I was walking in one of my favorite places just now when I saw this wooden chapel birdhouse. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it. In fact, I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of it over the years, in every time and season. Sometimes the leaves are green and full as they are today. Sometimes the trees are ablaze with fall color, or bare. I’ve taken pictures here with snow on the ground and ice in the pond, with the fountain running, spurting, or with colored lights all around. I’ve taken pictures here in rainstorms, on sunny days, and with the wind gusting as it is right now. This is a holy and thin place for me, with deep meaning I can’t completely express, no matter how hard I try.
I’m writing these words on a bench close by, with thumbs, on my phone instead of a laptop. I’m rushing to get these words out because they are so timely and so important and they’re for you. Today.
They’re for you, the Church, as we prepare for Pentecost. This is no ordinary season and it’s no ordinary year, and I believe it’s no accident that NOW is when the church is beginning to open after a long closed season. Timing is important in the scriptures and in the way of God, and we are supposed to pay attention.
At the first Pentecost, the early church wasn’t even a church yet. They were a ragtag group of men and women, largely uneducated and aimless. They were deflated, afraid, and they had no idea what was going to happen next. They knew the world they would re-enter after this time apart would never be the same, but they didn’t have any idea what that would look like.
They weren’t clergy. They weren’t priests. No one from any organized structure at the time gave them any authority whatsoever, not from the government nor from the religious authorities. They were on their own, without a plan or a mandate, unorganized and afraid for their lives.
Jesus busted through the locked doors of the Upper Room and reminded them just who He was and what that meant for them. And then He sent His Holy Spirit which gave them untold wisdom, strength, and clarity, and which completely transformed this disorganized bunch into the early church which then completely transformed the world forever. From one small group of people from one small corner of one part of the world til now, the Holy Spirit has been at work, making the presence of God known and felt through ordinary people like you and me.
When I saw this birdhouse today, I noticed the supports below were becoming a little shaky and hollowed-out. This little church has withstood a lot of wind and rain and snow and sun, and it’s teetering there, though still standing, for now. And I might be worried for it, this church that I’ve watched for all these years and which is so close to my heart, if I relied only on logic and the many ways in which this church might one day fall from its present height. I might be worried if I relied on a person or people to come and shore it up. I might have walked away today discouraged at the inevitable loss, if it weren’t for the wind and the green.
As I stood there looking up at the little church, I felt an enormous gust of wind blowing all around me. And it may have been enough to dislodge the little chapel from the tree, truly, but I knew it had come to me as a messenger, because I noticed there in the hollow of the tree a tiny green bit of growth, coming out of the rotten bough, reaching for the sun. And I stood there amazed, just astonished at the Providence of God.
As we come to Pentecost, we may well be on the precipice of seeing structures we love begin to fall, but please remember, you are the church. You’re the Body of Christ and you don’t need any authority or education for God to use you and move you forward and change this world for the better. You need simply to open and welcome the wind and light and fire of the Holy Spirit and let Him steer you forward. He is growing something green in the hollow of a rotted tree. He is working in the lives of ordinary people who are open to His holy power. And I know it as I sit typing these words on my phone with the wind swirling all around me in this thin and holy place: He is making all things new. He’s doing it right now, so get ready. Open your beautiful heart to what’s next.
I’m praying for you with love right now on the bench: come, Holy Spirit.