by Bill Carroll
WIND and FIRE. Powerful, elemental, and dangerous. That’s how the Holy Spirit is pictured in Scripture. The Holy Spirit is not for the faint of heart. Our God, says the letter to the Hebrews, is a consuming fire.
And yet, like the burning bush, we are set on fire, but not consumed. The Holy Spirit purifies us, and burns away, bit by bit, all that’s dying and corrupt in our lives. But we are left standing, tried by fire, in all our God-given goodness and beauty.
The Spirit is like a periodic forest fire. It clears out the brush and undergrowth–even some of the trees. But the forest itself is made stronger and more healthy by its cleansing flame. In the Spirit, we die with Christ. In the Spirit, we are reborn with him. In the Spirit, we come to share his mission.
When the Spirit comes into our lives, we are transformed. Plans are disrupted and priorities changed. With a mighty rush of wind, we are sent off on an adventure. We become characters in a plot of someone else’s devising. We find ourselves far from home in a strange, new world. Much that we used to take for granted is gone. And yet, everything becomes new and vibrant and alive.
When the Spirit falls upon us, the freedom and joy of Easter become real here and now. They become the defining characteristics of our lives. The ways of sin and death lose their flavor by comparison. And so, we can no longer be complacent and satisfied. We can no longer accept a world in which people go hungry or homeless. Nor can we accept one in which people are excluded, ignored, or mistreated. We refuse to be ruled by violence or fear. Nor do we give in to isolation or despair.
We have left the House of Bondage for the Promised Land. We have tasted the Lord’s own goodness and freedom. And so, nothing else will do. In the words of that old Gospel song, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.”
As the disciples gather in the Upper Room, there’s a rush of mighty wind, and fire falls from heaven, filling them God’s love and power and equipping them to bear witness to Jesus alive.
God has poured his own Spirit of love into our hearts. That Spirit burns among us as a gathered community and makes each one of us a friend and disciple of Jesus. In the power of the Spirit, we become his agents and ambassadors—with full authority to serve others in his Name. He has called us to share in his work and continue his mission.
And so, in the Name of Jesus, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We house the homeless and work to create a better world. We share his story, live it out, and show others his ways. We forgive each other, and we strive for justice and peace.
Because God’s own Spirit is burning in our hearts – leading us into the fullness of Christ.
The Rev. Canon Bill Carroll serves as Canon for Clergy Transitions and Congregational Life in the Diocese of Oklahoma. He has served as a parish priest in Oklahoma, as a parish priest and college chaplain in Southern Ohio, and as a member of a seminary faculty. In 2005, he earned his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
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