Time for the dust within to be kicked up
By Donna Frischknecht Jackson | Presbyterians Today
I stared out of the kitchen window watching a late spring thunderstorm roll in and kick up the dried leaves yet to be cleaned out of my garden beds. I was enchanted with how the wind seemed to be choreographing the leaves in a frenzied, yet freeing, dance with Mother Nature. As I watched, I prayed — deeply and urgently — asking for the Holy Spirit to be in my life like the wind outside: “Rushing wind blow through this temple, blowing out the dust within, come and breathe your breath upon me.” If the words to my prayer sound familiar, it’s because they are from Keith Green’s song, “Rushing Wind.”
Before I started seminary, a boyfriend dropped off a box of cassette tapes filled with Green’s music. He didn’t want them anymore, stating they were from his more “evangelical” days. Green was a contemporary Christian musician in the ‘70s whose earthly life was ended in 1982 by a plane crash. I not only embraced the box of cassette tapes, but also Green’s witness of faith and trust. So powerful was the message in “Rushing Wind” as it asked for the Spirit to not only blow the dust within, but to help me surrender and “take me where you want to go,” that I had it sung during my ordination service.
Even at the start of my call to ministry, I knew I never wanted to be trapped in the parish doldrums: those windless waters of maintaining the status quo and pleasing those in the pews rather than pleasing God. Windless waters might sound safe, but let’s recall the fear that sailors of old felt when they were in a doldrum. They knew if the wind didn’t start blowing and set them sailing soon, death would be certain.
As I watched the leaves dance outside my window, I realized I was in need of my own rush of fresh wind. I was tired, which wasn’t unusual as a year of ministering in a pandemic has had all of us stretching to new heights and plummeting to new lows. But what I didn’t expect was how the incessant barrage of challenges and changes had kicked up the dust of memories about why I answered the call to ministry. I wasn’t alone. A long overdue phone call with a friend revealed that she, too, was questioning if she is living her call authentically. We joked about when we get to the pearly gates if God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” or ask us, “What happened?”
Soon after that phone call, I began noticing my Facebook feed had at least one announcement per day of a minister leaving their current call for another church, nonparish ministry or to start their own worshiping community. My tax preparer, whose client roster includes clergy from all different denominations, confirmed my growing suspicion: The Holy Spirit wind is blowing, leading many to reconnect with what called them originally to ministry. I began wondering if the pandemic has been a time of deep soul-searching and, ultimately, personal growth. And, if so, how many congregations and pastors, grappling with so many challenges and tough decisions, have grown together? How many more have grown apart?
The pandemic is not just a health crisis. It is a political crisis, raising issues beyond when and how to worship in person again. It has asked the body of Christ to reclaim its prophetic voice. It has revealed that mission is more than just dropping a can of soup in the church’s food pantry basket. It has shown us the inequalities within our own communities: those without internet access for their children to learn, those without proper health care and those attacked and killed because of skin color or gender identity.
The pandemic has also revealed the tension between those in the church who want to sail and those who prefer the doldrums. Some people have caught a vision of the “new” thing God is doing. Others have simply chosen to ride out the new thing and are reverting back to what is familiar. I have seen this in my own church as the familiar elements of worship are creeping quickly back into our Sunday services. More music and singing are edging out that beautiful quiet time the pandemic has gifted to us. I do think it is harder now to lead a congregation than it was at the start of the pandemic, because now the struggle of committing to living into the new ways God has shown us begins. And it is a struggle because we are entering this phase still worn-out from the pandemic itself.
The Holy Spirit wind is blowing and picking up velocity. There is nothing to fear, though. The wind might be frenzied, but it is freeing! And the dance the Spirit wind is choreographing in life is indeed enchanting.
Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today.
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Categories: Presbyterians Today
Tags: holy spirit, pandemic
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