Winds of Change
The Holy Spirit’s entrance on Pentecost Day, as recorded in the second chapter of Acts, occurred with the rush of a violent wind (2:2). Maybe my eyes have come to notice the word violent a little more in recent readings of that story because of my close encounter with a tornado in western Minnesota a number of years ago, but it does seem to be a significant aspect to the Pentecost story. Certainly it would have been a completely different occasion had the Holy Spirit entered the house where the disciples were staying in the manner of a gentle breeze.
Pneuma, the Greek New Testament word for spirit, can also refer to breath or wind. A wind moves things. Think of swirling snow in a blizzard, choppy waves on a lake, or a hurricane unleashing its power along a sea-coast. Sometimes a wind completely alters everything in its path. Frequently the Holy Spirit moves in such a way as well.
As those who have spent time studying Acts know, this book reports on events in the earliest days of the Christian church where the Spirit took the disciples for a ride—sometimes quite literally.
In chapter 8 we read of Philip going from Jerusalem, to the road to Gaza, and then to Azotus with breathtaking speed. Saul’s blinding conversion on the Damascus road (9:1–19a) led to his tireless missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean world for the rest of his life. Following the persecution of Stephen we read that believers scattered to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (11:19).
The Spirit’s power moved people in metaphorical ways as well. Consider the report of 3,000 people being baptized on the day of Pentecost itself (2:41). It was a time of dramatic—yes, even violent—results for those who believed in Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Dennis Bushkofsky is the pastor at United Lutheran Church in Oak Park, Ill.