Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Editor, Researcher

Pentecost: Blowing Where She Wills

Pentecost over Nature by Farid De La Ossa

This sermon was originally published on June 1, 2009.

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 God to give the word. In the fire, thunder, and smoke of Sinai she guarded the holiness of God and showed that approaching this god should not be taken lightly. When Elijah looked for God 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. God the Father and Mother is categorized with all of the attributes of God and put in the appropriate box. God 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?

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Pentecost Sermon Meanderings

I’m preaching this Sunday. It’s the first time in a year I’ve preached and will be the first time at Grace Episcopal. Plus this will be the first time I’ve preached twice in one day: the 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. services. Me getting out of bed at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning is going to be a sight to see. 🙂

I’ve been thinking about wind. Both the Greek and Hebrew words for spirit also mean wind and breath. I’ve been playing with the wind being a metaphor for the Spirit. I’m from Oklahoma, and I have lived in some part of the Midwest for 26 years. In other words wind is a part of my life. I really like the wind as a metaphor for the Spirit.

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 large swaths of land and city. As Jesus told Nicodemus you can’t see either the wind or the Spirit but you can feel them. You don’t 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 disasterous  when it does what it want to do with no regard to humanity.

I think this is why we don’t here to much about the Holy Spirit. We can’t control her. Godde the Father-Mother gets put in a nice, neat little box with all of her attributes. Godde the Son gets put in his own little box with his works and attributes. But what do we do with Godde the Holy Spirit? What do we do with this wonky member of the Trinity who doesn’t fit into all of our nice, net little boxes with the nice neat little attributes afixed 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 serve the poor and oppressed, we not to sure about her and her methods.

Just like the wind, fire cannot be controlled either. We love the illusion we control fire in the pits and fireplaces of life, but then a bush fire starts and devastates thousands of square miles, burning everything it comes across, blown by the unpredictable wind. We like to think the Spirit enriches our lives. We don’t like to think about the devastation that same Spirit can cause. Like the wind and the fire we cannot control Godde’s Spirit. She blows where she wills, convicts where she wills, redeems where she wills, and blows us kicking and screaming into obeying the Beatitudes instead of just giving them lip service.

She is the part of Godde that theologians, preachers, and writers have never been able to pin down, examine, and define. So we ignore her.

How do you think of the Spirit? What metaphors do you like for the Spirit? (C’mon! help a preacher gal out here.)