Changing Church: Rev. Shawna R.B. Atteberry, “Blowing Where She Wills,” Excerpts from a Pentecost Sermon

Rev. Shawna R.B. Atteberry

She has been here from the beginning, stirring, creating, bringing form to chaos, and life to dust. In the beginning she brooded over the watery chaos waiting for Godde to give the word. In the fire, thunder, and smoke of Sinai she guarded the holiness of Godde and showed that approaching this Godde should not be taken lightly. When Elijah looked for Godde in fire, earthquake, and a storm, she came in sheer silence to show that she didn’t always appear with the flash and panache that human beings expect.

She gave birth to the church and is the One who gives us our unity, giftings, and words. But we don’t talk about her that much. In fact, the Church has never talked about the Holy Spirit much at all. She gets brushed to the side. She’s the runt of the Trinity no one wants to claim. And there’s a reason for this. The Holy Spirit scares us. We can’t control her. We can’t put restraints on her. We have our nice neat boxes for the other two members of the Trinity. Godde the Father and Mother is categorized with all of the attributes of Godde and put in the appropriate box. Godde the Son is neatly categorized by word and deed and placed in his box. For centuries theologians, scholars, teachers, and preachers have tried to do the same thing with the Spirit. But how do you put wind into a box

A Violent Wind

I don’t think it’s an accident that in the Hebrew and Greek spirit, wind, and breath are the same word. All three are taken for granted and none are really under our control. My favorite metaphor for the Spirit is wind. I’m originally from Oklahoma and have lived in the Midwest for 27 years, so I know something about wind. Wind is unpredictable. You don’t know what it’s going to do. It can give you a wonderful cool breeze on a hot summer day. It can also destroy acres of land and flatten towns and part of cities. As Jesus told Nicodemus, you can’t see either the wind or the Spirit but you can feel them. You don’t know where either comes from or where they are going. Wind is not something anyone can control. It decides when it blows and how. It can choose to be still and silent or roaring hundreds of miles per hour. No one tells the wind where to blow, but it will blow you a few blocks up the street on certain days. It’s wonderful when it acts like we think it should, and it’s disastrous when it decides to show its power in straight-line winds and tornadoes.

I think this is why we don’t hear too much about the Holy Spirit. We just can’t fit her into those nice, neat systematic theology boxes we put Godde the Father and Mother and Godde the Son in. We can’t even pretend to control her. What do we do with this wonky member of the Trinity who doesn’t fit into all of our nice, neat little boxes with the nice neat little attributes fixed to her box? The Spirit does what she wants and blows where she wants. When she gives a nice breeze of inspiration during private prayer, we love her. When she blows us out of our comfort zones to be peacemakers and love those we’d rather not, we’re not too sure about her and her methods.

Bringing Godde Back to Earth

"Pentecost," by Nora Kelly

In Acts the Spirit is blowing. A little group huddled in a room have been hiding out and praying for 10 days. Their Messiah has been crucified, resurrected, and now has ascended into heaven. He’s gone again, and left them the responsibility to build the Kingdom of Godde on earth. No pressure there. Jesus told them to wait until the Holy Spirit came. But what exactly did that mean?

It meant something they could not control. She came blowing through the room they were in and blew them out into the streets to proclaim what they had been hiding: the power of God in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. She inspired them with her fire and put her words in their mouths. They spoke in different languages with their Galilean accents to show that it was not the disciples alone who were doing this.

She gave them a new understanding of Scripture. In Joel’s prophecy the day of the Yahweh is a day of judgment and disaster. Godde vindicates Israel, but the nations around Israel suffer Godde’s fury. Now Godde’s Spirit comes to proclaim salvation to all who believe. And God’s Spirit is no longer limited to just anointed leaders like kings and priests. Godde’s Spirit is poured out on all to proclaim what Godde has done. The young and old, male and female, free and slave are in-spirited to tell those around them about Godde’s love and compassion shown in Jesus. No one is left out.

At this point it appears that the Spirit will once again just be for Israel, for the Jews. But this is just the beginning, and the Spirit is going to show that she cannot be restrained and held in one nation, race, or group of people. She blows where she wills among the Gentiles showing them Godde’s love and mercy, and they too will be saved.

As the disciples proclaim and show the love of Christ, Godde comes back to earth for good, never to leave again. The Holy Spirit does not act without a human counterpart. The apostles and disciples are praying and waiting when the Spirit comes and impels them out into the street.

I’m still not sure whether it’s to Godde’s credit or discredit that she insists on working through us. But that’s what she does. We might never know which way the Holy Spirit is going to blow, but we do know that she is going to blow around and through us. Blowing us out of our rooms and sanctuaries. Blowing us out of our regular haunts and the normal people we hang out with. She blows us onto new roads and into new places to continue to bring Godde’s presence into our world. She continues to empower people to shout out the good news that judgment is not Godde’s last word. That Godde’s last word has always been and will always be forgiveness, love, and mercy.  Godde’s Spirit blows into our lives, so that we can live Christ-like lives in our world, and that is Godde’s final word.

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