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written by Constance Morgenstern

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At Pentecost

The main Bible reference for this song is the account of the “first” Pentecost in Acts 2.

Now this wasn’t really the first Pentecost, because Pentecost (or, the Feast of Weeks) was already a longstanding Jewish festival for celebrating the wheat harvest and bringing offerings from it.  (Lev. 23:15-21, Deut. 16:9-12)  The celebration of this festival explains why Jews “from every nation under heaven” were gathered at the time in Jerusalem.

The small group of Jesus’ disciples was also in Jerusalem because the resurrected Christ had told them to remain there until they received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:4-5).

Picture it: Suddenly, around the disciples, the house is filled with sound like a mighty wind, and things like tongues of fire separate and come to rest on each disciple.  Then, the disciples begin speaking in diverse languages to the collection of Jews in the city, beyond their own ways of speaking from Galilee.  Finally, the disciple Peter preaches about Christ so powerfully that 3,000 people come to believe and be baptized.  Christians see this as the beginning of the church, but Peter sees it also as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that God would someday pour the Holy Spirit into people.  (Isaiah 32:15, 59:21; Ezekiel 36:27, 39:29)

Of course, the Holy Spirit isn’t easy to describe, but Bible images listed in the study for “How Simple is the Washing” can help.  Those images portray the Spirit as abundant, life-giving, sustaining, and productive.

The imagery of Acts 2 reinforces that the Spirit is also powerful, purposeful, and comes to dwell with individuals.  In the Old Testament, when the Spirit of God came upon someone, they did amazing things—as in the case of mighty Samson defeating a young lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:5-6).

My detailed study Bible lists references for many things the Holy Spirit does, but I’d like to make this article more personal. Since I don’t come from a tradition where people talk much about the Spirit, maybe this can start some conversation.

Here’s what I believe the Holy Spirit does:

I hate to start by mentioning cartoons, but in the cartoons I saw growing up, the main character often had a small angel on one shoulder and a small demon on the other.  The angel would whisper worthy suggestions into one ear, while the demon talked up temptations at the other.  That the Holy Spirit, via our consciences, tries to lead us to good actions, and convicts us of selfish ones, seems apparent to many people besides me.

Sometimes, those little “angel voices” arrive as Bible passages which come to mind—like showing our love for Christ by feeding “his sheep” (John 21).  Jesus described this guidance in John 14:26 when he told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them and remind them of things he had taught. 

When a person, alone or in a group, does lectio divina (a prayerful, listening style of Bible reading), it seems that certain passages stand out.  It’s almost as if the words are printed in bold on the page, even though they physically aren’t.  The Holy Spirit seems to emphasize things we—at that time and place—need to hear.

When I sin and need to ask forgiveness, the Holy Spirit mentions that, too, prompting me to try to make things right again (John 16:8).

In John 16:13, Jesus makes the interesting claim that the Spirit will tell what is yet to come.  I don’t see this in a fortune-telling sense, but can remember times when a sort of advance knowledge nudged me toward one path of action, which later was validated.

That the Spirit provides us with words for witness is also a promise (Acts 1:8, Luke 12:11-12).  I’m learning to always pray before teaching my Sunday school class—rather than just when I feel under-prepared—because when I pray, more amazing things happen, as the Holy Spirit works through us to point to Christ and Truth (John 15:26).

Speaking of prayer, I’ve also come to experience the meaning of Romans 8:26. This verse describes how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we have prayer needs we can’t even express.  On one subject lately—despite my work as a writer—my prayer has largely been a deep, wordless sigh.  And God receives the message.

Perhaps you know that writers rework and polish their words.  We get feedback to see if people are hearing what we mean to say.  On Verse 3 of this song, I have two “finalist” first lines.  My favorite version—though it might not be the one you use—is “Now Fresh’ning Wind, you bring Love’s oxygen.”   (I used to study chemistry, so using the word “oxygen” is as natural as, well, breathing.)

In either version, I like the idea of the Spirit as a freshening wind.  Weather forecasters sometimes tell about weather inversions, where masses of stagnant air sit on a city for too long, collecting so much pollution that health warnings are issued.  The Spirit feels like the new wind which finally arrives to clear out the accumulation of contaminants.

When my personal spirit feels tainted from the build-up of pollution, the Spirit does seem to whisk in some clean air. 

So often, for me, this comes as “the Daily Blessing.”  As a writer, I am gratefully fed when good ideas come.  Every morning, after waking, I spend some quiet time thinking about goals for the day, or I pray for people who face challenges.  I also, however, just listen for ideas, answers, and new understandings.  These ideas feel like gifts. 

I am not the only writer to feel this way.  Secular writers might credit the gift of ideas to their “Muse.”  Others think ideas are a gift of God, whether through the Holy Spirit, or because God designed us as creative in the first place.

Now I suppose that just about any occupation gives people specific reasons to see and thank God.  Farmers might give thanks for the miracle of plant growth or a well-timed rain.  For me, the Daily Blessing of ideas is a nourishment of Love.  It is a refilling—“Love’s oxygen.”  The joy of it extends as I become a more cheerful giver to others.

I think we give to others out of obedience, or, because we feel God has been abundant.  While I think the Holy Spirit inspires giving both ways, giving out of thankful generosity is more fun. 

The Spirit doesn’t just motivate individuals, though, to exceed their abilities or natural preference for self.  Just as the Spirit empowers individuals, the Holy Spirit can work in congregations—making them more than the sum of their members’ talents and gifts.  Creativity applies to congregations, too, as they find new ways to minister or to understand Christ’s teachings.  Because the fire-like tongues were seen to divide and land on everyone at Pentecost, we can actually picture our Christian kinship and common leading as we work together in Christ’s Church around the world.

Thank you, Spirit.  Fill us.


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