Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Catching the wind

On a recent trip to cross the Ambassador Bridge, Julie and I passed miles and miles of wind farms on highway 401 between Chatham and Windsor.  These huge towers with their 20+-metre blades catch the prevailing wind and transform it into electricity.  And in that wide-open southwestern Ontario landscape between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, the wind blows quite briskly and quite often.

Wind power is a promising form of renewable energy, but the wind can be hard to catch on a regular basis.  The best winds don’t blow at ground level.  The strongest and most consistent winds blow high up in the air, where they carry many times more energy than down below.

Because the tallest wind turbine is only about 200 metres high, harvesting this high-energy wind is a challenge.  But leave it to human ingenuity.  Sky WindPower, an Australian company, has developed a flying generator that looks like a cross between a kite and a helicopter.  The rotors lift the frame to a high altitude, and cables tether it to the ground.  The generator inside the frame catches the high-velocity wind, converts it into electricity, and sends it back down to earth through the cables.

Moral of the story:  to catch the wind, you have to be at the place where it is blowing.  Wind engineers know this.  And that was also the experience of Jesus disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2), which we shall celebrate on Sunday, June 8.  The disciples have followed the ascending Jesus’s instruction to return to Jerusalem and wait.  Suddenly the group is caught by a mighty wind—the wind of God’s Spirit—and amazing things begin to happen.  In fact, the rest of the book of Acts shows the energy produced by this Spirit/wind as the disciples radiate outward into the world with preaching, teaching, healing, confronting political authorities, and building up their own Christian community.

If we at The First Mennonite Church wish to experience the dynamic, renewing, transforming energy of the same Spirit/wind of God, how can we position ourselves to catch it?  Perhaps the attitude and activities of the disciples on the threshhold of Pentecost can be instructive for us.  Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us they were gathered together, “constantly devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14).   And then, in God’s time, the Spirit/wind came upon them.

We cannot summon or control the Spirit/wind of God.  It blows when and where it pleases.  But perhaps by gathering regularly in worship, and engaging in prayer—constant, ongoing prayer, including prayer to be open to God’s Spirit—we, too, can be in a position to catch the wind of Pentecost.


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First thoughts

What is your most memorable breakfast?

I am not a breakfast person, but even I have a memorable breakfast story.  I remember cooking bacon in Waterton National Park at a remote camping site; Eugene had gone off for a hike.  Suddenly I heard a bear growling right behind me, and I whirled around with my knife in my hand!

To find…Eugene falling on the ground laughing.  A very memorable breakfast.  That was on our honeymoon…good thing I wasn’t faster with that knife!

This Sunday we are going to be exploring the story of a famous breakfast.  It’s the story of Jesus making a barbeque breakfast on the beach for the disciples.  It’s the first breakfast he shares with them after the resurrection…as far as we know it’s the only breakfast he shares with them after the resurrection.  In fact, it’s the only breakfast with Jesus that I can think of being described in scripture!  (let me know if you can think of one!)

Why would Jesus be rustling up breakfast?  What was this meeting on the beach all about?  One thing we know for sure, it’s a breakfast the disciples never forgot.

Years ago I gave out a little book of table graces, and this week’s prayer is the shortest one from that collection (I always think of Robert Friesen when I say it, he told me it was his  favourite prayer):

For bacon, eggs, and buttered toast, 
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


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Just breathe

Have you ever been with someone who is so upset, crying so hard, that they can’t catch their breath?  Part of calming them down involves encouraging them, saying “Breathe!”  As they manage to breathe more slowly, their mind slowly calms down.

Our minds and our bodies are connected, and the breath is a signal flag that shows the state of the union.  Are we tense, excited, afraid, peaceful?  The breath is a sign that shows something is happening.

This Sunday I want to talk about the connection between breath and the spiritual life.  What does spirit mean anyway?  Are you having a hard time getting your head around the spiritual life?  Come to church on Sunday and find out how maybe your head isn’t the place to start!

 This week’s prayer:  Holy Spirit, spirit of God breathing in us, we turn our attention to you.  You give us life

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No New Year’s resolutions

People have been talking a lot about food on facebook lately.  People talking about buying food, making food, giving food, eating food.  There is lots of feasting going on, and even some guilt being expressed about eating too much, or not eating in healthy ways.  One person wrote, “It’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year’s, but what you eat between New Year’s and Christmas that really matters!”

We are entering a New Year, 2012, on the very day of our church service this year. This Sunday’s service is an opportunity to look back at 2011, and also to look forward to the New Year.  How do we want to live between New Year’s and Christmas?  How does the birth of a baby in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, affect the choices we will make this year?

Our service will not be focussed on New Year’s resolutions, “I will do this, or I will do that…”.  Instead, I hope we can focus on Jesus.  By concentrating on Jesus, and Jesus’ work in our hearts, in our world, our New Year is put into a different perspective.    It’s not by might, not by power, even by lots of personal willpower, that we are changed, it’s by God’s Spirit that we are changed.  So it makes sense to open ourselves to God’s Spirit at the beginning of this New Year.

This year’s prayer:   Open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts, open our spirits, to your presence in our lives, in our world.  Amen.

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How big is the Holy Spirit?

This past week I got around to doing a task I’ve been putting off for a long time. Nathan Scott, our website webmaster, asked me to go back over all most posts and give them “tags”. This basically means finding a couple of keywords that describe each post I’ve written . When every post is tagged, then you can add something called a “tag cloud” to the website. It shows you what subjects you have been talking about the most. The most talked about themes have the biggest font. Look to the right, and you will see our tag cloud.

It was really interesting for me to look at the tag cloud. What have I been talking about? I was glad to see that God and Jesus are pretty big, but was surprised that the Holy Spirit was so little. The Holy Spirit is central to who we are as Christians, but I guess I haven’t been blogging about that very much. Like many Mennonites, we tend to talk a lot about discipleship, and following Jesus. My Pentecostal friends probably have tag clouds with a big “Holy Spirit” and a little “Jesus”.

This Sunday is Pentecost, so what better day to talk about the Holy Spirit. How big is the Holy Spirit in your life?

A prayer for today: You are the Webmaster who sees all the subjects of our days; you know our personal tag clouds inside out. Help us to write words that describe your kingdom.


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As easy as breathing

Most of the time we don’t even think about breathing, but if you are reading this, you have never stopped doing it for any length of time!  Breathe in, breathe out.  Easy breezy.  Easy that is till something goes wrong.   My father and my mother-in-law both died of breathing related problems; seeing their struggles have made me more aware of the gift of breathing. I know a number of people in our congregation have breathing problems: cystic fibrosis, asthma, pneumonia.  Things that can take your breath away.

I want you to think about breathing because this Sunday we will be talking about the only verse in the New Testament that uses the Greek word emphysao “to breathe”, “Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.”  There are other words translated as the English word “breathe” in the New Testament, but they aren’t quite this word.  For example, when Jesus is on the cross many translations say “be breathed his last”.  But literally the Greek says “He let go of his pneuma.”  Pneuma can be breath, or spirit, or ghost.  The King James version says “He yielded up his ghost.”

That’s the Good Friday story, the story that ends with Jesus dead in a tomb.  The resurrection story begins on Easter, with Jesus emphysao…breathing.  Jesus breathes breath on the disciples; he breathes pneuma, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Breath, the Holy ghost.

So basically what we’re talking about on Sunday is about taking a deep breath! I hope that the service will be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Holy breath.

This week’s prayer:  Breathe on us breath of God!

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Healer of our every ill

Have you sat with someone who was in extreme pain? It is a riveting human experience. I remember one such time in my life. I was working at a nursing home. One of the senior women I was caring for had diabetes, and as a result she had one of her legs amputated just below the knee. This was a very hard thing in and of itself. However, the difficult fact in her life was that even though she had no right foot any more, she still felt excruciating pain in that foot. A phantom limb, hurting and hurting.

I don’t know the medical details of her condition, I only know that she was allowed morphine on a strictly regulated schedule, and as it wore off, the pain got worse and worse, and in the hour before her next dose, she would be crying in pain. I remember sitting with her as she cried. We prayed together. She lived with that pain for the rest of her life.

I think of her sometimes as I sing the hymn “Healer of our every ill”. The second verse reads, “In the pain and joy beholding how your grace is still unfolding.” I saw grace unfold in this woman’s life, the pain of her body did not change her kind and beautiful spirit.

I have to admit it was hard to take care of her. I found it so difficult to enter her room, because I felt so helpless. The hymn in verse three says, “Give us strength to love each other…Spirit of all kindness, be our guide.”

This week we will be thinking about our God in troubled times…when the trouble we face is close to home, in our own bodies. How do we meet God when our bodies are challenged by disease or chronic illness? How are we the family of God for people who suffer?

This week’s prayer: You who know each thought and feeling, teach us all your way of healing.  Spirit of compassion, fill each heart.

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