I followed a group of men as we made our way out past the east side
of campus, to some trucks and dumpsters. At the time I was walking,
I didn’t know where we were going or what we would find. As I got
there, I saw guys pulling wood pallets out of the dumpsters, peeling
off the plastic and bindings and tossing them to the ground where
they were then loaded on trucks. Cardboard boxes soon followed, and
clothes, and stuffed animals. “Will it burn?” We loaded the trucks,
threw pallets on top, carried the trash by the armfuls to a fire
that was already started.
Pallets were added to the fire, then cardboard boxes, then clothes,
then more pallets, and the bonfire was banked higher and higher, the
heat emanating from it tremendous as we stood twenty feet away, then
thirty, then forty.
“We’re in Lincoln,” somebody said. “A little dot on the map. We want
the planes to see this.” Raw power. Pure energy. Powerful, untamed,
visible, with the potential to break out uncontrolled. But what I
think this guy was saying was, “I want to leave a mark. I want to
make a difference. I want to do something big, even if it’s in
As I looked into the flames, and saw dancing orange and yellow
flames, felt the heat singe my face and hands, and then looked
around the fire at the scared, excited, invincible faces, I tried to
figure out what was going on. Here was energy and power in the fire.
Here was energy and power and the spirit of invincibility and
something reckless in the faces of the men around me. Part of me was
afraid of the potential force for destruction. Part of me wanted to
listen for something bigger.
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In ancient cultures fire was used for cooking, for
light, for religious ceremonies and sacrifices. People passed
through the fire, whether it was walking on hot coals like some
cultures still practice, or a metaphor for human sacrifice. There
was something destructive, primal, and representative of worship and
spiritual practice in the fire.
Maybe it’s no surprise that God first appeared to
Moses as a fire that could not be consumed on the mountain. It
grabbed his attention, drew him in. I don’t know how long it took
him to realize that the bush wasn’t burning, but he was captivated.
God had mesmerized him, lured him in to show him what He was up to.
At times God used fire to light the way for the Hebrews as they were
wandering in the desert places or running from the Egyptians. God’s
fire consumed Sodom and Gomorrah, Nadab and Abihu, and consumed
Elijah’s offering as he was competing against the prophets of Baal.
Fire is a powerful, dangerous, and awe-inspiring thing. The same
words could be used to describe God.
In Matthew, John talks about Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit
and with fire. In Acts, the Holy Spirit came on Jesus’ followers as
tongues of fire, the writer of Hebrews says that God is a consuming
fire, and Paul says not to quench the fire of the Spirit.
In us is potential for great fire. I saw it tonight, and wondered
which way the fires would burn. Would we destroy, or is there
something in us that wants to be part of something big, powerful,
unpredictable, a fire that cannot be quenched, a following the ways
of God in such a way that will leave a mark, that will burn into our
hearts and minds and hands and feet, that will be permanent. Fire
can be quenched, it can destroy, it can do terrible things, but my
prayer is that this year will ignite a God fire in us, that will
leave its mark on us, consume us, mesmerize us. And we will never be
Wheeler - LCC Faculty]