“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” (Acts 2:3 NRSV)
Prayers for those affected by the wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Pray for those who have lost their homes and all their possessions. Prayers for those whose work is affected. And of course prayers for those who are fighting the fires.
It’s hard for me to get my mind around what it would be like to live in an area with a wild-fire. We don’t have a lot of those in Ohio, certainly not in the size and devastation of the one in Alberta. We have Tornados. They are horrible. Bu they are quick. Wild-fires are different. They can move with terrible speed or at a slowed pace. You can see them coming, which I guess can be a blessing if you have time to get away from them. But they also bring with them the heat and smoke. You have time to fear. And they spare nothing. What they touch they burn.
There are, however, some benefits to a fire in a forest. There are times when a part of a forest needs to be burnt away so something else can grow. It gives space for new life in the forest as well. There are times, when the fires will be intentionally set in order for this to happen. This is done by what we call a controlled burn. Those in charge have mechanisms set up so the fire will be , well, controlled. They compartmentalize it so it burns exactly what needs to be burned away and nothing more.
Controlled burns are so beneficial they are often used to fight an out of control wildfire. Areas are set on fire to remove the fuel from the forest fire itself. when the wildfire has nothing to burn, the fire will slow down, and hopefully be put out.
This past Sunday we celebrated Pentecost. Symbolized of course, not only by a dove, but by fire. I like the symbol of fire to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Because that’s what the Holy Spirit does, when it comes upon us it comes like a fire. It brings light to illumine our sin and light a path for us to follow in life. It causes our hearts to be strangely warmed”. It burns away our sin, and burns down old ways to do new things so that new life can grow. We all love The fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We are generally in favor of it.
The problem is that what we want is a controlled burn by the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, but only bring fire to where I tell you. Burn this, not that. Light this, not that. Change this, not that. When we seek a controlled burn by the Holy Spirit, we eventually remove the fuel. A church, or a Christian that only wants a controlled burn will eventually grow cold.
When the Holy Spirit truly comes it comes like a wildfire. It warms us, yes. But it also comes to change everything. Sin is burned away and holiness grows. New ministry comes alive, old ways and old wine skins are put away as God moves in a new way. Let us begin to pray for Pentecost. Not as a Sunday, or as a season, but as a way of life. Where the Wild fire of the Holy Spirit will ignite and burns blazing a new life and new hope. Come Holy Spirit. And Burn, baby, burn.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><