Hitting the mark
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3.8
Reading his sermons offers a glimpse of what earned JS Stewart the accolade of being the most powerful preacher of his generation. Taking that which Robin Barbour reprints in his 'Nutshell' biography as an example...
JS begins by setting the scene of Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 3. Such is his atmospheric description that we soon feel we are there, standing near the two men, hearing the sound of the desert wind rustling the leaves above. And then he considers Jesus' response to Nicodemus' perplexity about the activity of the Holy Spirit, phrase by phrase.
"The Spirit blows..." God has always been at work in the world, sometimes dramatically in miracles and acts of judgment, often quietly, imperceptibly. But always at work, holding creation together and bringing it around to redemption and the new order.
"... wherever it pleases..." No one can contain or control God; he is sovereign. People may try, even institutions like the churches with all our habits and traditions. But God eludes them all - and us - and frustrates our presumptuousness.
".... and you hear the sound of it..." The evidence is all around - but are we listening? Pay attention, look behind the clamour and daily grind that dulls the senses and their is the glorious sight of God, working in the lives of individuals and sometimes whole communities.
"but you cannot tell where it comes from..." As there is mystery in the physical wind, though science does its best to plumb that mystery with its observations and theories, so in the meta-physical sphere. As the singer once sang, sometimes its best to "let the mystery be" - not in a lazy sense but in order to travel with it, rather than resist or oppose it, especially when the mystery is of God.
"... nor where it is going." As we cannot control God, nor can we limit his potential, working in our lives and the life of the Church. Never give up because we really do not know the end from the beginning. And when our future is wrapped up in the Resurrected One, who promises to fill us with the same power with which he was raised from physical death to eternal life, anything becomes possible..
Gripping stuff and a thrilling illustration of what God does with those who put their gifts at his disposal. Our turn?