind.

Praying, waiting, listening, asking the Spirit to come fill us with the God’s direction and power is a good starting place.  You may soon sense the Spirit’s presence. Often as gentle nudging, you may be prompted to pray for someone. You may notice situations or people that could use a kind word or a helping hand. You may sense a conviction or a persistent call upon our life.

The Holy Spirit works in each of our lives, but also with groups of people. Like congregations, synods, denominations and more. I have often seen people come together, with their own ideas, opinions, and agendas, to seek God’s direction and make decisions. After praying, they begin to talk, share, and listen seriously to one another. Slowly positions begin to shift. New creative ideas begin to appear and the way becomes clear. It is like a new wind blows through the place.

When the Spirit rushed into Jesus’ followers on Pentecost, they found what Jesus told them to wait for. Together, they breathed deeply of God’s breath and fire, and in the power of the Spirit, that small band of believers changed human history FOREVER.

That same Holy Wind of the Spirit continues to blow here and now in 2022. The same Holy Spirit power that sparked the early church is with us today. But to ride the wind, we must be willing to our drop our oars and allow God to be in control.  And THAT is easier said than done. It takes a lot of courage. And trust.

Especially when the wind really starts blowing. It can take us to places we have never been before! Like an eagle in the storm, it can feel risky and make us uncomfortable. But don’t pull back! FEAR NOT scripture tells us.

Instead raise all the sails and say to God, “Here I am. Here we are! We are yours. Take us where you want us to go!”

The question is NOT “Has the wind stopped blowing?”

but rather, “Are YOU willing to put up the sails? Are WE willing to put up the sails?”

It takes trust

Isaiah 40

31 But those who trust in the Lord for help
will find their strength renewed.
They will rise on wings like eagles;
they will run and not get weary;
they will walk and not grow weak.

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