God Was in the Wind
There once was a man who said such amazing things and did such amazing things, that people began to follow him. But they did not know who he was. So they had to ask him. Once time when they asked him he said, "I am the Light."
Each Thursday night during summer camp, the campers and staff gather for a Galilean service where we sit in the dark luminary-lit outdoor chapel and reflect on how God has spoken to us in the past week. In response we light candles attached to pie plates and float them out on the river (don't worry, we don't let them become litter). Thursday was our Staff Training week Galilean, a special time when we prepare our hearts for a summer of serving campers. I was excited (and nervous) to be preaching again, and especially excited to use the candle-lighting opening that we used throughout confirmation and often use with the youth group (in italics above). A cool breeze was blowing as I stepped in front of the staff and said the opening, but as I went to light the candle I realized that more than a breeze was blowing. It was so windy that I could not keep the Christ candle lit. So I told the staff to use their imaginations, and said a prayer that we would be able to light the candles to put on the water.
We continued with the service and staff shared how they had experienced God through the love, care, welcome and comfort of the staff community that week. God was with me as I preached the sermon. I was uncharacteristically calm as we moved into the candle-lighting part of the service, even when we discovered that not only could we not keep the candles lit, but the wind was blowing the lighter out too. So we made a quick decision to just put the candles out unlit. God only asks that we do the best with what we have, after all. The staff filed by with the candles, amused but reflective, and we put candles out one by one only to have them blown straight back to shore. As I handed my candle to the staff alumni who were there to put the candles on the water for us, I could hear the clatter of pie plates washing against river rocks. I smiled at how unpredictably faithful God is.
When I went back up to close the service I said, "God doesn't always show up the way we expect. We light candles because Christ is the light of the world who came to show us the way, but in the Bible the wind represents the Holy Spirit, who guides us and comforts us and brings God's grace into our lives. Well tonight we don't have the light, but the Holy Spirit is here!" The wind was blowing constantly against our faces, cool and strong but not overwhelming, like God's blessing being poured out on the staff. I ended with our closing that we used to extinguish the candle in confirmation.
There came a time when the Light that was in one time and one place was changed to be in all times, and all places, and even in you.