“The Wind blows wherever it pleases,
You hear its sound but you cannot tell
Where it has come from or where it is going”
As I write this I am sitting on my patio listening to the sound of the wind blowing through the Gum trees around my house. The sound varies with the strength of the wind’s blowing and the variations in its direction. As I do so I am caused to muse on Jesus use of the Wind-Spirit analogy in John 3:8, knowing that in the original New Testament language ‘Wind’ and ‘Spirit’ are the same word.
As I reflect, I am reminded of God’s sovereignty and that the direction of the Christian life is to be that in which the ‘Wind’ of God, the Spirit wishes to blow them. “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”, said Jesus, and so I am caused to reflect as to whether I am allowing the wind of the Spirit to catch the sails of my life and navigate me in the direction He wishes to go. How much am I actually trying to set my own course? Thinking about this reminds me of a story that I keep coming back to because I think it relates to the question as to whether our lives, and importantly the life of our churches are Spirit driven or self driven?
The story is about an Aboriginal tribe that lived on the banks of a mighty river.
“For many generations, the river gave life to the community, but over a period of time the river slowly began to cease to flow, eventually becoming no more than a series of stagnant billabongs. Along the banks of the disappearing source of life the people watched with dismay; asking ‘what was going on here?’ While most continued to sit by the dried-up river, waiting for the river to flow once more, a few began to look further afield and discovered that the river was not actually gone, it had simply changed course upstream and was flowing elsewhere.”
I do not know the origin of this story, but it functions well as a parable about the state of many individual Christians and churches which are like those sitting by the dried-up river bed waiting for the river to return.
That we are a Christian (born again) at all is the result of the activity of the Spirit (again John 3:3-8). The church itself owes its very existence to the coming, flowing, blessing and empowering of the Holy Spirit the ‘Wind of God, as we learn in Acts (2:1-4), or to change the metaphor, to the ‘River of the water of life’ flowing from the presence of God Himself (as we see in the book of Revelation 22:1,2). It seems however that today the river of the Spirit is not flowing and giving life to traditional model Australian (western) churches, and I ponder as to how much that is due to us trying to channel the Spirit in the direction we desire?
As I listen to the wind rustling the Gum trees, I wonder why might this be? Is the reason for the lack of power in so many Christian lives and churches because of a failure to realise the ‘crazy’ reality that the Christendom ‘Village’ is shattered and its inhabitants have changed their spiritual-cultural address and now dwell in universes parallel to but alien to the one for which our model of church was designed and in which we cling to in comfort?
If the church is to regain its missional vitality and fruitfulness could it be that we as individuals need to stop sitting on the old dried up river bank, clinging to a desire for the return of the ‘Old ways’ of doing church and mission? Do we not need in trusting faith to allow the Wind of God, the Holy Spirit to take us where He is ‘pleased to blow’, into alien worlds peopled by the legions of those who face an eternity with out God? Do we not need to allow the Wind of God to bear us up as on Eagles wings in order for us to see new Spirit-empowered life and fruit in our lives, and in the mission of our churches.