In the recurring cycle of the church, this long swath of time from Pentecost until late November is called “Ordinary Time.” I can’t think of an arena of life in the United States that could be called “ordinary” right now or that is likely to become so before (and likely even after) Advent comes knocking on our door. Trying to ground myself as everything is shifting under my feet is a problem, so lately I’ve been grateful for the often-neglected third person of the Trinity—the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Whenever there’s a shakeup in Scripture; whenever the old ways are disrupted, we find the Spirit behind it, disrupting the status quo and causing what revered civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis called, “Good Trouble.”
Right out of the gate we see the Spirit of God hovering over the primordial waters in Genesis 1:2. Then in Genesis 1:3, blam! The first light erupts on the scene and then the sky and the land and the seas and the vegetation, culminating in the creation of human beings who in the next chapter are charged with caring for it all. In the Bible, everything literally begins with God’s Spirit disrupting the status quo for positive change. Good trouble.
The Spirit is all through the disruption of the Exodus, and when the prophet Isaiah describes what happens when the Spirit of God fills a person in chapter 61, it results in a call “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” Every bit of that is the Spirit empowering God’s people to shake up the solid ground for the sake of “good trouble.”
Of course at Pentecost in Acts 2, the Spirit comes like a mighty wind, breaks down the barriers of language and nation, and nothing is ordinary from that time forward. Everything changes, first for the followers of Jesus, then out to Asia Minor, and then to the rest of the world. The times were often brutal, many were beaten and killed for the “good trouble” they caused. And when the church got too comfortable and forgot its calling, the Spirit moved reformers to shake the ground yet again—a cycle familiar to anyone well-versed in Israel’s story in the Bible.
So in this time of total disruption, I have stopped looking down at the shaking ground or even up into the heavens, hoping for a miracle. Instead, I have begun to look around at what is rustling in the trees and to listen for the sound of the wind of the Spirit. I encourage you to do the same. We probably won’t know where it comes from or where it’s going, but the Bible has taught us how to distinguish God’s Spirit from others. The mighty wind from the Spirit of God causes “good trouble,” and we can all trust that when we put up our sails and catch that wind, the destination that remains now out of sight will be the place of God’s choosing.
As we begin our time together, sermons will focus on the work of God’s Spirit in causing “good trouble” in both our inner and outer lives. Who is God? Who are we? How then shall we live? Be sure to check out online worship this Sunday, August 2, as we begin that journey with a wrestling match, a limp, and a blessing at the Jabbok River.