On the recent Pentecost Sunday at our church, I thought again about the people who experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We read “Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2.4).
Recently on a very windy day I was sitting under the oaks at the back area near our church. There are half a dozen large oaks and when the wind blows through them it makes a loud noise. If you are unfortunate enough, like me, to have hearing aids, you probably don’t want to wear them when the Texas wind blows. But with or without hearing aids, a Texas wind blowing through giant oaks might cause you to think, as I did, about Pentecost.
The sun was shining, and it was hot, but there was no “tongue of fire” that settled on my head. That would have really made me run for the bushes—and I might have started a forest fire! Can you imagine what those believers thought when the flames settled on their heads? The next event was stranger still: “they began to talk in other languages, as the Lord enabled them to speak” (2.4). That would make a lot of noise and it is not surprising that a large crowd gathered. Fortunately, Peter told them what was going on and “with a loud voice” (maybe the wind was still blowing) he recited what the prophet Joel had foretold about the coming of the Holy Spirit.
We lived in the Southern and Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and we experienced severe storms—lots of wind and rain. A few times I was out on a trail somewhere when the storm hit, and “hit” is a word that describes it well. When that happens, the trail gets very muddy and slippery, and you can easily fall down. You need to be prepared, wearing the right kind of gear and stay in the dry and out of the wind when you can.
I don’t think many of the people were prepared for what happened that Pentecost day. It happened suddenly and, when the Galileans all began to speak languages that were not their native tongues the people became “Alarmed and confused, they kept asking each other, ‘What does this mean’”
I was just as confused when I heard Kewa for the first time, or other languages that I did not know. I can also remember how confused some Kewa people, strangers, were when they heard me speaking to them in their own language. Here I was, a white man, who normally spoke only English or Tok Pisin, and I spoke their language and they understood me.
Nicodemus went to ask Jesus about the miracles he did--God must be helping him. He was further perplexed when Jesus told him he must born again and illustrated the concept with this example: “The wind blows wherever it wishes, you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.8).
The Holy Spirit does not usually come to us like a mighty wind, and He may not come in the driving rain. Lyrics from the song “There shall be showers of blessing” tell us that the showers will be in seasons, refreshing and full of blessing. Yes, “Mercy drops 'round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” And when that happens, we are refreshed: “showers of blessing, precious reviving again. Over the hills and the valleys sound of abundance of rain.”
Living in a village in the Southern Highlands, I loved to hear the sound of rain, whether high up on the hills near the mountain behind our house, or on the grass roof above my head. It reminded me that the Holy Spirit was washing me with his blessing. It could be soft, or it could be sudden. It could be gentle, or it could be noisy. It was up to God. He had given me his Holy Spirit, but sometimes I needed the storm to wake me up and listen.
Just as at creation when God formed a man and breathed “the breath of life into him” so, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20. 22). Air, wind, breath, all representing the power and life of the Holly Spirit.
We don’t want to “chase after the wind,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it when he described actions that are meaningless. We want to remember how Jesus calmed a storm and that “lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding” (Psalm 148.8).
What a wonderful gift: the power and presence of God in the Holy Spirit!