Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome the wind

I attended Pentecost services at Shadyside Presbyterian Church this last Sunday, 5-27-07. We were in Pittsburgh visiting Darbi and attended services hoping to hear Dr. Craig Barnes who we always enjoy. He never disappoints...

Pentecost is part of the Christian liturgical year. Depending on the denomination, it may not receive that much attention. I've grown more fascinated with the idea of Pentecost through the years because it presents an image that draws diverse voices together in search of spiritual meaning. As the Bible indicates (Acts 2:2), "And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind..." Dr. Barnes described several Biblical examples of rushing and violent winds - the wind over the water that stirred the act of creation, the wind that parted the sea in order for the Israelites to pass into safety from Egypt, the wind that tore the Temple assunder after Jesus' crucifixion. In these cases, and in most of our human experiences, mighty winds are freightening but are often followed by peace and tranquility that brings new light and insight to us. This is the wind that creates, the spirit that blows into our lives most unexpectedly, and the turmoil that opens new opportunity.

The idea of the potential for Pentecost is noted in many spiritual traditions. In these various traditions, we are almost always promised that the struggle of life will bring a new, fresh, and more adequate tomorrow. Although it is hard to believe that these moments are for our own and others' good, the rushing wind, the disorienting trauma, the startling realization bring insights and opportunities we never imagined possible.

Pentecost literally is the celebration of fifty days after Easter. Two millenia ago, these fifty days were likely a period of time that allowed the disciples of Christ to become accustomed to the fact that they had witnessed an extraordinary moment in time. Yet, in order to bear witness to their own learning and transformation, they had to learn how to engage with each other across language, culture, and experience. They had to be transformed and be willing to transform the world in which they lived.

This sermon was typical of Dr. Barnes; he always stirs deeper questions in me. The conclusion of this sermon was something like, "If you seek safety, find a tomb. If you seek to live life fully, welcome the wind." What a statement of the power of spirit in our lives and what a call to leadership. The paraphrase of leadership implications could be, "If you seek safety in life, follow others who will protect you and lull you into passivity. If you seek to live fully, welcome the wind that brings creativity to life's experiences, provides the opportunity to hear the voices of others whose language you've never understood, and draws you into sharing the complexity of leadership that draws the best from all."

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