Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Welcome to worship as we celebrate the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. I remember someone in a former parish some years ago who would often mention the phrase if it was getting cool “I’d better put the fire on.” An unusual expression given that he had neither an open fire or slow combustion wood heater. In fact his heating was reverse cycle air conditioning. I guess his use of the phrase was perhaps reminiscent of a time when he did have a wood fire, or that he was simply associating the warmth of heating with fire. Many of us would have a similar method today of putting the fire on by simply pressing a button. However, I wonder how much appreciation perhaps has lessened given that so little effort is now required. Splitting wood, cutting kindling, setting and lighting a fire is so much more intensive. It may well increase one’s depth of appreciation for the warmth of such heating. We get the most out of what we put effort into. Having said that though and having experienced both labour intensive and not so forms of heating, I do prefer the latter, even though a fire can evoke a happy image on a cosy winter evening.
Firelight or warmth in general can induce feelings of peace, although wildfires on the other hand can be terrifying. For the ancient Jews fire was a symbol of divine purity. To approach such fire was to risk destruction, yet those God called closer were purified in God’s presence.
In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled.” What sort of fire was this? Perhaps not the fire of judgement as John the Baptist expected, but certainly the Holy Spirit was part and parcel of the fire Jesus wanted to see spread, the fire of purifying love. Perhaps also the kind of metaphorical fire that illuminates our minds and stirs our hearts to be co-sharers in the mission God calls each of us to in our families, our community and in the world we share with all people.
May you journey well with Christ this week.
Rev Cannon Ian Howarth is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of St Paul's Kyneton and St John's Malmsbury and is the team leader of the Central Highlands Cluster.