Sunday 27th May (Pentecost B)

Last week I noted that the Ascension was essential to Jesus’ exaltation i.e. being raised up to the right hand of Father, as Lord of heaven and earth and of how God’s rich and glorious inheritance among the saints is ours through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

But wait, there’s more… The gift, presence and activity of the Holy Spirit express the completeness of what God has done for all in and through Christ Jesus. A standout feature of Luke’s account of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the ‘tongues of flame’.

The thing about fire is that it can be both constructive and destructive. Consider the practice of prescribed burns. The idea – as I understand it – is that by intentionally burn a particular area of bush the danger of bushfire is diminished because the dry, dead undergrowth is burned away. In addition, the newer healthy growth that emerges from the burn will enrich the whole area.

We know of occasions when prescribed burns have gone seriously wrong. But for the most part, this kind of fire is both rejuvenating and life-giving for the surrounding forest, for the creatures near it, even human creatures. I suppose one could say that the fire provided by the Holy Spirit was a constructive fire, designed to build the fledgling church. Imagine what might happen if the Holy Spirit conducted a prescribed burn on today’s church. What is our dry, dead undergrowth? What would be consumed by the Spirit’s fire, and what would the new growth look like?
        © Jeff Shrowder, 2012.
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