As With the Wind, So With the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a little like the sun. We can’t look directly at it, at least not without hurting our eyes. There’s yet a further complication with seeing the Holy Spirit directly. Dorothy Sayers says, “We cannot really look at the movement of the Spirit, just because It is the Power by which we do the looking.”

Given these limitations, how do we see the Holy Spirit? By the Spirit’s effects. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

As with the wind, so with the Spirit. The wind moves trees. The Spirit moves people.

One such Spirit-moved man is St. Luke. He’s a very special Spirit-moved man. He, moved by the Spirit, comes to life in Christ and ministers alongside St. Paul. Demonstrating the effects of Holy Spirit St. Luke writes Luke-Acts. By the Spirit he chronicles, praises, and gospels the gospel. What a fitting surprise of providence: a Gentile, inspired by the Holy Spirit of Israel’s prophets, tells the story of the fulfillment of Israel’s story. And he tells it as a member of Abraham’s family of faith.

As with the wind, so with the Spirit. The wind moves trees. The Spirit moves people.

Brittle tress moved by the wind often break. Supple trees moved by the wind dance and shout their leafy halleluiahs. So with people. The brittle, stiff-necked, and resistant can be broken by the strong wind of the Spirit. The pliant respond in varied, trusting, and obedient constancy: patient endurance, to use a New Testament phrase. The effect of the Spirit becomes the worshipful reigning of the royal priesthood.

As with the wind, so with the Spirit. The wind moves trees. The Spirit moves people and makes them Church.

Growing up Southern Baptist, I didn’t know what liturgy was. We had a liturgy of sorts, a general order of service that was repeated weekly: a call to worship preceded by the choir entrance and the entrance of the pastors. They even sat in the same seats every week. It was high church Baptist. And at the end of the service there was one, formal liturgical element.

To conclude each service we spoke what we called the affirmation of faith. The minister of music eventually put it to music. After that we sang it. Saying it and singing it Sunday by Sunday I learned to mean it. I learned to count on it without even thinking about it. It forms part of my vision for what it means to be caught up in Church.

Because you belong to Christ, you are akin to me.

One in the bonds unbreakable, wrought for eternity.

Spirit with spirit joined, who can the ties undo?

Binding the Christ in my heart with the Christ in you.

As a young boy, I never knew what “akin” meant. And “wrought” seemed a heavy, mysterious word. I now know what those words mean. But more is needed than lexical awareness. They speak of a life. A life united with Christ and in Christ. A life animated and moved by the Holy Spirit of God.

As with the wind, so with the Spirit. The wind moves trees. The Spirit moves people and makes them Church.

If the Spirit is moving, making Church out of me and others, then we are an effect and not a cause. An effect does not control its cause. And in our case, the case of the Spirit making people Church, the effect may be one way we can see what can’t be seen directly.

“Just as God the Father is revealed ‘through the things that are made,’ i.e. through the creation, so God the Holy Spirit is revealed through the Church, i.e. through the new creation” (J.G. Davies, TheSpirit, The Church, and The Sacraments, 2).

Of this great mystery there is no end of telling. It will take eternity to sing the praises of him who called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Yet that eternity of praise begins now as we say and live, “Because you belong to Christ, you are akin to me.”

[Image by Luca Masters, CC via Flickr]