The Santa Anas are blowing this week.
I grew up in West Texas, with some serious wind, but the Santa Anas drive me nuts. As a kid, I once had the brilliant idea to let the plains’ wind power me on my bike around the block. Around the block. It was a quick trip to the corner. It was a long push home.
The Santa Anas blow less like an 18 wheeler and more like a pro wrestler. They stagger through the canyons in heaves and lurches, in violent, multi-directional, mean-spirited shoves. They rattle my windows at night and my nerves all day. They have no sense of rhythm.
This morning I started the day in a room with the wind squealing in through the cracks, the front doors randomly clattering at the bolts. I was in a circle of folks who gathered to listen to each other, to be silent together, to pray and set their minds and hearts for the day ahead. Some mentioned the wind; some love it, some don’t.
I thought about the serenity of that circle and the safety of our crackling – but sturdy – structure in the face of those winds. Here is the calm in the storm, I thought. I smiled at our stillness despite Santa Ana’s erratic furies.
But, as I left, another image came to mind: A quiet group in a frightened huddle. Jesus said to wait, as the threatening storm of religious and political powers at odds with the disciples raged outside. They braced themselves, and prayed, and did what they knew to do. And then, in the time God chose, the wind began to blow. Inside.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit… (Acts 2).
The sound of this wind does not threaten, but fulfills the promise of a new age. The age of the Spirit, in which God’s people would not depend on their structures – however sturdy – their own ideas, or desires, their will for the world, or born gifts and abilities, but the powerful Spirit within and among them. The disciples emerge to a crowd bound by faith but divided by culture and language, and these followers of Jesus are suddenly, in the Spirit, able to draw this diverse mob into God’s reconciling work.
I would rather be protected from the wind; being indoors sounds like a great idea. Surely I can strengthen these rattling frames, fill in these cracks. It makes me feel secure. But the creaking reminds me that the Spirit was here long before these structures, and that the Spirit will be here long after they are gone. As Jesus said to one of Israel’s institutionally accredited teachers,
‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 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. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit’ (John 3).
Pentecost reminds me that the disciple’s life is windblown. I gather with others not to brace myself against life, but to encourage one another to weather the day ahead, drop a few things that are just resistance, adjust my own sense of rhythm to the freedom of the wind, and to let the Spirit. Mercy, that is counterintuitive.