Wild. Destructive. Beyond our control. This is no Spirit of Gentleness.
When the Holy Spirit shows up in Acts,
it sounds “like the rush of a violent wind,”
it appears “as of fire” dancing on heads,
it causes those gathered to all at the same time “speak in other languages,”
and it draws a large, diverse, amazed, perplexed, questioning, even sneering crowd in from the streets.
A small, quiet gathering explodes into a cacophony of sounds and a disturbance of visions and an unruly riot of people.
It’s like a wildfire, spreading fast and furious, igniting and consuming all in its unpredictable path.
We may be recoil at this representation of the Holy Spirit when right now high winds and fire are devastating communities to our north. However, wildfire is not inherently bad. It consumes the withered and weak and dead to clear the way for new growth. Following a fire, sun light is able to reach new places and the ash nourishes the soil. Some seeds will only germinate after a fire. Fire is part of the natural cycle of death and rebirth.
However, Fire becomes a problem for us when it threatens the structures we have built, what we’ve established, the things we want to maintain. This problem is only compounded and complicated by the ways we have tried to hold back and dominate the world around us. Fire is a problem for us because it reveals the terrifying truth that we are not in control.
And so, on Pentecost we may wonder:
Will the church open itself to the power of the Holy Spirit, a power, “as of fire”?
Will the church allow the clearing away of old for sake of clearing a way to new life?
Will the church receive the illuminating truth that puts us human beings our place?
If the Holy Spirit has anything to do with it, it will be, regardless of whether the church is willing or not.