Monday, June 1, 2015

From the Midst of Fire


Snapchat meets VBS crafts
Yesterday was the first night of VBS. While my rant against boxed, themed VBS programs is likely forthcoming, for now I’m focusing on the stories the kids are learning about each night. Sunday started with Moses and the burning bush. And while VBS is taking place at a Protestant church, I couldn’t help but appreciate that the first reading in the Catholic liturgy for the day had Moses saying: “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?”

Growing up, I always encountered God the Father. In finding Catholicism, I’ve encountered the Son, the incarnational God. And while I’m more open to the Spirit than I used to be, it still seems like the person of the Trinity with whom I have the weakest relationship/understanding. The Holy Spirit makes me think of Pentecostals and charismatics and not the calm organization in which I thrive. But the Spirit moves in calm too. Its’ reach is much wider than I give credit. It is in a dove; it is a wind; it is in fire.

The story of the burning bush is one that is so often taught to kids that I had not revisited it in some time. So while working with the kids yesterday as they painted their own burning bush, I was impressed how they knew that the fire burned, but that the bush was not consumed. Fire is so often depicted as a positive in Christianity; it is a shame that it has gotten attached to a depiction of hell as well. Holy fire is how people face God when they could not otherwise endure his presence. It is illumination and revelation. It is energy and spirit.

Later, the Israelites follow a column of wind in the day and a column of fire at night while in the desert. While sometimes I wish God spoke to be in grandiose, clear ways like columns of fire, I also know that I would not react well to sudden, big revelations. I do not think I am strong enough. I prefer to encounter the Spirit a little at a time, inching cautiously closer. In the seventeenth century, the French Huguenots adopted the burning bush as their symbol for enduring persecution, along with the motto, “I am burned but not consumed.” Perhaps that is the attitude I need to adopt. I cannot dictate when or how the Spirit speaks to me. If it is in loud, uncomfortable ways, I may feel burned, but I will not be consumed. I will be purified. I will be forged. As Moses noted, what could be greater than hearing God speak from the midst of fire and living?

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