Today I decided to have a bonfire. We’ve accumulated quite a pile of garden rubbish this summer, but haven’t dared to have a bonfire as everything was so dry and one stray spark could have had rather serious consequences. Anyway, today is dry and still and so it seems the perfect opportunity to catch up. A big pile of garden rubbish isn’t, however, all that’s needed. Material for kindling and dry woody material for generating some heat are also required. Anyway it started smouldering gently, but without any great enthusiasm, as a result of the complete lack of air movement and I wasn’t sure whether or not it would actually take off.
Whilst musing on the gentle spirals of smoke, lazily twisting this way and that, a phrase from our Eucharistic Prayer kept repeating itself in my mind: “Kindled with the fire of your love”. Kindle is a wonderful word in that context. It generally means to “start a fire”, but in this context is means “to arouse or inspire”. The fire we are talking about is the flame of the Holy Spirit’s love and we are asking to be inspired by it. This love is unconditional and generous beyond imagination. It came upon the disciples at Pentecost (as El Greco so graphically depicts it in his painting of the Pentecost, with the dove hovering overhead):
“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:2-3)
The next bit of the Eucharistic prayer tells us why we should be kindled with this fire? It’s so that we may be: “renewed for the service of your Kingdom”. Not only is that love part of all our Eucharistic Prayers but it’s God’s desire for us to be “on fire” with His love, so that this love may be reflected in our thoughts, our actions, how we interaction with others and in our lives more generally.
So every time we celebrate the Eucharist together, we ask God to: “Send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon this bread and this wine, that, overshadowed by his life-giving power, they may be the Body and Blood of your Son”. So that we may be “Kindled with the fire of Your love and renewed for the service of your Kingdom”.
A book that I keep returning to again and again is called “The Healing Power of the Sacraments” by Jim McManus. In it he reminds us of the words of Matthew 5:23-24: “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
It’s through being reconciled with one other that we open ourselves to receive the healing power of the Sacrament that is central to our Christian way of life – the Eucharist. Although it is truly God’s desire to have the Spirit fully alight in our lives, all of us face daily temptation and distraction from the world around us. A world which plays by a different set of rules, not driven by the fire of the God’s love. As individuals we are all constantly in need of reconciliation, so as a community of faith let us strive to help each other in that in order to fan the flames and be truly inspired for the service of God’s Kingdom.
The bonfire did get going, but instead of the dove, there were three ospreys hovering overhead.