United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

"Wind and Flame"

Rev. Rebecca Migliore
June 9, 2109


       Wind and Flame.

All I could think about was those horrible videos coming out of California last year.  Santa Ana winds howling.  Bright bursts of orange and red and yellow and hot white.  The sound of crackling and falling; the smell of burnt everything; the way it must have permeated—your hair, your clothes, your life.

Wind and Flame. 

Was the gathered crowd was expecting that?  I know they were used to strange happenings—when Jesus was around.  I know they had had incredible encounters with the Risen Lord.  But it had been somewhat normal—talking together in a locked room, eating together at the beach, walking together to Emmaus.  And now they were in Jerusalem, as he had instructed.  Waiting for the Spirit.  (What was this Spirit?  This Advocate?  This “substitute” for Jesus—as if anything could substitute for him!)

Wind and Flame.

Think of gale force winds—of silly weather people trying to stand up against the push of air.  Think of fire rushing past, in between you, hovering over top of you, coming so close you think you might be set afire!  And then …  And then …

Wind and Flame and WORDS.

For the Wind and Flame were just the Spirit’s way of getting your attention.  Remember how when the prophet Elijah was running away from God, and Elijah hid in a cave, and God found him.   And as Elijah stood at the mouth of the cave, there was a great wind (but God wasn’t in the wind), and then there was a great earthquake (but God wasn’t in the earthquake), and then there was a great fire (but God wasn’t in the fire) and finally there was a small still voice—and THAT was God speaking to Elijah.

So maybe the assembled crowd did think they might be visited by WIND and FLAME, but this time the voice wasn’t speaking TO them.  The voice was using them to SPEAK.  For the most frightening thing about Pentecost—about being visited by the Spirit—about being open to allowing God to really talk to you—is that you must give over control. 

For Presbyterians this is a very scary proposition.  For any of us who like to plan, who like to schedule our days and our hours and our minutes, who carefully watch what we say to other people, who have learned to act one way with one group and another way with another group, who want to be the person who is leading the show—the idea that we might stop being in charge, have words come out of our mouths that we did not plan to say, do not know what those words mean, sound CRAZY, (well, that is something we try not to have happen—at least not very often).


We love Christmas—“God with us.”  We say “Alleluia” at Easter—“New Life for All.”  It’s Pentecost that we shy away from.  Because it puts us right in the path of the power of God.  Because it asks us to step into the run-away movement that is like a forest fire.  Because Pentecost requires letting go of our tight control.  Because the Spirit, the One who hovered over the waters in the beginning, the One who dove down near Jesus at baptism, the One who makes magical things happen in our physical world, that ONE is not far away “in heaven, like God the Father.”  That ONE is not somewhat understandable by being a human, like God the Son.  That ONE is movement, and action, not just holding us in a palm, not just being with us, but coming to dwell IN us.  Hooking us into the power of God—the desire for justice and freedom and peace—the steadfast, abiding love for creation—the gifts of symbol and community and ministry and grace.


Pentecost means there is no sideline.  There is no safe space.  There is no easy road.  That’s all been blown away, burned up, tossed out.  And what is left?  What is left is God’s love, God’s story, God’s words, God’s actions, through us and in us and by us.

May we, like those at the first Pentecost, be ready and willing.  May it be so.

Alleluia, Amen.