When the day of Pentecost arrived, they all met in one room. Suddenly they heard what sounded like a violent rushing wind from heaven: the noise filled the entire house in which they were sitting. Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each one. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as she enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4 Inclusive Bible)
By Helen Reed
In a time of life when their world was turned upside down, when the familiar had disappeared, when they had to acknowledge that being seen as followers of Jesus placed them in possibly more harm than being Jews in the Roman Empire, the early disciples gathered. They gathered to celebrate the Harvest, but they also came to find each other, to find a safe place, to make a plan.
We might find ourselves in a comparative situation now. Our way of living has been turned upside down, our familiar has disappeared, and now our world is also not only dealing with the invisible danger of COVID-19 but also the realization that there are many among us who are in harm’s way simply because they are who they are.
In the Inclusive Bible, the wind that blew among the faithful isn’t named as the breath of God. It is named as violent, pushy and noisy. In a place where they thought they could sit and focus, something comes and shakes up those faithful people. This was not a time to sit, but a time to be jostled around to see and be seen as the faithful in God’s world. No time to plan. Time to act.
After that jolt comes something else. Something hot, something shared, something that opened them up to the possibility of actually hearing each other with clarity even if their stories and experiences were different. Something that the wind brought in that offered opportunity to be courageous enough to tell the world how important love and justice was.
In this past few weeks the winds of change have been whipping around us. We heard a call to support a Calgary bylaw to ban conversion therapy. The call came from noisy voices, pushy people who knew change was needed. Some of us didn’t know that story, some of us didn’t understand, but persistent voices made us listen and, with faith we began to hear, we began to understand and working together faithful people made justice happen.
This week the wind comes again. This time with the noise that has accompanied oppressive violence. A black man was killed without good reason and it’s not the first time this has happened and in this story that we need to truly hear, the presence of racism and misused power has been named again. The noise and calls for justice, and pushy people is blowing us out of our safe places and shaken us again and rightfully so.
We are being asked to listen to the stories of those who are not safe, we are being asked to hear their experience. We are being asked to consider how we can make positive change in our world… and not just consider it but do it.
We cannot be complacent. We cannot hide in rooms to make plans. We know racism and discrimination is in our communities… sometimes more easily seen than others, but always felt by those who are the most vulnerable. We know people who have experienced this pain and exclusion and violence and fear.
As faithful disciples we need to be shaken by this rushing noisy wind. We need to find that passion for loving that will open us up to hear the stories and join to change the stories of discrimination and racism. We are moving into June a month that offers opportunities to hear stories that we may not know or understand. It is Nation Pride month and Indigenous History Month. Let us use our faith to open our hearts and minds to hear the stories that we haven’t heard enough of.
We have to go out into the world and be seen to be the passionate followers of the Christ who told us that we are to love ALL people. We know that loving is listening and learning and then being together to lift everyone up.
Chinook Winds Region – our name says that we are ready to be blown to be what God needs us to be. We can be a good, noisy, rushing wind engaging that shakes us out of complacency and opens us up to new ways of being. We can be the hot and passionate power that hears the stories of our neighbours and friends and moves us to create paths of justice and love.
Let us continue to work together to make this world a better place. Let this be who we are.
Helen Reed is Chinook Winds elected presiding officer and is also minister of Pioneer Pastoral Charge also known as Big Country United Churches.