One year, several years ago now, my youth group had the year-long theme of “Catching Fire” – thank you Hunger Games. We focused on all the stories about fire throughout the scriptures, from the burning bush through to Pentecost. One evening, as we were going around the room praying at the end of our meeting, a young man prayed, “That the people of [country] will catch on fire.” Giggles immediately ensued. And yet, we all knew what he meant, however it may have come out.
As followers of Christ, it is our job to set the world on fire. Not in the physical fire sense (Rob Stewart, I hope that you will forgive me). It is, however, our job to let the light of Christ so envelope our lives that it spreads like wildfire to all around us. It is a light that brings truth into the open that justice may take hold. It is a light that brings hope in the darkness that those in peril may know that this is not the end. It is a light that brightens hearts with a love that is stronger than death and a passion more fierce than the grave. It is the light of a candle glowing in the windowsill offering hospitality, welcome, and family. That is the fire that comes at Pentecost: God’s Spirit of light to set the world ablaze… through us.
Among the ancient symbols used by Christianity is one that is a fitting choice for Pentecost and all life for followers of Christ: the Phoenix. A phoenix was a mythical bird who would grow until old age and then spontaneously combust. From the ashes of the old, that same bird would be reborn.
My friends, we are the ones who were drawn from the dust and in Jesus Christ we have already received the wonders of rebirth into the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, we are also still humans living in a fallen world. Things do break. Structures do not always last. Life hits its roadblocks. But the Church, God’s Church, will always rise from the ashes to new life, even when many feel that all hope is lost.
As we head into the season of Pentecost this weekend, celebrating 35 years of ministry together, I want us to rejoice and give thanks because, though our history may be glorious, our best days are still ahead. God is already there, leading us into the path that is waiting. Join me as we begin to take our first steps into God’s future and rise like a phoenix outshining the breaking dawn.