What does being faithful, being spiritual, mean in the face of unhappy circumstances in life?
I must admit that for me during the past Easter season sometimes the messages and metaphors of pure light and new life clashed with the losses, disappointments and bad news that came up during the Easter season. It seemed the joy of resurrection felt incompatible with what is happening in the world today and in our lives personally. There was this disconnect, and it didn’t always feel right to shout out at the beginning of every Easter service: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
Maybe, then, this Pentecost season is a gift to us, and a help, as it shifts our attention away from the images of new life and pure light – God knows we have lots of daylight these days! We’re ready for another image to guide our imagination and encourage our spirit and faith.
What about, wind? Wind is central to the Pentecost and Creation stories from the bible.
I love it when the wind blows from the north and west. It’s the cleanest air, and the most refreshing especially after days of hot and humid weather is blown out by a storm.
These northwest winds clean away the haze, pollution, toxins and allergens, leaving the air crisp and fresh. The north winds rarely herald bad weather especially in the summer. But the wind is not just about comfort.
It’s the east wind you need to watch out for. If the wind comes from the east, you can be sure a storm is moving in.
From the scriptures, we find that the Spirit of God can blow through in ways we may not always expect, nor even prefer. What does it do? First, the wind jars us out of our comfort zones. It makes us uncomfortable.
First, the Spirit of God must “bear witness” with our own spirit, as Saint Paul puts it. Our own lives are exposed, in all truth. Some call the Spirit of God the “objective inner witness” that looks back at us with utter honesty. We might call it, simply, a wake-up call. And that is why we begin the liturgy using ancient words of confession: Lord, have mercy.
It wasn’t an easy beginning for the first disciples of Jesus. Take for example the story from Pentecost last week, of the arrival of the Holy Spirit on those apostles gathered in Jerusalem:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house…”
You can’t get away from the unsettling, inertia-disrupting character of God’s creative Spirit. In Genesis, when God created the world, when the earth was “a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep,” God’s Spirit, “a mighty wind from God” swept over the face of the waters. Notice the descriptive words: mighty, sweeping …
Then in the book of Exodus when the Hebrews escaped slavery in Egypt, in which general direction did they head? They were going East towards the Promised Land when they came up against the Red Sea in front of them.
And “The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night … and the waters were divided.” 
In order to walk that path on dry ground toward the other side, toward freedom, the Hebrews needed to push into that east headwind blowing into them at full throttle. They needed to lean into the counterforce of that harsh, persistent headwind blowing against them, likely slowing them down and making their passage more frustrating and uncomfortable, for sure.
But that unfavourable, uncomfortable wind, was at the same time the way towards their freedom and deliverance, a saving gift all along.
These scriptures remind us that God’s Spirit may not always arrive as a pleasing, warm summer night breeze or a still, small voice, a faint stirring of the heart, or a subtle and polite whisper.
Divine Spirit can also arrive with difficult, unsettling effects.
My mother tells me of a time when she was a young girl growing up in southern Poland towards the end of the Second World War, in a town not far from Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp.
As a six-year-old, my mom one afternoon was playing in her backyard, and a gentle east wind was blowing in from the direction of Auschwitz. And she recalls a strange, acrid odour wafting in with that wind, coupled with what she thought were ashes floating around everywhere.
It was only much later as an adult, my mom recalled this disturbing childhood memory, with the foul smell and ashes floating in with the wind. And she realized the horrible truth of what that wind revealed that day.
How over a million Jews at Auschwitz were gassed to death in specially-built chambers, and then their bodies burned in crematoriums with smokestacks pointing to the sky, the wind carrying and revealing the gruesome truths of this systematic, mass-murderous activity of the Nazi regime.
What did the wind blow-in on that day?
The Spirit of God—of truth however hard it might be—may not always be easy to take. The Spirit of God opens to us the difficult and challenging realities before us. The Spirit of God does not allow us to avoid nor deny the truth any longer.
So how do we align ourselves with the Divine Spirit, so that we might be witnesses to, messengers of, mouthpieces for that Spirit? Going where the Spirit sends us? Catching the wind and sailing along with that mighty wind of Divine Spirit? And in so doing, spreading more truth, justice and love in a world that so needs it?
God’s Spirit bearing witness to ours shows us whom we need to love. A sign in a church classroom read: “You cannot treat people like garbage and worship God at the same time.”
And so, we must unveil the hard truths of past and present suffering of others at the hands of the church: Jews, blacks, indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, people of colour. We must confess and dispel the implicit racism that creeps constantly into our daily discourse, a racism that swims almost unconsciously in our institutions, organizations and in our own hearts.
Holy Trinity Sunday is about celebrating a relational God. However we define trinity or seek to intellectualize about it, the bottom line is God’s identity is wrapped up in the relationship between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost and the early growth of the church was about building relationships based on the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The season after Pentecost calls the church to build and rebuild relationships of faith. That is our mission to the ends of the earth and to all nations. And doing so, we are called to pay attention to the values which determine the words we say and our behaviour with others.
At a time when the church faces critical decisions it’s important to affirm this fundamental characteristic of the church since the beginning; indeed, the beginning of time: How we relate with one another and with the world is crucial. The how reflects the why.
Some of you know I like to write and aspire to finish some novels that are in my head waiting to be written down. I was looking recently at the website of the Ottawa Writers’ Circle where they identify not merely a code of conduct but a code of values.
The rationale they provide for doing so is that “… it’s important that we all understand what is expected of members at events, offline and online.… A Code of Values outlines what [we] stand for and what we expect our members to believe in …”
Even though this particular group is primarily about writing, they are nevertheless upfront about how and why they treat each other the way they do. They are expressly an open, safe, and welcoming community, who prioritizes respect and diversity. This means, and they publicize this:
Treating people like we would like to be treated; Never saying anything about anyone you wouldn’t say to them directly; Listening with the intent to understand, and acknowledging it is important to the speaker; Learning when a behaviour is welcome and unwelcome; Not using poor social grace as an excuse to consistently make people uncomfortable; Being understanding when someone is new or shy without being forceful.
To become aware of the pitfalls is part of the learning:
But the learning and the journey ultimately brings us to compassion, even with ourselves. Because the Divine Spirit is a life-giving Spirit, bringing much needed oxygen to efforts which stir up joy and love, affirmation and encouragement in any and all places and people.
Just as that mighty Wind of Pentecost filled the entire house and the apostles’ hearts, carrying and scattering them to the ends of the earth in the name of Jesus, may that same Spirit fill, carry and send us out, to breathe new life, grace and love where we can.
 Romans 8:16
 Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008), p.74.
 Acts 2:1-2
 Genesis 1:2
 Exodus 14:21