In a second century writing known as the Odes of Solomon, the author compares the way a harp sounds as wind blows through its strings and the way the Spirit sweetly influences our souls as He blows through the strings of our hearts.
“As the wind passes through the lyre and the strings speak, in the same way through my inward being sounds the Spirit of the Lord, and I speak in his love” (Odes of Solomon 6:1-2).
The word for “spirit” in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament means wind, breath, and by extension, spirit. Its uses, however, are even richer than these. And this invites us to pause and consider the richness of the word for our understanding of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has always been a bit of a mysterious figure for Christians. He is the God we don’t know. We’re familiar with fathers and sons, which allows us to relate to God on these terms more easily. But what is spirit? What does it look like, sound like, smell like, feel like? Clearly, spirit is a different category by which to understand God, but it’s hard to know where to begin. In this new series, I propose we learn more of God the Spirit by meditating on the various images the Bible uses to describe Him to us. So, join me today as we see the Spirit as God’s Holy Wind, a wind that promises to blow through our hearts and produce change that is purposed and directed by God.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
- John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter”
Today, we celebrate resurrection! We pause, with laser-like attention, over the resurrection of Jesus to ponder its enduring significance and meaning. The resurrection demands to be taken with utmost seriousness. In fact, there is no Christianity (and no one can rightly be Christian) without its basis in fact and the acceptance thereof. Updike, in his Easter poem (which you should read—it’s not long), would have us accept the Gospel accounts as they appear and “walk through the door” of total conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the resurrected Son of God. To attempt any lesser belief in Jesus and Christianity, to try to embrace the man or message without the historical resurrection event, is only a “sidestepping” of Jesus’ true relevance. So, let’s “walk through the door” and celebrate that Christ is risen indeed!
Rob Bell, former evangelical pastor, once said in his famously stimulating way, “We live between the trees in a world that is drenched in God.” He was talking about the overall picture that the Bible paints of human history. The human story begins in a garden with a tree at the center (see Genesis 2). And, according to the Bible, the human story “ends” in a garden-city with a tree at the center (see Revelation 22). Therefore, all of human history, including our own lives, are lived between the trees.
What does this say, then, about the day-to-day human experience? It says that in very real ways, we live our lives in a kind of “in-between” moment. We live between God’s two trees, between the moment when He offered life and our human parents said, “No” and when He offers life again to everyone who has longingly said “Yes.” In between these offers, God has placed pointers to Himself throughout all creation. He did not leave Himself without witness. To re-use Bell’s words, we live in a God-drenched world.
Today, we’re talking about the Saturday inbetween the Friday of Jesus’ death and the Sunday of Jesus’ resurrection. This is almost a small-scale picture of human history “between the trees.” Saturday is an in-between time, a time between two great offers of life (Jesus’ offer while alive and His offer after returning to life). But what do we make of the time spent waiting, wondering, fearing, hoping, and not knowing? What do we do with the time “inbetween”? We’ll talk about that today.
Our only urging on Friday is that you live this as we must, impacted but not destroyed, dimmed but not quenched.
For your great staying power and your promise of newness, we praise you.
It is in your power and your promise that we take our stand this day. We dare trust that Friday is never the last day, so we watch for the new day of life.
Hear our prayer and be your full self toward us. Amen.
A piece from a prayer written and spoken by OT scholar Walter Brueggemann for Good Friday (Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, 160):
In the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, I’ll be preaching on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Jesus’ final days. This week, we’re on Friday, which has historically been deemed as “Good Friday.” As is evident from Brueggemann’s prayer, that Friday in history was dark and ominous. From all appearances, it was hopeless and defeating for anyone who was aligned with Jesus of Nazareth. And yet, on that most despairing of all days, “we dare trust that Friday is never the last day…” For Christians, we can only call that Friday “good” because we know what happened on the following Sunday. In today’s message, we’re looking for the glimmer of life to break through that dark, forbidding cloud of horror that characterized Good Friday to find out how and why such a day could ever be good.