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For God so loved the world

Updated: Jun 2

wild flowers inside old work boots, we are called to put ourselves in the shoes of others

Re-posted Sermon

by Pastor Joel

Holy Trinity

May 30, 2021

Isaiah 6:1-8

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-17

In Nova Scotia, my home province, the wind sets the direction of our sails, both literally and metaphorically. When you are sailing, you use the wind to your best advantage by the position of your mainsail and your jib. A good wind carries us to shore; a vanishing wind leaves us floating directionless. News comes on the wind, the saying goes, both good and bad. An old story tells of the mothers and sisters picking blueberries on the hills above Lunenburg; when a strong wind would come up, they would pray for the safe return of their husbands, brothers, and sons caught out at sea. The wind brings death – in hurricanes that sink ships and flood shores. And it brings life, by spreading nature’s bounty. It blows away the fog and brings clarity. We cannot change the wind; we can only try to adapt to its direction and harness its power.

Yet the wind is invisible; we cannot see it – we can only see the change that it brings. The waves building on th3e sea. Leaves rustling. Fog lifting.

The wind is invisible, and yet it touches everything in its path. It is a power for change.

As our gospel says: The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

Jesus is offering us a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, this aspect of God which we can never truly understand. The original text used the Greek word “pneuma” – which means either wind or Spirit. And in the gospel, Jesus seeks to differentiate the Spirit from the Flesh. The spirit exists outside our earthly needs, our human wants and desires. It cannot be contained by us or controlled; and yet we may adapt to its direction and harness its power. It lifts the fog and brings clarity. We cannot see the Spirit; we can see only the difference it makes.

Jesus is also giving us a metaphor for how we view our lives and the way we interact with our environment. We have our flesh, which includes the physical side of it: our basic needs – food, water, housing. It also includes our wants: the material items we desire, the personal recognition we seek. Our wants may get out of control, driven by greed and envy and power and selfishness. We struggle to keep those wants in check.

The Spirit, however, brings meaning and purpose to life. It’s described in our gospel as an invisible force that we can hear but never fully understand. The wind never bends one tree just like another: it touches everything in its own unique way. And when the wind changes, those same trees bend with it in an equally unique way. So it is with us – we are, each of us, uniquely bent and moved by the Spirit. And from one day to the next, how we experience the Spirit may also change.

So how do we truly hear the sound of this invisible wind of God in a way that matters? We know what happens when the wind blows too hard against a rigid thing: it doesn’t bend, it breaks. To harness the wind, we must move in its direction rather than try to change its course.

And so what Jesus is telling Nicodemus, in answer to all his questions, is that the key to harnessing the Spirit, is openness. If we think we have all the answers, we cannot bend. If we sit in judgement of others, we cannot move in the direction the wind wants to take us. If we cannot be freed up to hear the word of God, we cannot harness the power of the wind.

I think we forget this mystery of God sometimes, perhaps especially right now, when we are so focused on rules and regulations and how to get out of this pandemic. We want to know what will happen to our community, to our families, to our churches. We want to solve the problems we face – and so we have meetings and memos and emails and brainstorming sessions. And yet, where is God in all those meetings? Where is Jesus in our plotting? Where is the Spirit in our brainstorming? We so desperately want to control the future, to know the future, that we close ourselves off to the spirit. We want control, and so we don’t bend to the wind.

And yet, Jesus says, we do not know where it comes from, or where it goes. In other words, we must be patient. We must accede control. We stop plotting every point on the path. We must wait for the wind to take us where we need to go.

My wife can tell you that one of my favourite sayings is: “Everything always works out.” Much like it did for my mother, who was equally perturbed by my use of this phrase, I think it both frustrates Erin and soothes her. But it is not naïve; I am not being the fool when I say this. I have experienced and seen enough in this world to know that things do work out. Not the way I had thought. Not always the way I had planned. But I wake up one day and realize that life has set me a new course. I realize that the wind has bent and moved me, and it will be okay.

That takes faith. It takes patience. It requires that we accept a mystery that we cannot solve; a riddle we cannot answer. We just know that the wind – the Spirit - is with us. We cannot know from which direction it comes, or where it goes – although we do know who sends it. We must wait, and listen, and be open to where it may take us. Amen

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