Monday, June 9, 2014

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Pastor Ben and Arlene spent a lot of time transforming the sanctuary at the Stafford United Methodist Church for Pentecost on Sunday. We have a gorgeous and historic sanctuary anyway. It was even more beautiful.
But the transformation truly isn't just about sewing together fabric and dangling precariously from a ladder to hang it from fishing line.
It's about discovering the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in my life today - not just in Bible times. Today.

When the Holy Spirit comes (as told in Acts 2: 1-21), it comes with a sound like the rush of a violent wind and in tongues of fire.

Our other Scripture lesson for the day was John 7: 37-39:
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Living water ... rushing wind ... tongues of fire. Those aren't exactly stagnant images, as they?

As Pastor Ben said, "God's presence and the Holy Spirit change us."

It can happen slowly. Sometimes it's in an instant. But it's moving, not stagnant.

Living, moving water shapes canyons, moves boulders and changes the landscape.

Fire can be contained in a backyard fire pit, but its flames still reach up toward the night sky. Or it can race through a burning building.
We Kansans know wind. It can be a pleasant breeze on a hot summer day or a howling gale that thunders through trees and brings down heavy branches during a storm. It can be a dove kite gently rustling in air-conditioned breeze in a Kansas sanctuary.

As Pastor Ben shared, Pentecost isn't just a "story" that happened long ago. God isn't finished "moving" us and doing new things even today. The Holy Spirit comes to open our eyes and show us how to be more connected, have mercy, offer forgiveness and transform the world with justice and love.

But it requires movement. I have to leave a beautifully appointed sanctuary and go out into a messy, noisy, complicated world. As Pastor Ben says, "We have inherited the work."

The wind theme continued past church for me yesterday. At 2 PM,  the wind was blowing through a small Kansas cemetery as two young soldiers from Fort Riley honored a World War II veteran and his family. It was the service for my Great Uncle Oric Neelly, my Grandpa Shelby Neelly's youngest brother. Oric was the final one of the 10 children to be laid to rest.
Oric died on June 5, one day before the 70th anniversary of D-Day. He served for 36 months in the European Theatre in Africa, Italy, France and Germany. As a member of the Signal Corp in the First Armored Signal Battalion, he was aboard the SS Bliss when it was torpedoed off the coast of France prior to the invasion. He was rescued by a Frenchman in a small fishing boat. He rejoined his Army unit and went on to serve in the Invasion of Sicily. He was in Germany at the end of the war and helped liberate a concentration camp 40 miles from Berlin.

In the service bulletin, his family shared one of his favorite poems, "Who Has Seen the Wind?" by Christina Rossetti. It was one he recited often:

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 trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by. 
Yesterday afternoon, the breeze picked up the mournful notes of "Taps" as another soldier was laid to rest. The final note gave me goosebumps as it softly drifted away into an overcast sky.

Whether being moved by the Holy Spirit or moved by the story of one of our nation's heroes, the challenge is there to live - not stagnate - and to make a difference.


  1. Kim,
    I'm sorry to hear of the loss in your family. Sounds like you had a perfectly fitting day to celebrate an American Hero and loved one.

    Thank You for the reminder to be aware of the Holy Spirit working within us.

    1. Thanks, Robyn! It was a beautiful service. We especially appreciated the Fort Riley soldiers coming from 3 hours away to present the color guard. It was good to get together with family and friends. It served as a reminder to do that more often - not just at funerals.