From Pauses for Pentecost
The apostles saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
What thoughts or images come to your mind when you think of fire? Perhaps you remember standing around a fire, warming yourself on a cold winter’s night. You may picture your family sitting together around a fireplace, enjoying good conversation. You may think of a time when a dangerous forest fire was brought under control by the starting of another fire. Or you may recall watching a piece of iron being held in a fire: First, its rust is burned away; then it turns red and then white, until it looks as if it is part of the fire. However you respond, I am sure you will agree that fire is not only something good to be cherished but also something dangerous to be respected.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes to the early disciples not only as wind but also as fire. What do these tongues of fire resting on each of them represent? Surely, it is an outward sign of what the Holy Spirit is doing inside their lives. Think of the associations we make with fire. Can we not suggest with some confidence that the Pentecost fire represents similar kinds of experiences? Can it be that the fire of God’s Spirit is warming cold hearts, joining the family of believers together, bringing sinful tendencies under control, and burning away the rust of iron-hard hearts until they are aflame with the fire of God’s love?
I remember a mentor and friend encouraging me “to always guard the fire within.” I keep his words close to my heart, and I hope you will too. We need to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within us. Otherwise, our hearts can so easily become lukewarm and grow cold. If that has happened to you, do not be discouraged. There is cause for much hope. Pentecost can happen again for you and me. We can prepare ourselves to ask once again for the burning Spirit of God to come and rest even on us. Do you need another Pentecost this year?
As a symbol of the fire of the Holy Spirit, light a candle near where you will spend your day. May it remind you through the day that Jesus wants to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.