A Second Wind

On June 5, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

A Second Wind Pentecost Sunday Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins {Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.} When I was a child I was enthralled with the story of Sleeping Beauty. […]

A Second Wind
Pentecost Sunday
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

{Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.}

When I was a child I was enthralled with the story of Sleeping Beauty. Disney’s version is the one that I knew. Princess Aurora was the sleeping beauty, but the real movers and shakers in the story were some fairies: Flora, Fauna, and Meriwether. The villainess of the story was the diabolical fairy, Maleficent. The story shows that most fairies are good, but every now and then there may be one that’s a real pain.

When the Princess Aurora was born, the good fairies bless her with magical gifts.
Flora affirms that the princess will grow up to be beautiful.
Fauna decrees that she will be musically gifted.
Just as Meriwether is about to give her blessing, mean ol’ Maleficent crashes the party and lays a curse on the infant. On her 16th birthday, Maleficent predicts, the princess will prick her finger on a spinning wheel’s needle and drop dead (mwahaha). Nefarious Maleficent, content that she has ruined everything, leaves in a maniacal huff.

Flora and Fauna then tell Meriwether that it is up to her to undo Maleficent’s mischief. So Meriwether waves her wand to block the hex; she takes a deep breath and then decrees that if the princess should injure herself with a tainted needle she will only seem dead; she will, however, only be in a deep sleep and true love’s kiss will have the power to wake her. There is a chance that the princess will get a second wind, and a second chance.

Aurora is sent away to be raised in seclusion under the protection of the good fairies, but once she sneaks out, bumps into a handsome young fellow, it’s love at first sight, but the love is unrequited as Aurora has to return to her safe haven.

Sure enough, on her 16th birthday, Maleficent finds her, lures her to a spinning wheel that has a poisoned needle attached, and Aurora pricks her finger and falls into a death like slumber.

Of course, in the end, the handsome young fellow from her earlier chance encounter finds the princess, kisses her, and she returns to full and vibrant life. Maleficent then gets her comeuppance and Aurora and her beau live happily ever after.

I am 50 years old and that story is still with me. It still speaks to me. It reminds me of the power of hope. It reminds me of the power we have to offer blessings. It reminds me of the power of love. It reminds me of the possibility that not matter how terrible things seem to be, they can get better. It reminds me that even a few old fairies can change the world. And the story reminds me that fear can be defeated.

Maleficent is the powers of greed, hatred, bigotry, and selfishness.
She tries to destroy a baby, which represents the vulnerable.
But the good fairies aren’t taking that lying down. They are determined to get a second wind. Oh, weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…a second wind is on the way!

Second wind stories are found throughout our scriptures.

The prophet Ezekiel dreams about his community being depressed, defeated, exhausted, lifeless. But in his dream he speaks to the winds and asks them to come into the dry bones of his community, to renew and resurrect his community, and the winds do. His people get a second wind.

The prophet Elijah is taken into the heavens by a whirlwind. A wind takes him, and as he ascends his spirit, his energy, his enthusiasm, falls on his disciple Elisha, given him more wind in his ministry sails, giving him the power to continue in Elijah’s footsteps. The prophetic ministry will continue thanks to a second wind.

The Psalmist prayed (Psalm 51.10): …God, renew a steadfast spirit within me.
In other words, help me get my second wind.

Jesus said (Luke 11.13): If you know how to give good gifts to the ones you love, how much more will God give the holy Spirit to those who ask for it?
In other words, no matter how rough things might seem, we can ask God for a second wind.

That’s what the Pentecost story in Acts is today: it is the story of a group of frightened people getting a second wind.

Jesus has been executed. Followers of Jesus are being targeted for imprisonment, enslavement, and execution. The Roman Empire is the only super power in the world and its idea of peace is to dominate every group and country and community and bend them to the Roman imperial will.

Life is hard and scary and often dangerous. People are terrified. They feel powerless. John writes about the empire in Revelation by comparing Caesar to a beast and his army to a dragon. The Beast and his dragon are against the community of Christ, that is, they are anti-Christ.

To be in the Christ community, to be in the business of hope, healing, peace, inclusion, and the affirmation of the sacred value of all people is to be a target of the empire.

The Jesus way lifts people up but empire can only function if a bunch of people are knocked down and kept out.
The Christ community, where the first are last and the last are first, where the unlovable are loved and the untouchable are embraced and those who feel broken are told you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake…the authentic Christ community is at odds with the empire, but the empire has all the power (or so they say).

We are seemingly powerless. Our hero was executed and we call him the lamb of God. How can we stand up to a beast and his dragon when all we have is slain lamb? Things look bleak and they feel worse.

But Pentecost says: we’ve been here before.
Remember Ezekiel. His people got a second wind, and they came back to life.
Remember Elijah. He was carried away by a wind and the power that carried him away empowered the next generation of prophetic work.

The powers and principalities of domination may seem to have the upper hand today, but we’re about to get a second wind.

And so, on the day of Pentecost, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were. And they got fired up. And they were all filled with the Breath of wholeness, the holy spirit, and began to speak in new ways, communicating to people who hadn’t heard a word of hope in a long time, they started speaking words of hope as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Jesus Movement wasn’t born on the day of Pentecost, but it did get its second wind.

At Pentecost, the church remembers that they have a prophetic mission; they have a spiritual calling and spiritual gifts to keep that mission active. And so, they get their second wind and can now affirm with the prophet Isaiah (61.1): The Spirit of the Lord is on [us], anointing [us] to proclaim good news to the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for prisoners.

Is Maleficent doing her worst? Is Rome, the beast and its dragon that is against all that the Christ Community is meant to stand for, is Rome wreaking havoc? Is there a war on the poor? Is xenophobia out of control? Are transgender people being dehumanized? Are same-gender loving people having their dignity assaulted? Is the earth herself in danger? Perhaps. And maybe all we’ve got right now is a slain lamb. But if history is any indication, that and a second wind is all we need to unleash mighty currents of hope and healing in the world. And this is the good news. Amen!

© Durrell Watkins 2017

Breath of Hope,
Wind of Empowerment,
Gale of Possibilities:
Blow into our lives today.
Alleluia!
Amen.

A Second Wind

On April 3, 2016, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

A Second Wind Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Easter 2, 2016) When I was a child I was afraid of water. Once, to get me over my fear of water, my father put a floatation belt on me and carried me in a boat into a deep part of a local lake. We got in the […]

A Second Wind
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Easter 2, 2016)

When I was a child I was afraid of water. Once, to get me over my fear of water, my father put a floatation belt on me and carried me in a boat into a deep part of a local lake. We got in the water to swim, with the floatation belt, of course. But my dad had the brilliant idea to dunk me repeatedly. Of course I always floated back to the top, but I was terrified. Every time I popped up, he shoved me back under the water. I panicked. I called for help. I struggled. Afterward, when the terrifying ordeal was finished (I thought it was hours, it might have been all of 3 minutes), I was embarrassed. Fear gave way to shame. I couldn’t breathe under water, but in another sense, it felt like I couldn’t breathe freely even once I was on the boat again.

On a positive note, I did overcome my fear of water…not because of my dad’s misguided attempt at water torture, but because my mother enrolled me in swimming lessons the following year.

In John’s gospel today we see Jesus’ friends who are overwhelmed by fear and shame. Things have moved pretty quickly. Their friend and teacher had been branded a rabble rouser and he was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed as a result. They didn’t persuade him to run. They didn’t launch a rescue attempt. They didn’t know what to do, and now they are afraid that they may be on the most wanted list. Fear and shame have taken their breath away. But the writer of the story imagines Jesus helping them breathe again.

In the book of Acts, Luke imagines the spirit breathing life into the entire Jesus movement at Pentecost.

In one of the creation myths in Genesis, the world is brought to life by the movement of the wind of God, the holy breath.

But the author of John’s gospel crafts a different narrative; this story has the life of Christ being present beyond death and still able to inspire, to breathe life into people. And so the author imagines the indomitable Christ encouraging the lonely, the afraid, the embarrassed, the defeated…the Christ Life breathes new life into them. The Christ figure says to them, Receive the holy Breath, the breath of wholeness, the life that can’t be kept down.

Jesus’ friends experience their own resurrection, their own return to hope and meaning and unconquerable peace.

Let’s look at some important points the narrative makes:
1. Even though they are behind locked doors, the Christ, the word of divine encouragement, the presence of endless hope shows up in their midst anyway. The power of hope cannot be locked out.

2. Jesus’ friends are in hiding for fear of religious authorities. How many people have hid their true identities, their love, their dreams, because of fear of religious condemnation? But whereas denominationalism and oppressive theologies can try to keep people in closets of fear and shame, divine Love calls us into healing, liberation, and peace of mind.

3. The writer imagines Jesus saying what he so often said…Peace! Or as we say around here, Go to peace instead of to pieces.

4. Jesus then shows them his wounds. He doesn’t deny his pain or pretend it never happened, he shares his pain. If he has risen above his pain; so can his friends, and so can we. They weren’t brave, they weren’t clever, and those are their wounds. But Jesus shows his, has risen above his, and is saying to them, “the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.” Don’t let the past define you. Face your pain, and move on.
The Rev. Elder Freda Smith preached here a few years ago. She has a saying that is in line with Jesus showing his wounds and encouraging others to face their own and move past them. Freda says about problems in life: Find it. Face it. Fix it. Finish it. Forget it.

5. Jesus then encourages them to leave their closets of fear and shame…”As I was sent, I send you.”

6. This word of encouragement gives them their second wind…”Receive the holy breath, the breath of wholeness”…he reminds them that they are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake! Not tyranny, not oppression, not fear, not shame, not even death can change that truth. Or as the Apostle Paul said, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

The gospel lesson today is an allegory reminding us of our sacred value, our resilience, our ability to get our second wind in times of trouble. In these human words, God’s voice can be heard saying, “Receive the holy breath!”

We’ve all been knocked down, even held under by one circumstance or another, but we can get our second wind, we can get back up and start moving forward again. That is Resurrection Power and it is always available to us. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016

Today my hope is renewed.
I will go to peace instead of to pieces.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
Alleluia!
Amen.

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