The “Wind of God”
I admit it. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to liturgy (what we do in worship) and the lectionary (the 3 year cycle of Bible readings used in church on Sunday). So, I wonder about things that most folks probably wouldn’t.
We are now in the season of Epiphany — when we read about and celebrate Jesus being shown forth to the world. “Epiphany comes from the Greek word “epiphaneia” meaning to manifest or show forth. On Saturday, at the Epiphany Celebration (see above) we will hear the story of the visit of the magi (“wisemen”) to Jesus, showing Him to the rest of the world. Then on Sunday, we remember His Baptism by John in the Jordan River. The lesson from Acts also speaks of Baptism – an obvious enough connection.
But the Old Testament lesson is Genesis 1:1-5, the very beginning of the creation story. Nice, but why would the lectionary designers pick that passage? There are seasons of the church year when the Old Testament lessons simply go through portions of the Old Testament with no concern for connections to the other lessons. Not so during Epiphany. The lessons were chosen because a connection was seen.
Then I saw it. It’s right there in the very first sentence of the Bible: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” “A wind from God.” I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I know that the word translated there as “wind” is “ruach” which is the same word used throughout the Old Testament for the “Spirit” of God — the Holy Spirit.
At Jesus’ Baptism, Mark tells us that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and would descend on us. In Acts, we are told of some Ephesians who were believers in Jesus but had not yet received the Holy Spirit and who receive the Spirit when Paul lays hands on them and prays. The Genesis lesson reminds us that this promised gift of the Holy Spirit is not something new with Jesus, but part of the work of God at the very beginning of creation.
Mark’s original Jewish readers would see this connection right away. And they would be reminded again that Jesus is not some new thing, and neither is the Holy Spirit, but this is the plan and work of God from the very beginning.
And we are promised the same gift!
This column originally appeared in the January 7, 2018 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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