Magazine article The Christian Century

A Conspiracy

Magazine article The Christian Century

A Conspiracy

Article excerpt

PROFESSOR Richard Peterson writes and teaches about atmospheric science. His special interest is the study of wind, particularly tornadoes. He's something of an academic tornado chaser, constantly hungry for fresh data and new insight on these havoc-wreaking storms. There are very few people in the world like Peterson, very few scholars who devote their lives to the study of wind.

Most of us are not wind sophisticates. After all, how many intelligent things can one say about wind? We step outside and feel warm breezes or cold fronts approaching. And yes, we know wind can be powerful. But what else is there? Maybe all we need is the definition offered by a sixth-grader: "The wind is like air, only pushier!"

The pushiness of the wind is the point of Pentecost. We don't have to know every subtlety of wind to appreciate this stirring moment in the life of the church; we need only comprehend the power of such a force. The strength of that wind explains how the Holy Spirit works. If God is going to deal with the wreckage of the world in any substantive way, and save people from their sins, God is going to have to offer the extraordinary power of the Spirit. The source of the wind is no wimpy sovereign, no soft touch who doles out newness of life through the gift of mood rings and free back massages. No, God breathes life into the church through a mighty rush of wind because nothing less will work. The surge of the Spirit pushes the church out of the upper room in Jerusalem and into the board room, the courtroom and the surgery waiting room.

When the wind blows, things happen. In my backyard, sycamore branches crash on the garage roof, leaves and debris swirl near the fence corners, and the hanging birdfeeder goes haywire. In God's backyard, the breath of God brings new worlds into being. Dry bones come to life. Principalities and powers fall. Churches are born.

When the wind of Pentecost blew through Jerusalem, a new world came into being. As disciples filled a house and crowds of others from foreign places milled about, a blast of wind arose. An eerie howl became a fierce gale--who could concentrate, much less think, in such gusty circumstances? Pandemonium seemed the only possible outcome. Yet in the midst of that buzzing confusion, things began to break open. The people of God began to discover that their old ways of relating to one another and thinking of God had been blown out the window.

In the Hebrew scriptures wind and spirit are linguistic twins. The Spirit (Ruah) of God moves over creation and is perceived as wind (ruah) as it works its way, through life. …

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