October 8, 2015 in Church News
On this day in 1871, a tiny spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary ignited a roaring fire. Before the fire had burned out, it had killed between 200 and 300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 homeless and caused an estimated $200 million worth of damages (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion+ in 2015 dollars). Fire can certainly be a very powerful force.
In the Bible, God uses the picture of fire many times. Often, it is a symbol of his judgment and his burning wrath. But fire can also have a positive meaning in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament temple, the candles burned as a sign of God’s presence and light among the people. On Pentecost, tongues of flame burned over the apostles’ heads as a symbol of the Spirit’s fire. It is this picture of fire we have in mind when we pray during the Pentecost season, “Come, Holy Spirit, renew our hearts and kindle in us the fire of your love.”
The fire of God’s love can be a very powerful force when it is ignited in our hearts. In can burn up our old sinful desires and replace our lazy, apathetic attitudes towards God and his mission with an intense desire to serve the Lord and others. All it takes is a spark. And that spark is found in the means of grace–the gospel in Word and Sacraments. Our prayer is that God would fan the flame of his Spirit and set our hearts on fire for his mission.