There is a hollow aftermath, an odd silence, in the wake of a severe storm. The tyranny of a tornado brought that to small towns this week. The cruelty of water and wind wrestled majestic trees to earth, tore at rooftops and punctured walls, halved cars and trucks. Radically re-ordering the familiar in just fifteen minutes of time, that storm serged raw wounds on earth and in hearts. It created thousands of stories in that many lives; every story needs telling, and now, just past the odd silence, those stories are finding words in conversations over coffee, at cashier counters and storefronts, gas stations and gyms. The incredulity and fear, the shock and the gratitude, find format in the exchanges. Some show photos; there is nervous laughter, some anxious impatience, some sense that this was something inexplicable, the effects as incomprehensible as the storm was unexpected.
Today marks the Feast of Pentecost: the great wind and the coming of the Spirit to frightened Apostles of Jesus huddling together. Where there was fear, a wind brought the grace of resilience, of strength and trust in one another, a renewed sense of mission. Their story, narrated with almost breathless incredulity, describes a new sense of seeing one another, of seeing themselves. Their story frames the reality of change in life: the way one event, one relationship, alters everything. In some ways, it is not so different than the surge of a storm or those turning point moments that somehow comprise daily life. Unexpected and powerful, each invites the extraordinary from very ordinary persons.
Therein is the gift of Pentecost: although fraught with theological nuances, there is a certain simplicity and reality to the story. The Spirit for the apostles was an awakening of unrealized gift within them. The Spirit generated an energy none had aniticipated yet each enjoyed. The Spirit gave a sense of order to what had become incomprehensible for Jesus’ followers; anxious Apostles found the firmer ground of belief and possibility, of confidence in goodness and in one another. Somehow, Trust transcended the mysterious and pained experiences of Jesus’ death and the confusion around the stories.
Most importantly, their story was told, shared and re-told, and finally caught in the lines of Scripture. That filigreed, articulated memory bound to sentences and paragraphs so long ago can be invaluable; in so many ways, the stories are timeless mirrors even to 21st century experiences. They are reminders that in a world that feels so new and scientifically based, so much better than earlier times, that humanity still needs to know the gifts of trust, of hope and of resilience and strength. Ultimately, there is more to life than what can be seen or understood in this moment; the Spirit invited the Apostles to something else, and in the re-telling of the story, invites each of us to the more.
There is, after all, in each individual story, the capriciousness of storms and the grappling with confusion and fear. Beyond that, there is the richness of the Spirit just waiting to be seen and known and energize. Pentecost is the reminder that further possibilities exist; there is more than what can be seen….even in the wake of a storm.