Holy Smoke! I'm not sure how that entered our lexicon of exclamations, but I have often wondered about it as I think about Pentecost. In the author's narrative of the Day of Pentecost, he reflects that the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered with tongues of fire.
We do associate fire with a Christian celebration of Pentecost -- and we usually use the liturgical color red to signify the Holy Spirit. We use red paraments (the cloths that cover the communion table and pulpit) when we celebrate Pentecost and ordinations/installations for pastors, elders and deacons in the Presbyterian Church (USA). We even light candles before worship whenever we are in the sanctuary to indicate the presence of the spirit with us whenever we come together to worship.
Fire is a transformative and transformational force in the world. When used well and properly it can make the kinds of changes that we want -- it is useful to boil water, transforming wood or other fuel for light and for heat, to cook our food, to keep us safe. But it can also be dangerous. Out of control fires can destroy homes, forests, complete towns and villages. Regardless of whether it is used in control, or becomes out of control, it will change things -- for good or for ill.
Perhaps the spirit is like that as well. Perhaps too often we try to control the Spirit so that it doesn't get out there too far ahead of us. Perhaps we are comfortable with the way things are right now. Perhaps we want an in-breaking of the Spirit, but on our terms. We want our community to be led by the Spirit, but only inasmuch as we can lead the Spirit in return.
I wonder sometime if God is about to light a fire under us. Perhaps there are new things that need to be done in this part of God's realm. Perhaps there is new work for us to do, new folks for us to love, new ways to be a neighbor in Florence and far beyond. I spent part of my day yesterday talking to Cindy Corell, our mission co-worker in Haiti, and got very excited by what I experienced as a movement of the Spirit. Are there ways that we can come alongside brothers and sisters in communities in Haiti in ways that will make a difference in their lives? Yes!! There are so many opportunities for us not only to support those in need in our local community, but ways that we can be a transformative force in the lives of those far beyond our community.
Are we willing to follow the Spirit into communities that need our presence and our passion? Will we allow the Spirit to fall on us, and spur us to new ways of being church? Might we come to see our church building as a mission outpost -- a place where we gather to be filled with the Spirit so that we might go out into the world to serve others, following Jesus' example?
I can't wait to see what God is going to do with and through us. The Spirit is alive and well and within and among us -- always. Perhaps we are being invited to explore ways to use the power of the Spirit -- the holy fire -- to transform our community and our world. For Christ's sake. Amen? Amen.