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Edward F. Markquart

Wind: Air on the Move 

Pentecost     Acts 2:1-21 

(This sermon is much more effective when the preacher has memorized the following poem and recites it slowly, communicating its contents)

From Christina Rossetti, a Christian poet.

 “Who has seen the wind?  Neither I nor you?  But when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the leaves bow down their heads, the Wind is passing by.”

From the Apostle John, “The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with ever person who is born of the Spirit.

One word: Spirit. The focus of the sermon is one word which can be translated wind, spirit or breath. In Hebrew, it is the word, “ruach.” In  Greek, it is the word, “pneumatos.” In English, it is the word “wind” which can be also translated “spirit” or “breath.”

Your body is filled with air. Today, to get into the spirit of the sermon, you need to cup your hands above your mouth and blow and feel the warm air in your hands. Some people say that folks are filled with “hot air,” as is evidenced by the warm air in the cup of your hand. To blow out warm air is a sign that you are alive. You can’t be alive without air.

Our sanctuary is filled with air. Invisible but really present among us. You see clusters of balloons with helium in them, tethered to strings. These balloons are weaving back and forth as the invisible air currents are moving the balloons. The balloons are not only signs that today is the birthday of the church, but the waving balloons symbolize the fact that this room is full of currents of invisible air.

Our atmosphere is filled with air. Within the universe, the planet Earth is one of the most unique pieces of matter in our ever expanding universe. We do not know of life any other place in the universe that has life except the planet Earth. There is a membrane around the Earth and that membrane is called the atmosphere. It is eleven miles high. Our atmosphere is most dense here on the crust of this Earth and becomes thinner and thinner as you reach the upper reaches of the atmosphere. There would be no life on this planet Earth without our atmosphere of air. There is nothing on this earth more powerful than the winds of the atmosphere. 

Our human bodies are filled with air, and we know what happens when a person chokes and cannot get air. They die. And so many people have learned mouth to mouth resuscitation. It is called the Heimlick maneuver to remove something that is blocking the airwaves to the body. We learn our ABC. A is airwave that needs to be cleared of an obstruction. B is breathing mouth to mouth to blow air into another person’s body. C is circulate the blood by chest compression. D is for don’t panic. People trained tp learn the ABCs of the Heimlick maneuver.

Children are fascinated with air. Years ago, when I first came to Grace Lutheran Church our little daughter was fascinated with air. She asked such questions as:  “Daddy, what’s the wind?  Where does it come from? Where does it go?  Why are some days windy and other days not?”

Being unable to answer these childlike questions, many  years ago in 1973, I called our local TV meteorologist, Mr. Ray Ramsey from Channel 4, and I asked him what he knew about the wind.  He was most obliging.  Mr. Ramsey told me that wind is air; that air is simply composed of nitrogen, oxygen and other gases; and wind is simply the movement of air.  "Wind is air on the move," he said. Keep track of that phrase. We shall come back to it later: "Wind is air on the move."

What causes the air to move?  Changes in heat.  When you have changes of heat, you have changes in the flow of molecules that results in movement.  The earth is constantly rotating towards and away from the sun, therefore there are constant temperature changes on the face of the earth and therefore there are wind currents, streams of wind circling the face of the earth.  "Do you want to know about tornadoes," Mr. Ramsey asked.  Tornadoes are caused when cold air masses come down from the north undercut a warm air mass from the south and pushing the air upward and cooling the air rapidly.  Mr. Ramsey was very helpful and obliging in answering the questions that my little daughter was asking.

Back in Minnesota during my seminary days, I have seen the devastating effects of a tornado when those violent winds flattened all the homes in Fridlay, Minnesota.

Our playtime is filled with air.  Wind is great for flying kites or sailing on Lake Washington or parasailing or windsurfing.  Wind causes problems for golfers who slice and hook; it hardens the snow for us skiers; and it makes it difficult for fisherman to cross the bar or makes them seasick when the wind is blowing too strongly. 

Scientists tell us that air is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon, and .03 of a percent of carbon dioxide. And this smallest fraction of carbon dioxide is growing due to people burning sulfurs by which the human race may destroy our atmosphere of air that gives life.

“Who has seen the wind?  Neither I nor you?  But when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the leaves bow down their heads, the Wind is passing by.”

The Jews, when they thought of God, they thought of ...the wind.  They thought of the wind because the wind was like God: it was invisible, mysterious and powerful.  You can’t control the wind. You can’t have life without wind. Wind gives life. And so was God: invisible, mysterious, powerful, whom you can’t control and gives life.

The ancient Jews of the Old and New Testaments didn’t know that wind was composed of oxygen and nitrogen.  They didn’t know that it was the result of changes in temperature.  To them, the wind was ... sheeeeeer, mystery.  They actually called God,  “the Wind.”  The Old Testament name for God is “ruach,” ruach, r...u...a...c...h...pronounced ruach, which means wind.  So the first name of God in the Old Testament is Wind.

Let’s take a moment and look at the word, “wind,” in the Biblical narrative.

In Genesis 1, at the very beginning. “In the beginning, there was the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and the Spirit of God, the Wind of God, the Breath of God breeeeath across the face of the waters.”  It was like God gave mouth to mouth resuscitation to the Earth and blew life into our planet.

In Genesis 2, we hear the story about God creating man out of the dust of the earth. And then the Spirit of God breeeeeathed into man into man, the breath, the wind, the ruach of life.” 

The Jew called God, the Wind for the wind was mysterious, powerful and invisible. The Jews couldn’t see God, but they could see the effects of God, just as we see the effects of the tornado.  The Jews looked around them, and they saw the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth.  They saw the autographs, the signatures, the footprints of God, and they had the feeling that there was a powerful, invisible, gaseous force moving across the face of the waters. 

We come to the Book of Exodus. In Exodus and the story of Moses, the Jews would not allow any images to be made of God.  Besides, how do you make an image of the wind?  How do you paint that which is invisible?  How do you make carvings of that which can’t be seen? 

Moses had received the Ten Commandments from God. The second commandment was not to make any graven images of God. How do you make any images or pictures of that which is invisible?

In their Holy of Holies, equivalent to our chancel area, there were no relics; there were no images of Jesus or crosses or anything like that.  Simply, in the Holy of Holies, was the mighty cherubim, that massive carving of a bird-animal with wings. This wooden carving was overlaid with gold. It had a wind span of seven feet.  God was not in the gold overlay carving of the cherubim; but God was in the...air...between the cherubim’s wings.  The Jew’s most sacred object of their worship was invisible; it was mysterious like the wind. 

In our study of the Bible, we come to the prophet Moses who was filled with the Spirit of God, and then the prophet Samuel.

And then King David. In confirmation, during our study of the Old Testament and King David, we came to that that Bible verse which I had all the kids underline and memorize: “The Spirit of the Lord was upon David and was with him from that day on.” I had the kids cross out the name, David, and write in their own name. “The Spirit of the Lord was upon Ashley and was with her from that day on.” The Spirit of God is with us wherever we go, as is the wind.

From King David, Psalm 139, “Where could I go to escape from your Spirit? Where could I go to get away from your Presence. If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the land of the dead, you would be there. If I went to the farthest place in the East or the farthest place in the West, you would be there to help me. You would be there to guide me."

And that is also true today. Where can you go to escape the wind? No where. God is forever with you, no matter when you go. Such it is with the atmosphere of air.

And then in our survey of the Old Testament, we come to Joel 2:20, where God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Your young men will see visions and your old men will see dreams. Your men and women servants will all be filled with the Spirit and they shall prophecy.” EVERYONE will be filled with that invisible Spirit, not just the prophetic giants of the earth and a few of the kings.

There was silence for about four hundred years.

And then we come to the Book of Acts, chapter 2, and we hear the story of Pentecost for today. “Suddenly, a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind and it filled the house where they were sitting. And they were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Wind, and they ALL began to prophesy, to speak boldly about Jesus Christ in numerous languages.

“Who has seen the wind?  Neither I nor you?  But when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the leaves bow down their heads, the Wind is passing by.”

What does all this have to do with you and me, with your life and mine?

We all know, you cannot have life without air, without wind.

The first purpose of the Spirit is to make God alive in you and me. You and I come to believe and know that there is a God here in this universe. Invisible, mysterious, powerful, whom you can’t control any more than you can control the wind. This God, this Wind, gives life. Physical life. Spiritual life. The best human analogy there is for both the ancient and modern world is that God is like the wind, invisible, mysterious and powerful and give life.

This God is all around you, in you, above you, below you, beside you, invisibly present.

I sense that some of you who are here today are essentially materialists, warmed over Marxists, who only believe in the material world that you can see, touch and feel. If you can’t see it, touch it, feel it, and prove it, it must not exist. Some of you today may be materialistic philosophers who believe that when you die, that is all there is. You don’t believe or grasp the Invisible, Mysterious, Power of God around us, above us, below us, and in us.

God is present with us, whether we feel him or not.  When we are thinking of him or not. When we are good or bad, rich or poor, indifferent or concerned. When we are working, golfing, singing, sailing, hiking, dying or living, God is here...which is a statement of grace.  For God is mysteriously near you, not because you are good, not because you are kind, and not because you are religious...for indeed, none of us are any of those qualities.  But God is graciously present in your life because...God is God. 

The purpose of the Spirit is to make God’s Spirit alive in us.

A second purpose of the Spirit is to make Jesus alive in us. To make the love of Christ alive in us. I remember teaching confirmation and one of the lessons asks: "What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit?" To make Jesus Christ alive in us. I would say that to the kids. And then I would say, To make Jesus Christ ALIVE in us, and I would shout the word, ALIVE, at the top of my lungs, as I do right now. The kids would all jump in their seats and I would laugh and they would laugh. But from that class, I always remember what the Holy Spirit does: to make Jesus Christ ALIVE in us. His love alive in us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control, all these virtues alive in us.

The most powerful force in the world is powerful like the presence of our atmosphere of air. The most powerful force in the world is the love of Christ. The purpose of the Spirit is to energize the love of Christ within us. 

The Spirit makes the teachings and words of Jesus alive in us. His words about forgiveness, eternal life, eternal love, that God is our loving Father. The Spirit makes the words and teachings of Jesus to become living realities in our lives.

The other day, last Friday, I had a funeral for Norm Carlsen, who was one of the finest Christians I have ever met. The numerous speakers at that service extolled the living virtues of Norm Carlsen. A person could have walked away from that funeral with a spiritual inferiority complex, that Norm was more full of God's spirit that the rest of us mere mortals. That is just not true. God fills every believer with the Holy Spirit and each in a different way. Young and old. Rich and poor. Men and women. Slave and free. God fills each one of us with his Spirit in a unique way. ALL people are filled with the Spirit, not just the religious big shots of the Old Testament nor the religious heros of the New Testament and spiritual superstars of our day. All people, including you and me in our ordinariness, are filled with the Spirit of Christ.

The third purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make the church alive. The Spirit of God gets into church. The Spirit of God blows us off the front porch, blows us out of our pews, blows us out of our institutions and safe communities and into the world.

The meteorologist from years ago said that "wind is air on the move." When the air is heated up, it becomes wind. That is what the church is. We are on the move. The church is air on the move. Moving out of our pews. Moving out of our church buildings. Moving out of the safety of our friendships in church. Moving out into the world around us. Moving into our schools, neighborhoods, places of work. We are air on the move.

Why is the ruach here in this room today, filling this sanctuary?  Why are the winds of God bloowing around your life, filling you and making you strong?  Is it to make you feel good?  Yes. ...  Is it to heal your wounds when you are hurt?  ... Yes.  Is it to give you comfort when your husband dies?   Yes.  ...  Is it to give your life meaning when your life has totally fallen apart?  Yes.  ...  Is it to forgive you when your life is lived in a way contrary to the will of God?  Yes. ...  But more than that, the Spirit of Jesus Christ that surrounds you, is in you and around you, is given to you that you may have power. The Spirit is given to you so that you would have power to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ to all peoples.  For in Pentecost, the Church was given the power, the power that is greater than tornadoes, the power of the ruach, the power to proclaim with authority the message of Jesus Christ.  YOU … not the person next to you, YOU  have been given that power, for YOU are a Spirit-filled person, and so am I.

Wind. One word. Wind.

“Who has seen the wind?  Neither I nor you?  But when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the leaves bow down their heads, the Wind is passing by.”

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