The Winds of Change
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May 23, 2010
The Winds of Change
Open your Bible
Every Time I feel the Spirit
Acts 2:1-21 (New International Version)
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.[b]"
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17" 'In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.'[c]
Spiritual Experiences (Buss) n. 481
481. CONCERNING THE SPEECH OF SPIRITS. THAT SPIRITS RECOGNIZE EACH OTHER AND TEST THEIR QUALITY IN VARIOUS WAYS SO AS TO BE ABLE TO FORM CONSOCIATIONS WITH THEM
You will see above [nos. 207, 424, etc.], that human souls suppose themselves to be men furnished with a body. Indeed they suppose that they are clothed with garments, so that it is with difficulty that they can be plucked away from their phantasy. They also mutually converse with one another, just as in this world, for speech is only a series and composition of ideas which, with man in the body, falls into words such as those of his idiom. The pure ideas of spirits are what fall into the words with man, wherefore they all speak his language, even among themselves; it is his tongue, whether he knows this or does not know it, or whether [he speaks] in another [tongue], as it is known that the Apostles could speak in every tongue, which was from spirits [Acts ii 13]. Moreover, there is also given a communication of ideas as of words; indeed, by means of ideas alone combined together they can express more within a minute than can be expressed by the words of man in whole hours, as I know from very much experience. Meanwhile, it is evident that souls converse amongst themselves, and this in like manner as do men in this world, and I have indeed heard that in like manner they can also preach, and one teach the other.
The Winds of Change
Ah, Spring in Maine! I love watching the flower bulbs push their way through the soil to the fresh air and sunshine. Yet it is also a season to endure rain, wind, mud and cold. This year we have had many cold, windy days when a bowl of popcorn and a TV show are particularly appealing.
I have enjoyed catching up with reruns of one of my all-time favorite TV series: Joan of Arcadia. Joan is a high school student in the fictional town of Arcadia. ["Joan of Arcadia" -- a word play on "Joan of Arc."] This Joan, like the earlier one, hears God clearly. In fact, for this modern Joan, God shows up in her life regularly as an ordinary human being. Sometimes God is a handsome teen-aged boy. Other times, God is a grandmotherly woman, or an impish little girl. God is "one of us", as the theme song reminds us.
I watched an episode this week that seems to have been the start of the 2nd season. Joan strugged through a school year in which God kept appearing to her and giving her assignments to perform. Generally, the assignments made no sense, but when she follows through with them, she finds that she has helped someone in a myserious way that she could not have anticipated. As we return to the new school year, we find that Joan has spent her summer at a psychiatric camp to help her "get beyond" her need to see God. She now has a psychiatrist, who tells her that she is fine just as she is; she doesn't need need to imagine visits from God to feel complete. So, Joan is determined to ignore the people and messages that appear in her life.
Joan prepares to go to a wild teen-aged party with no adult chaperones. Of course, God shows up with a warning. God-as-handsome-male teenager shows up to say, "Keep your eyes opten." Joan ignores the advice, and pays no attention to a good friend guzzling a bottle of hard liquor. The friend passes out and is rushed to the hospital. Joan is overcome with guilt that she hadn't stopped her friend from drinking so much. Joan's God always appears to her as the type of person she most needs at a given point in time. The guilt-ridden Joan encounters God-as-grandmother, who holds Joan close to comfort her. Joan with the fear that her friend will die; then with relief when learning that she will live. She realizes that these messages from God are not the imagination of a neurotic unconscious self. They are real gems of wisdom that allow Joan to be of help to others. She realizes that such messages can be a burden, and sobs with her fear of getting a message wrong, and hurting someone rather than helping. There are no good words to alleviate such a fear. A hug is the most reassuring response.
God always sends Joan exactly the type of messenger she needs, with the message that is just right for that moment. For us, too, God appears with whatever image, words, or language we need in a given moment. This reality is celebrated today in many Christian churches as "Pentocost."
It has been 50 days since the Passover. This is the 7th Sunday of Easter; sometimes called Whitsunday or White Sunday. It is honored as the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. Swedenborgian Christians usually put more emphasis on June 19th -- New Church Day. However, this a good day to remember how God's spirit flows into us, helping us to become more deeply spiritual, in whatever language we can best understand.
Swedenborg’s view of Holy Spirit is different from most mainline Christianity. Swedenborg rejects the traditional concept of “trinity” because God is one essence … not three. The Lord is the one Divine being, who has three aspects:
When one enters heaven – the 3rd day after death, one is taught “that the Holy Spirit is not a separate God: the Word uses the phrase to mean the divine action that radiates from the one omnipresent God. [TC, #138].
He points out that The Holy Spirit is the divine truth and also the divine action and effect that radiate from the one God, in whom the Divine Trinity exists: the Lord God the Savior.
He goes on to clarify that The Holy Spirit was not in existence before the glorification. However, in John 20:22, when Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection, “He breathed on his disciples and said “receive the Holy Spirit.” [TC, 140]. He then says that this is “because breathing on someone is an outward representation of divine inspiration.”
In a number of places, Swedenborg talks of “wind” as a correspondence for spirit in general.
John 3:8, and consequently, the spirits present with me at this day, many and most of the times have come with a wind, which stroked my face, indeed even moved the flame of the candle, papers, (the wind was cold,) and this very often when I was raising my right arm. This surprised me, and I do not yet know the reason for it. [SE 479].
We often think of "wind" as blowing us new awareness for new directions. "Wind" can be like God's constant inflow of Love; sometimes coming into us like a gentle breeze; sometimes like a rushing wind. At Pentecost, Spirit came as a rushing wind. Yet it is, amazingly, a wind that speaks to each of us in our own language. Swedenborg wrote in Spiritual Diary [#1305]:
"The ideas of spirits fall into the words of every language, so that if it were granted spirits of the same idea or speech to inflow into diverse persons of dissimilar language, then all those persons would perceive him to speak in their own language or their own idiom, although the spirit spoke in one way only."
Enjoy some time out-of-doors this week, if you can. Take the time to listen for Spirit's messages in the breezes and winds -- or in the birds or the sunshine. Let God's message flow into you in whatever way you can best hear it in a given moment.