Fire and flames may have some very different meanings for each of us… maybe we think about them as destructive or a threat in some way, alternatively we may initially think of light and warmth.
Two memories from my childhood stood out to me relating to fire. One was when we experienced what was, comparatively, a small fire in our home. I remember sitting in the garden with my four siblings huddled in our duvets as we watched my Dad try and put out the fire in the kitchen. I remember the smell of the burnt rooms and the sound of the fire engines coming followed by the equally rapid arrival of other families in the village, who had been in the pub and heard the sound of “a bit of drama” in our normally quiet Sussex village. They were equally quick to offer help, food, support and even a caravan to sort us all out! The time of adversity as a family brought out the best in our local community.
The other memory was of fires on the Ashdown Forest. On a simple level they looked like they caused destruction but at times they had been set to make “fire breaks” and keep us all safe and very soon afterwards you saw the green shoots of new life as the forest grew back once again creating rich and fertile soil.
In both circumstances perhaps fire could be seen as a danger but in fact brought hope, unity and new beginnings. In the Gospel this week we hear about Pentecost which is all about the coming of the Holy Spirit. We hear about the symbols of wind and fire as the Holy Spirit fills the disciples. In simple terms I see the Holy Spirit as the force of God and goodness in the world to guide each of us and give us a sense of direction.
Jesus once again challenges his followers to be filled with “fire and faith”. The Holy Spirit would give them the “tools to do the job at hand” and be disciples that went throughout the world. At first this was the gift of languages and communication – each hearing God’s message in their own language and words that spoke to them.
In the end St. Paul, himself, would be an excellent example of someone who was filled with this same drive, commitment and passion. He would do this often without much regard for his own personal safety or popularity. He was driven to do what was right and spread the message and we share this challenge as part of our community today.
So what can we take from all of this in the coming week?
- How can we always do things inspired by faith? I was in a Catholic school last week who had developed a motto… “Have Faith… Believe you can.” Sounds like a sound starting point to me!
- When we are lost or in the dark how can we find the spark of light and hope? Perhaps we can provide this for one another or for the students in our care.
- We are challenged to do God’s work in the world today… we are all called to start this at St. Paul’s but we can also inspire change in those we meet or in the world we live in.
It is the passion, energy and spark of young people and staff at St.Paul’s that inspire me each day and make what we do so fulfilling. Perhaps it is worth stopping to recognise and “feel this warmth” which will sustain us in good times and bad in our lives.