The Day of Pentecost is sometimes thought of as the birth of the Christian church. Perhaps the most enduring image of Pentecost is that of tongues “as of fire” descending upon the disciples. It is God’s Holy Spirit that rested on each of them, and that sent them into the streets of Jerusalem to proclaim the Gospel. Which they did: fluently and in a bewildering display of languages.
There is yet another image of God’s Holy Spirit associated with Pentecost. She is like a rush of violent wind, loud and frightening, blowing through the house. Every nook and cranny is effected and the dust blown clear. It is a wind that blows fresh, the stale air removed. The Spirit is awesome and overwhelming at first, but when her work is accomplished, the change, the effect is welcomed.
A more restrained version of Pentecost is found in Chapter 20 of John's Gospel. The Risen Lord appears to the disciples. He blesses them with peace and breathes upon them. The Greek word for “breath” can also be translated as “spirit.” In John’s Gospel, not only does Jesus bless them with the Holy Spirit, he commissions them to forgive sins (to spread the Gospel). With every breath they were (we are) to breathe forgiveness.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, bound to every part of our being, gives us what we need for our mission. The Holy Spirit is closer to us than our own breath. With the breath of the Holy Spirit we are engaged in the humble work of speaking words of love and mercy.
“You mean it, don’t you?” One of the people of this parish said to me recently, “You mean it, don’t you? You mean it when you say that the Holy Spirit is in us.” I do, and a fresh wind blows.