The Light of Christ and the Flame of the Holy Spirit

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When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)

Fifty days ago many of us gathered in a darkened place. Maybe outside in a church garden. Maybe the parking lot. Maybe the entrance lobby of the church. We gathered in that space between the end of Lent and Holy Week and the beginning of Easter.

The celebrant gathered us with words and prayer, reminding us on this most holy night, our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, and as a symbol of this new life, we kindled and blessed the New Fire.

The celebrant struck flint together to produce a spark, or maybe lit a match, or perhaps pushed a button on a nifty automatic lighter. And then kissed the raw material of wood or rock salt doused with alcohol or shavings or whatever kindling we holy people use with this flame, and the Light of Christ roared back into fullness.

We begin and end Easter with flame, with fire. The New Fire from the Easter Vigil appears again, new and wild, flickering and burning, as the fire of the Holy Spirit. The disciples, we read, were huddling in the Upper Room, probably fearful and unsettled. They were seemingly alone – again – without the physical manifestation of Jesus to guide them, to inspire them, to comfort them, and to challenge them.

They didn’t have much spiritual kindling left, I suppose, after the upheavals of all that had been Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. He’s gone forever, they likely thought.

Until it changed. Easter Day proved them wrong.

Alleluia! He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!

So for 40 days, they shared life with Jesus again, almost as it had been, but not quite. Maybe they thought, as many of us do when trauma has unsettled us, uprooted us, and drained us, they had found newness that would never change.

Until it changed. Jesus ascended to God. The disciples experienced loss and change. Again.

I imagine their spiritual tanks were low. Some may have remembered his words and been steady in the faith, but others likely had faith that felt brittle. Their fuel for ministry flat. Maybe this was all a big mistake, some of them likely thought. This is too hard, too unsteady, others may have voiced. We’ve been left alone again.

Until it changed.

Pentecost mosaic (mid 12th century) in Cappella Palatina di Palermo, Italy

The Holy Spirit burst into their lives, found fuel in their souls, and burned within them and above them and moved their feet to go forth into the world. We read they began to speak in other languages, to prophesy, to dream dreams, to share the Gospel, and to change the world.

The New Fire of God found them. The New Fire of God finds us.

God’s fire of the Holy Spirit inspires us and enlivens us. We may be steadily faithful in the word of God. We may be filled with doubt. We may feel empty of any kindling in our lives. We may not even think we have enough life in our souls to burn at all.

We may gather in the darkness of our lives, of life. We are surrounded by what is constant tragedy, a world bent on repaying hate with hate instead of loving one another, and a society so drenched with the tears of grief and pain no fire could ever be lit.

And yet…

On this day, we remember that God leans into our lives and hovers over our piles of life, love and mess and all of it, and strikes the flints of love and grace together. Or lights a match from the eternal dreams of God, or perhaps pushes a button on a nifty automatic lighter of thousands of years of prayer and hope.

And then God kisses the raw material of our selves and souls, our faith and doubt, our grief and hope, our very lives, and the Light of Christ roars back into fullness in a new way.

The Holy Spirit’s flame rests on us, burning from the graceful generosity of God, and inspires us to go into the world in love and service.

Will we we walk boldly into God’s future, guided by this roaring flame of the Spirit?

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