Religion is like fire. It is hard to imagine the existence of civilization without them, but when they get out of control, they can cause extensive and serious harm!
Within Christianity, there is hardly a better holiday to remember, reflect and celebrate this reality than the Holy Day of Pentecost.
In a genius shorthand, the evangelist Luke condensed a long process of the formation of Christianity as an independent religion into a single day, a single event, and anchored it into Pentecost. It became known as birthday of the Church, accompanied with the gusts of wind and descending flames of fire.
This presence of fire at the stated beginning of Christianity is not a mare coincidence. Fire and flames as heralds of divine presence have a long history. Abraham sealed the solemn covenant with a burning furnace. Moses met with the LORD at the burning bush. Israelites of the Exodus were lead by columns of smoke by day and of fire by night. And we must not forget the prophets, for instance Elijah’s chariot of fire.
Clearly our God has a close relationship with fire. Fire is one of the most regular signs and attributes of divine presence. It is a fitting symbol for God and especially for the Holy Spirit. Of the ancient elements - Earth, Air(and space/sky), Water, and Fire - Fire is most enigmatic, energetic, changing, most alive, most fascinating. Indeed, as I have quoted in the first sentence, religion is like fire. Fire and religion are essential for our civilization; without them we would be just bands of monkeys. Fire and religion are exciting, life-transforming, community-building, art-inspiring, people-feeding, opening new possibilities and horizons, liberating. But religions out of control, false religions, dosed in superstitions, can also be very dangerous, destructive, enslaving, harmful, even life threatening and life taking.
This Sunday we will be talking exactly about religion and fire. Indeed, inspired by an Old Testament prophet, we will be playing with fire. (But we will keep the fire extinguisher on standby.)
|And here is a picture from the recreation of the Carmel Ordeal.
We set a stone alight - and a basin beneath it alike.