( Thoughts partly drawn from these sources: a devotional by Allen Weenink, Doran’s Minister’s Manuel, and the wise men at Fitch’s IGA)
“What is the wind?” a little boy asked his grandfather, a wise and hardy sailor. “I don’t know, my boy, answered the old man of the sea, “but I can hoist a sail.” On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended like the sound of a ‘mighty rushing wind.’ The 120 people gathered in Jerusalem were there in obedience to Christ’s directive in Acts 1:1– “He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father”. Acts 2:1-2 tells us, “They were all with one accord,” in prayer, waiting for something to happen. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting”. They did not question the the miracle of the coming of that tremendous life-surge.
Although their understanding of the phenomena was incomplete, those 120 faithful hoisted a sail, gave God their lives, responded to God’s inspiration, and went out to transform the world. The church was born out of a group of bewildered individuals grieving the loss of their leader. The promise of the Father came. The power was given. Then, because they could not help it, they became leaders – charismatic individuals with the same dynamic that had first drawn them to Christ.
A miracle took place in the upper room where they had gathered to wait as instructed. Something new ‘breathed’ into their lives, and they were never quite the same again. A miraculous event occurred and continues to take place wherever men and women have enough faith to hoist a sail! A powerful symbol we might use for the Church is that of a ship plowing through the sea of life, sails unfurled, driven on by the mighty force of God Himself.
The Holy Spirit has been called “the truth of the invisible God in action.” That is an apt description of the incredible surging energy unleashed that day, setting in motion far-reaching forces still undiminished to this very day.
How can I know that this power is real? one might ask. By what happens, I respond. You can hear it rustling through the leaves. “What is the wind?” the boy asked his grandfather, who replied, “I don’t know, but I can hoist a sail.” What happens is evidence of the unprovable fact. For the seaman, it is the wind in the sails. For the Christian, it is the life of the soul. To the sailor, it means lifting a canvas sail to catch the power of the unseen force. To the Christian it is the set of the soul, the waiting expectancy, the openheartedness that says, “Come, Holy Spirit.”
Every one of us has been inspired: some spoken word, a soft refrain, some thunderous majesty of nature, a crisis we felt we couldn’t conquer but did, the silent thought that gripped us throughly, an act of adoration, some confrontation in which all conviction was called on to respond. And in that situation something out of nowhere, it seemed, possessed us, fired us, lifted us, pushed us, calmed us, helped us, healed us, restrained us, restored us, until we were not only ourselves, but inspired by the Holy Spirit we found that what we couldn’t do on our own, God helped us do.
The ‘Wind of the Holy Spirit’ was the force that created the Church. It is the force which creates new lives. It is the strength that makes saints. It is the same power that created the world out of nothing and created man out of the dust of the earth. It is that force that created the living church out of mourning disciples. No less divine than the miracle of physical birth is the miracle of rebirth – the new life in Christ.
The supreme work of the Holy Spirit is to convince people and convict them, to cleanse and renew them, and make them over in the likeness of Christ. Paul lists the “fruit of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The apostle would have us know that we do not make fruitful Christians of ourselves, cultivating the Christian graces, manicuring our souls, and pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps. Rather, we open our lives in faith to the cleansing, renewing breath of God. We enable the spirit to produces these graces within us as naturally as a tree produces fruit.
Is this concept so very difficult to understand? Perhaps it sounds too mystical and unreal, so we shy away. We raise our credibility guard against what we do not understand spiritually. But we don’t with the physical. “What is the wind, grandfather?” “I don’t know my boy, but I can hoist a sail.”
The understanding of a personal Pentecost for us today is a time of implicit challenge and crisis just as it was for the disciples during the weeks following the execution of Jesus. We live in a revolutionary age, full of unrest among students, races, ethnic groups, and economic classes. These are days of turmoil, demonstration, polarization, fragmentation, and frustration. The account of Pentecost in Acts 2 serves to remind us that a handful of people utterly transformed a sick society and gave it new life. What they did then is equally possible today. The Church has not failed, nor has God. We are the Church as individuals, and God makes Himself known to us as individuals. We are invited by the Father to be fellow laborers with Him as He works to reconcile the world to Himself.
Knowing God and doing His will, we become part of the leavening influence of which our Lord spoke (Luke 13:20-21). To pray earnestly, to serve despite the cost, to worship as an act of faith, to give as an expression of loyalty, to study the Word as discipline for the soul, to become actively involved in carrying out the Great Commission – these are ways to hoist the sail, leaving the rest to the providence of Almighty God.
The Set of the Sail
One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
Which decides the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate;
As the voyage along through life;
‘Tis the will of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
~ Brother Roy