Surprising Spirit!

Pentecost came this Sunday! I have been eager for its celebration this year, but I was finding few resources in poetry and picture that captured what to me was the most intriguing and hopeful gift that the Spirit brings–the element of Surprise.

Our preacher began her sermon Sunday, and I was delighted to hear her reflect on her own disappointment and mine at the tameness and comforting words and rhythms that characterize our hymns about the Holy Spirit; as my theology professor used to say,”true, but not adequate!” What catches her eye and heart, and mine, and our imaginations, are the unexpected appearances, gyrations and actions of the Holy Spirit that sacred text describes for us–a Spirit brooding over unshaped waters, a Spirit gusting over dry bones, a Spirit shouting through a reluctant prophet, a fertile Spirit entering an open-hearted, but unlikely woman to conceive and bear a child. It is the element of surprise that is most intriguing, and in truth most daunting, about this person of the Trinity. It blows where it chooses, and one does not know where it comes from or where it is going. The Iona Community captured that wildness in their choice of a wild goose as its logo. Longtime member John Bell says of the wild goose, “You don’t know where or when it is coming, and sometimes it makes a mess.”

I am looking for sights and sounds of the wildness of the Spirit in this season. I am aware of and continue to need the showings of the Holy Spirit that are comforting, instructive and healing. I am comfortable with them in my life, the life of others, the Church and the world. But, I am hoping for heightened senses in me to discern the ways of challenge that the Spirit is bringing about. I heard about another religious institutional failure, and I wonder: is this not only the result of human frailty, but possibly God the Spirit making way for something new? I enter into a conversation about spiritual peace and serenity, and find that suddenly there is a brilliant spotlight on things gone awry that need attending and a re-direction of energy and intention. A knotty impasse that has remained unsolved for years suddenly is offered a slight reconfiguration by an unlikely person that can become the first step toward resolution and freedom.

Wild Spirit inspires energy and imagination–the dreamers, those who hope, even those who have never dared to identify their own bliss, let alone follow it. I ask myself if I am putting myself in a place where I can notice the Spirit as it comes. Is that intuition toward starting a conversation something that the Spirit is prompting? Is that night vision of someone long out memory a nudge to take a step toward connecting? Is that news story that catches my eye, even away form the headlines, a clue to my next right action for healing the world? And what am I seeing before my very eyes? Today I am attending to the changing weather, the quotidian tasks of homemaking, the people whom I encounter to help me be and do what I am called to be and do, the visitors that will arrive before nightfall. How will I know if the wings or breath of the Spirit is hidden somewhere in the ordinary coming and goings of my day? I am going to trust the sacred text that tells me that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. When my body, mind and spirit are free to move and dance, I will know the wildness and the surprise and the attendant Grace. What a gift!

Come Holy Spirit, come!

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who pens beautiful reflections on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.


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