A Consuming Fire...
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
In recent days I started a new pen and ink drawing. A photo had been given to me during the final clean out of the old Hatfield building of Missio Seminary this fall. The photo was taken at least 20 years ago at a retreat required for the LEAD MDiv program, and at some time it had been on a wall somewhere.
When I consider a new project I usually find myself attracted to an image or an idea. I will have a sense for the new drawing, but I do not really know how it will unfold. As I pray with an image and pay attention I notice things that are true. This photo was a part of my story years ago when I was in seminary; it portrayed an object and a symbol that are significant to the journey of faith. I was seated at the fireplace reading my Bible and warmed by the heat of the fire.
Fire is a symbol for the Spirit of God: powerful, dynamic, refining, and illuminating. God captured Moses attention through fire in the burning bush. God guided the people of Israel through the wilderness by a pillar of fire. God consumed Elijah's offering by fire. God is described as a consuming fire.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29
Yet the fire in the photo was contained and limited behind glass doors...tamed by a manmade structure. The Spirit of God is not tamed or contained.
My Bible is present in the image as well, the Word of God, foundational to faith; sharper than a double edged sword. It teaches, comforts, guides and convicts the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Having grown up in the evangelical, conservative Christian tradition I was taught to read, study, attend to, and value the Scriptures. There was less teaching regarding the movement, power, and influence of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are foundational to our faith, they are true. God has told us his story, and ours, in its pages, and God's story must shape our story for us to thrive as God intended.
There are many things we learn from the pages of Scripture. It is living and active after all. But our journey of faith is also learning to listen and attend to the Spirit of God who illuminates the Word of God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Father seeks true worshippers, those who worship in Spirit and truth"(John 4). What does it mean to recognize the Spirit of God as active and consuming?
Our relationship with God grows over time as we engage deeply, learning to love and align with the heart of God, the Spirit of God, in every aspect of our lives. We are not the Initiator in this essential, life-giving relationship.
God pursues our hearts. The fire in the picture was contained by glass doors and limited fuel. Yet God is self-sustaining, limitless in resources and power, and unconfined. In this relationship with God I keep showing up: sometimes I show up with great responsiveness, delight, affection, and discipline, sometimes in repentance, other times with resistance and struggle. But my prayer is that I, that we, continue to show up for this journey of intimacy and transformation, a journey guided by the Spirit of God and truth.
I continued to draw the last few days, one black line at a time. The image began to emerge. Our cats, Stormi and Mooch, kept getting in my way. For some reason they wanted to be right up against my hand or actually laying on the drawing. They were not very helpful.
I thought about how often when I try to understand what God is doing or creating, particularly in my own life, I want to control the process or direct the journey. I want to tell God how to fix things or how to move forward, but there is so much I do not see.
God is love and power. God sees clearly, and God sees beyond today. I am grateful that God welcomes my prayers, sometimes rambling and pleading, sometimes listening and attentive, and on occasion demanding. But eventually God invites me to release control, to trust and follow.
On Saturday during the 1st virtual Encounter Retreat we spent time in the Luke 5 passage where Jesus calls Peter and some of his disciples to follow him.
After teaching from the shore and then from Peter's boat, Jesus asks Peter to go out into the deep water and let down the nets... again.
Jesus was in Peter's home territory, this was his ordinary, every-day life. They had worked all night without success, the nets were finally clean, and it was the worst possible time for fishing. Yet, despite his probable resistance, Peter does as Jesus asks. Reluctant? Perhaps. Sarcastic? maybe. But he followed Jesus' instruction.
The instruction was counter-intuitive at best. But God does things in his own time and his own way... he is God after all. Peter was not and I am not. The result was almost indescribable... so much, so great, so overwhelming... abundance multiplied, and Peter was tumbled. He could not tolerate the magnificence of the God-man. Jesus did not condemn him - Jesus invited him closer. Jesus invited him to follow.
Will I choose to act, to do the next thing God asks of me?
Will I love my enemy?
Will I give sacrificially?
Will I seek God's perspective rather than my own?
Will I obey when it is counterintuitive?
Will I choose rest because God asked me to Sabbath as an act of dependence?
Will I trust when everything seems chaotic and broken?
Will I love others as God asked me to and let God be the judge of others?
Will I ___________________?
As we move into this new year... how is God leading me? Have I paused to listen deeply and pay attention to God's Word and the Spirit of God?