304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Work Hours
Monday to Friday: 7AM - 7PM
Weekend: 10AM - 5PM

Catch the wind of the Spirit

Reflections on Acts chapter 1 and 2 by bishop Christian Alsted

“When the winds of change blow, some people build windbreaks and others build windmills.” Goes an old Chines proverb.

On the morning of Pentecost in Jerusalem, the disciples were behind closed doors, preoccupied with themselves and each other. They processed their experiences and their failures. I imagine they were talking about Jesus’ resurrection and what He meant when He said that they should wait Jerusalem until they were equipped with power from on high. They have already waited for 10 days, and none of them know how much longer they must wait. Now it has become Pentecost, the end of the Passover celebration of the Jews and a feast of God’s law the Ten Commandments. 

Suddenly the wait is over—it comes suddenly, overwhelmingly, and strongly. There is a howling of a strong wind, and it fills the entire house, tongues of fire appear on each of them, men and women (Acts 1:14-16), and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they begin to speak in other languages according to what the Spirit sets in motion in them. (Acts 2:1-13) The wind of the Spirit was blowing, and instead of building windbreaks, they began building windmills. 

At Pentecost, the Jews celebrated that they had been given the law, the Ten Commandments, and had become a people, the people of God. For the followers of Jesus, Pentecost marks that God has created a new people, which gradually came to be called the Christians. Pentecost marks the birth of the church; however, it was certainly a different church than the well-organized denominations we know today, with trained priests, forms, rituals and services, buildings and activities – and even big screens and livestreaming. 

Jesus has been the very center of their fellowship—they have followed Him, they have listened to Him, they have seen Him, they have learned from Him—now they are to be His witnesses, now they are to make disciples of men and women, baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them all that they themselves have seen and heard and learned from Him. And now He will be present with them, as the Holy Spirit—anywhere, anytime, and everywhere.  

In one day, they go from 120 to more than 3,000 people (Acts 2:41) — they become a movement that keeps growing explosively and for which the original disciples are responsible, along with a few others. The first disciples are chosen to help all the many people become followers of Jesus. It is a huge task – which quickly turns out to be even more difficult, because there is massive opposition in not least from the Jewish community and the roman authorities.  

The first Methodists had a similar experience early on New Year’s morning in 1739. They were about 60 people gathered in the so-called Fetter Lane Society they had been praying all night:

“About 3:00 in the morning, while we were praying, the power of God fell upon us so mightily that many cried out loud for joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we had recovered from the astonishing and awe-inspiring presence of God’s majesty, we broke ud in song.”  That’s how John Wesley in his diary writes about the experience. 

That experience of the Holy Spirit was seminal. Wesley had been preoccupied with his own spiritual life, now he turned his attention to others. Two months later, one of his friends and co-workers, George Whitfield, was preaching among poor coal miners in the south of England. He invited John Wesley to come and see what was going on, but Wesley had many reservations, preaching should be done under orderly conditions in the churches. In addition, he himself was preoccupied with his appearance and attire, he did not tolerate stains on his clothes.   Han was an introvert and would rather be in a library than out among ordinary people. But despite his many reservations, the Holy Spirit was at work. When Wesley saw the many people and noticed how they reacted to the message of Jesus, he realized, this is our calling, this is God’s work….

Wesley recorded his disgust at preaching in open air, yet He also realizes that God is at work.

“At 4 o’clock in the afternoon I surrendered and set about the disgusting, preaching the good news of salvation on the roads–from a small stand near the city I numbered about 3000 people. The scripture I used was: “TheSpirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

Pentecost opens our hearts and minds to new perspectives – there’s a world out there, there are people out there…

The disciples had been preoccupied with their own fellowship, they preferred safety and attending to themselves. In similar ways, churches can close in on themselves and become self-absorbed, focusing exclusively on each other and on maintaining and strengthening what they already have.  But we all know what happens to a house that has been closed down for a long time without any airing – it becomes heavy, stuffy, damp and smells bad. 

When the Spirit blows—it can be tempting to build windbreaks, crawl into hiding, and stay inside—but the early Christians and the early Methodists built windmills, they allowed themselves to be set in motion, and they were transformed by the move of the Spirit.  – We should do the same.

The Spirit fell upon them, and from that moment on they appear courageous and determined — they speak with firmness and strength—and not least with an insight that is much more than knowledge, understanding, and experience. The spirit has made the pieces fall into place. 

It is with that insight and courage Peter delivers his first sermon— along with the Holy Spirit, it made a profound impressionon those who listened. What should we do? They asked. Repent, begin to go in a new direction, be baptized, and receive forgiveness for all your wrongdoings —and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is for you and for all people. 

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the early Christians the courage to stand up for their faith, to speak loud and clear about the God who has come to us in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose—and who has now sent us the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:14 ff)

It wasn’t long before imprisonment, torture, and execution were among the consequences of speaking out about Jesus and about his kingdom. (Acts 4:1-22) But when it comes to loving all people, protecting the weak, taking care of those in need, we cannot compromise. When it comes to standing up to injustice, relentlessness, heartlessness, greed, selfishness, and self-sufficiency—we cannot remain silent.  

It is the Spirit of change, the Spirit of renewal, the Spirit of transformation that blows on the morning of Pentecost – and this is not the time to build windbreaks, now we have to build windmills and we have to build many of them. There are millions of people who must hear, see, smell and feel that Jesus the Son of God has come into the world, that He lived, died and rose from the dead – and that He unreservedly and unlimitedly loves all the people of the world. 

I, for my part, am willing to become like anyone and do anything to make sure that at least someone gets to know Him. So said Paul, filled to the brim with the Spirit. (1.Cor9:19-23) I think the same way, I am willing to do anything for the sake of the Gospel so that at least some can get to know Jesus Christ….and when the wind of the Holy Spirit blows, I want to build windmills.