geezeronthequad: God Moves Through His World in Fire – So Finish Your Corn Flakes. I Kings 18: 36-46
What is a pascal? The short answer is that it’s a scientific measure. A better question might be “Why is this important to me?” Can’t help you with that; it’s expressed as an elaborate equation. Equations always make me queasy and I start shaking all over. A retro reaction from my student days over horrific math experiences I’m sure. But before “pascal” was a measurement, it was somebody’s name. And if they name some scientific thing after us, we must have been somebody important. Blaise Pascal was – both spiritually and scientifically.
Someone settling his affairs after his death found a piece of paper sewed into the lining of his coat. Apparently he’d quietly carried it everywhere, transferring it carefully from a worn out coat to a new one. It’s called “Pascal’s Memorial“. While we don’t exactly know what happened, we do know that God showed up. FIRE. The same thing happens here with Elijah. I’ve written about spiritual experiences before (See Nov. 2013 – Feb. 2014 in the archives) so I won’t repeat any of that here.
Jesus said that we shouldn’t pray to be heard by people (Matthew 6:5) but this prayer was different. “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel…” This prayer the people needed to hear because they’d forgotten who they were. They could give the “right” answers but, losing sight of God in their sinful deadness, they’d lost track of themselves. C.S. Lewis said, “May it be the real I that speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.” The real Thou was about to show up.
Fire – one of the most unsettling pictures of God. There’s no dialogue with fire – no discussion, no negotiation. Even in it’s barely restrained forms in our fireplaces and fire pits or melting down marshmallows for S’mores, fire bristles with a dancing wildness that reminds/warns us that it’s nothing to be callous or careless around. I went to sleep on many cold Iowa nights to a comforting but far from tame roar inside the Franklin stove in the next room. Although nobody in Elijah’s day was around, this wasn’t Israel’s first brush with God Who is fire. Moses himself met God, not just as fire, but as fire that did not do what fire does – a fire that burns without consuming. All Israel met with God at Mt Sinai. No limos were available so He came down in fire in what must have been a blessedly terrifying (These do go together.) time for the people (Exodus 19:16-19). Every night, for the entire duration of their wilderness time, a pillar of fire reaching up into the night sky burned outside the camp. (Ex.13:21-22) The New Testament says clearly that God still has His fiery moments as the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3) and Hebrews 12:29 reminds the church, then and now, that “our God is a consuming fire.”
Fire. What can it do? It can destroy and does. It clears away old forest growth so new growth can emerge and thrive. It purges waste and purifies with its searing heat like little else can. It warms our bones in winter and delights with the perfume of wood smoke. We read good books by its flickering light. (Thank you, Lauren Winner, for stirring my thoughts here.) And again, it melts marshmallows for S’mores (Is God good or what?). Fire also captures our gaze and our spirit goes places – some we’ve thought we’d lost and some we’ve never imagined. We just can’t help but stare at it, can we? Sometimes for hours. I think God likes His image of fire, beautiful and hypnotizing, wild and woolly in both His love and His holiness.
But these stories like Elijah’s seem like the dark side of the moon to most of us. We haven’t seen fire like this. A lot of our days of living our faith sit flat and filled with the mundane stuff of everyday. A lot of the Christian life is like that. That’s why we need Elisha and his servant as we find them in II Kings 6:8-23. Backstory. The King of Aram’s army was harassing Israel through direct action and black ops. But every time they staged an ambush, it failed because Elisha knew their plans and tipped off the Israelite king. The King of Aram sent an army, probably his best, to capture Elisha in the city of Dothan. Elisha’s servant gets up early and goes outside to find the city surrounded by enemy troops. He freaks. People who freak are never content to do it alone; they want others to freak along with them. But Elisha doesn’t because he knows that our hair and our faith cannot be on fire at the same time.
Surrounded by an enemy intent on his scalp, Elisha does the only sensible thing under the circumstances. He finishes his corn flakes or whatever prophets have for breakfast. He simply says in verse 17, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Or loosely paraphrased, “You show him, God, my flakes are getting soggy here.” Elisha knew something important gleaned from Elijah on Mt Carmel and on the occasion of Elijah’s death (II Kings 2:11-14.) The fire of God isn’t just reserved for when the Arameans show up. The fire of God burns all around us all the time whether we see or feel it or not.
So, campus staff, keep on working your tails off to be ready for the new year. Figure out a cool give away or some other jazzy attention getter for club day. And students, pack up your gear – especially incoming freshmen saddling up for the first time. Prepare to wander around campus for a day or so wondering why the campus under our feet doesn’t look much like the campus map. Buy those thick, expensive books. Help the freshmen move in so Dad has enough strength left to lift his wallet for that last dinner out before they drive off. But remember one thing. Someone burns all around us. He burns in love toward us. He burns in holiness to show us how beautiful and desirable His work in us is regardless of cost. He burns in judgement against all forces of evil that accuse, intimidate and roar against us. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” See them. Feel them. Or not.
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Please return your seat to its upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at gfeezeronthequad.com.