Sunday, June 04, 2017

Pentecost 2017: Dust in the Wind

John 7:37-39
1 Corinthians 12:1-12
Acts 2:1-21

“We cannot give what we do not possess.  This means we cannot express the Holy Spirit in a meaningful way if we ourselves are not close to the Spirit.”  Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI

I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment's gone.  All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity … Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea.  All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see … Don't hang on.  Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy.  Dust in the wind …
“Dust in the Wind”, Kansas

Sometimes I wonder how much religion is intentionally infused into secular music.  John Denver was one who often expressed a profound sense of the spiritual in his music, but I cannot say it was intentional on his part or interpretation on my part. 

Yet when it comes to the movement of the Holy Spirit, though we still possess the free will to decide for ourselves how to discern what is being revealed, the freedom in choosing how to respond must be consistent with The Word, for it is the Spirit “whom the Father will send in My Name, [Who] will teach you everything AND remind you of all I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Jesus is The Word which became Flesh, and The Word tells us there is more.  There is that which breathes Life into The Word – the Spirit.  So hymns that express such notions as “Just give me Jesus” or “Jesus is all the world to me” may require a closer look.  The Word is only a component of the Living God; His Spirit speaks The Word to the Church today.

Before this Blessed Day was upon the disciples, Jesus had already made them aware that “rivers of living water” will flow from them in accordance with how The Lord will so move (John 7:38).  In this will the attributes of discipleship serve us well and prepare us for what is to come and what will be asked of us; those attributes, as shared last week, being a willingness, an eagerness to constantly “seek”, to “ask”, and to “knock” – with the understanding it will be The Lord, and not our own interpretations, who will provide the “living water” to others through our faithfulness.

We must seriously consider that much more is to be discerned from what The Spirit is bringing to us.  It will be, I think, entirely about “rivers of living water” flowing from a transformed heart.  That is, what comes from us will encourage and build up others rather than try to tear them down because they don’t act like us or believe like us or do as we think they should.  In other words, the Spirit will bless, but the flesh will curse; The Spirit will love, but the flesh will judge; The Spirit will bring life, but the flesh is condemned to death.

This is part of the reason why the Kansas song, “Dust in the wind”, came to mind as I was reading and thinking about what to share on this Day.   “All we do [on our own] crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see”.  Thinking too highly of ourselves as if what we do by our own hands will have any sort of lasting impact … if it’s just us … we choosing to do a certain thing only because it seemed like a good idea at the time but does nothing for others – or is very selective in the ‘others’ we will allow - in The Lord’s Name.

Really paying attention to what actually happened to the disciples on that Day means much more than that men of free will were being “possessed” by the Spirit but, rather, were joyously “responding” to the Spirit by outward expression even to those who did not share a common language.  Not the gibberish of “tongue-speaking” as we’ve commonly come to understand it, but recognized languages spoken to foreigners, strangers.  Hearing The Word spoken directly to them by willing men overjoyed that yet another Promise had been fulfilled – proving to them all the more that all Jesus taught them was – is - True.

More than only what happened to the disciples, however, is what happened to others who were equally touched.  As a result of the works of the apostles being so moved by The Spirit, “awe came upon everyone” (Acts 2:43).  These many were so moved by that same Spirit that they sold all they had to ensure no one would do without.  They were filled with such joy that there was not much left for them to do but to live fully into the Gift.

Many have questioned whether this event really even happened.  At the very least, there are still questions about whether it happened just as it is written.  Where we become confused, however, is in questioning the reality of the Event rather than understanding the Event as a means rather than as The End.

It is the aftermath which is so compelling.  A great, rushing wind, tongues as of fire resting on shoulders, and relatively uneducated men suddenly speaking languages previously unknown to them – all very difficult for us to grasp.  These elements of the Event all have meaning unto themselves, but they are not worthy of such attention as to decide for ourselves whether this Event actually took place just as we read it. 

But when St. Paul described this very Day (even if he was not directly referring to this Day) in terms of the aftermath, we find a consistent pattern of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) – all described as “fruits of the Spirit”.  

So even St. Paul would not find himself so bogged down in the elements of the Event more than he would teach about the aftermath in giving his audience an understanding of what the Event was intended to bring forth to and for the Church.   “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Whether the band, Kansas, had it in mind or not, “Dust in the wind” is a theological expression of our cultural reality; we are “dust” to which we will return.  In the Spirit, however, the “Wind” blows where it will, but we cannot know where we will be taken.  We may only be sure that we will either be moved by the Wind – or blown completely away into nothingness.

Embrace the Spirit, dear friends, for the Spirit of the Living God knows the Way into the Truth which leads to Everlasting Life.  There is no other.  Amen.

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