Did you know that, in both Greek and Hebrew, the word we translate as ‘spirit’ means ‘air-in-movement’? In Hebrew, it’s the feminine ruah, or breath, which hovers over the waters of chaos in Genesis. In Greek, it’s the gender neutral pneuma which descends from heaven and fills Jesus’ disciples. You get a sense of the Greek word from the English words ‘pneumatic’ (containing air), and my ten-year-old’s favourite word: ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’, a condition seriously restricting air flow caused by the inhalation of silicate, possibly from a volcano. Phew!
Moving beyond obscure long words, air-in-movement suggests cool southerlies and hot northerlies; storms, tempests and the roaring forties; warm breezes and gently moving curtains; a soft whisper which brushes your cheek and says, You are not alone.
Like air, the Spirit is everywhere, sometimes unnoticed, sometimes making its presence felt, sometimes demanding a response. Like breathing, it sustains life. Like an afternoon breeze, it can refresh and restore. Like a hot northerly, it can make us deeply uncomfortable, spurring us to self-examination and change. And like a strong southerly, it can roar through our communities, blowing away the staleness and making us new.
So let’s pay attention to the movement of air, whether a gentle drift moving the curtains, a playful flurry swirling skirts and hair, a steady breeze singing through the electric wires, or a strong wind gathering storm clouds. Let’s hang wind chimes outside our windows, and be reminded by the sound that the Spirit blows where it wills. Let’s walk the streets on a windy day, and watch the trees tossing and turning, and wonder where the Spirit is heading tonight.
And as the tang of a salt breeze or the sound of a wind chime surprises us with the thought that the Spirit is with us, let us become more aware of, and more grateful for, its presence, its potential and its power.
PS – There was no formal reflection on Sunday. Instead, members of the congregation shared stories about times they have experienced the presence of the Spirit, and identified the qualities they look for in discerning what marks a presence as the Holy Spirit (and no other). This included a sense of clarity, comfort, gentleness, peace, or fullness; the sense of a burden shared; the sense of a loving presence in a time of great need; and the effect of bringing people together. Thank you to all who participated: sharing stories, risking vulnerability, and resting in silence as we felt the room grow heavy with love.
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