This is a copy of my Church Magazine article for June
As I and my family were travelling back across the M62 at the beginning of May, we saw a vast flume of smoke billowing out over the Pennines. It was only when we arrived home, and turned on the news that we realized it was the consequence of one of the many forest fires that had broken out across the country. As the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire!
There may, on the other hand, be fire without smoke! On the Day of Pentecost, which we celebrate this year on 12th June, the early church was waiting in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had told them to do. ‘They were altogether in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…’ (Acts 2:1-4). On this remarkable day, a previously downcast failure of a disciple called Peter preached powerfully to a large crowd, and about three thousand came to know Christ and were baptised. A fire had truly been lit which spread around the ancient world, and is still spreading today as more than two billion people attest to a Christian faith.
Of course, the fire in the forests has led to destruction. ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ say the Scriptures, but the fire of the Holy Spirit is more often a creative and spreading fire – or it should be! When we talk of someone setting the world on fire, we don’t mean that they destroy it but that they make people sit up and take notice. Christian witness in the book of Acts certainly does that: on one occasion the Christians are reported to be have ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6, NKJV). It is Acts, the book of the Holy Spirit, that tells how this comes about: disciples tell others who tell others about Jesus Christ; they do amazing things in the power of the Spirit and the name of Jesus; the Church grows daily.
How are we setting the world on fire? How are we getting the world to sit up and take notice? Well, initiatives in our city like Inspirations Studio, Café Kindness, Refresh and City Centre Chaplaincy are a part of it. Each individual within our church is a part of it: in our community, workplace and family. Perhaps, as we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit, forty days after Jesus ascended into heaven, we should sing with William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army), ‘We need another Pentecost, Send the fire today!’ Then we too can be fire-starters!
Let’s be on fire for the Lord!