How Can We Tame the Spirit?
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The believers who were under the law and had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.
The Spirit blew Peter down with new insights and ideas--when the spirit blows us down with new insights it is often a surprise, but if we are willing, it can also be full of joy. We steel ourselves against what is new and different because we feel we KNOW what the Spirit should be doing, where the Spirit should be blowing and we wall ourselves off from the joy and surprise that is there.
The Spirit is creative, nurturing and determined. Some describe the Spirit as the feminine side of God who gives life, liberates, nurtures and sustains us as the children of God and as the community of faith. We know that God is neither male nor female but this feminine image of the Spirit gives us a glimpse of the Spirit’s unrelenting presence in our lives. As mothers, or women who have been mothers to us, never give up on us the Spirit is continually calling us, urging us, nudging us to new ways of thinking and responding. You may have heard me say before that when I think of this kind of love I think of that prisoner on death row being taken to the gas chamber—usually, the last person there touching the glass, saying, “I love you” is mama. No matter what has happened it is her girl, her boy and she loves until the end.
The Spirit is calling us to make room at the table for more of God’s children, some we may not recognize. The Holy Spirit’s work in Acts reminds us that ours are futile attempts against the super power of the spirit. Nothing can stand in the way of God’s saving purposes for all humanity. For those with eyes to see the Spirit is as busy as ever.
Isn’t it sad that so often we spend more time trying to quench the Spirit rather than recognize the wind as it moves among us. Our humanness means that when we feel in control, when things are going well, we often miss the way the Spirit moves, but it is much clearer to us when we are broken and full of despair. We want desperately to be included in God’s saving work, but when we are included, we then often want to exclude others. If we pay attention we will realize that the spirit is powerful and working in ways we could never imagine on our own.
I believe that the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is a laughing, joyful presence. How could it not be so? The Spirit gets to be there watching us as we begin to imagine new and creative ways to tell the story of Gold’s love to everyone, sees us when we extend God’s hand of care and compassion in the darkest of places, and watches as the stare of despair is replaced with the smile of hope. She swirls and blows, but also whispers, comforts, nurtures. When we look for the joy in the Spirit’s leading we will be led in ways we never intended to go, but would have never wanted to miss.
Two years ago I was a group leader for a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. To be a group leader we had to attend several days of training. Half of the time was led by a group called dumoreimprov. Two of the members of the group led us in interactive exercises intended to help us listen more closely and to think of positive possibilities. “Yes, and” thinking rather than “Yes, but.” Or just plain “no way.” We were encouraged to use “I like that idea because” rather than “it will never work.”
I imagine the Spirit as a “Yes, and” wind blowing among us. That day in Caesarea I see Peter with a twinkle in his eye and a lilt in his voice when he says, “We have water. What is to prevent us from baptizing these new believers, for they have received the Holy Spirit, just like us” Those with him had “yes, and” thinking because they were open to recognizing and admitting that the Spirit was upon the gentiles. They never would have believed it—but “yes,” it was happening before their eyes, “and” of course, Peter should baptize them. They knew it was now important for all the church to know of the universal love of God. The Spirit’s astonishing movements are consistent, expressing God’s love for this world in ways we could never do.
Yes, indeed, the Spirit, “she”s is full of surprises for how can we tame the wind and make it go where we want it to go and yes, those surprises can bring great joy if our hearts are open and we let God be God. The Holy Spirit moves in us and around us-
Come Holy Spirit, Come.