Like Fire

Like Fire

Lectionary: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Let us pray:

Dear Lord God, we pray for your Spirit. We pray that you would come among us today, that you would inspire us and bring us alive and give us understanding, and then send us out again. And so in your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Like Fire

My brother loved this movie growing up called Jason and the Argonauts. It was made in 1963 and tells the story of Jason’s quest to find the magical golden fleece and, I’m not gonna lie, I googled all that as I was writing, because the only part of the movie I still remember is one particular fight towards the end where Jason fights a group of skeletons. There’s all this running around and dramatic music and clashing swords and it’s such a great scene. The skeletons are evil, but cool evil.

Often that’s how we think of skeletons, as cool evil–or just as cute, because there’s a lot of those around, too, especially at Halloween time. My mom has the cutest skeleton with a mouse friend and a monocle and I think a waistcoat and he is just very cool.

If we let go of skeletons as cool villains or cute Halloween decorations, though, they are reminders of death, of the impermanence of life and the body.

If we turn to Ezekiel, we have this weird story. Ezekiel is called to a valley full of bones and told to prophesy to them, to speak the words that God gives him that will give the bones sinews and muscles and skin, and finally breath. When he does so, the skeletons turn into living creatures.

The Spirit gives us life and breath, fills all our dead places with newness and pulsing life, gives us breath when we have none. And that is good news!! That is what we are celebrating today on Pentecost.

But sometimes I think we reduce that down to something easy. We have life, one and done, and now we don’t need to do anything else. Guys, new life is hard. Any pregnant woman or new parent can tell you that. Any recovering addict can tell you that. I’m not saying we have to do it all ourselves, grow ourselves new muscles or virtues or whatever with only our own willpower. That’s not true at all. God is with us; God is the source of our new life. But new life is still hard. Growing hurts; stepping away from what we’ve done in the past, habits and scars and grudges, can be a gut-wrenching process. The end result may be something beautiful and alive, but man, that growth part hurts. It twinges and aches and burns. Tending to that new, tender thing is long, boring, repetitive work.

As I was preparing for this sermon, I couldn’t get a particular quote out of my head. One of my roommates had it illustrated and hanging on her wall, and in many ways I think it describes what I’m talking about. Andrea Gibson wrote:

I said to the the sun

“Tell me about the big bang”

The sun said

“it hurts to become”

Growing hurts. But through it the Spirit is with us, nurturing and guiding.

That’s why I wanted to do this craft for Pentecost. We tried to craft and draw and create pictures that say something about how we’ve experienced the Spirit. I know it’s hard to describe, hard to put into words or pictures or colors. You’re in good company: even the Scripture writers weren’t sure how to do it. In Acts the Spirit is “like the rush of a violent wind” (2:2), and came to each of them “as of fire” (2:3). They didn’t know how to describe it, either.

I don’t know about you, but as I colored and wrote, I remembered all of the ways that the Spirit has pushed me where I didn’t want to go, has burned away what I never needed and how much it hurt but also how free the other side was. I thought of everything that I’m struggling to nurture and help grow in myself, all the things that the Spirit has pointed out to me and that I hope will grow into new life.

Growing hurts. But through it the Spirit is with us, nurturing and guiding.