DANGEROUS PENTECOST

Lorenzo de’Medici, the great Florentine patron of the arts was very proud of the spectacles he staged for the citizenry. Among his many productions were several amazingly realistic religious pageants performed in church. But one Pentecost, Lorenzo went a little bit too far: he used actual fire to depict the descent of the tongues of flames on the apostles. The fragile stage set caught fire and, before horrified onlookers, the entire church burned to the ground

Source: Halford E. Luccock, Marching Off the Map
(Harper, 1952).

CONSIDER THIS

Is your heart burning within you? Is it a heartburn or a passionate heart on fire?

Pray for the gifts of fire, zeal and passion. Pray for the gift of pentecostal fire but never ever try to manufacture it. The fire of pentecost is a gift to be received. The other kind of fire is a false fire and may spell disaster.

NO TIME FOR TOKEN CONTRIBUTIONS

Once upon a time there was a fire in a small town. The fire brigade rushed to the scene, but the fireman were unable to get through to the burning building. The problem was the crowd of people who had gathered not to watch but to help put out the fire. They all knew the fire chief well – their children had climbed over his fire engines during excursions to the fire station, and the friendliness of the fire chief was legendary. So when a fire broke out the people rushed out to help their beloved fire chief.

Unfortunately the townsfolk were seeking to extinguish this raging inferno with water pistols!  They’d all stand there, from time to time squirting their pistol into the fire while making casual conversation.

The fire chief couldn’t contain himself. He started screaming at the townsfolk. “What do you think you’re doing? What on earth do you think you’re going to achieve with those waterpistols?!”

The people realised the urgency of the situation. How they wanted to help the fire chief. So they started squirting more. “Come on” they encouraged each other, “We can all do better, can’t we?” Squirt, squirt, squirt, squirt.

Exasperated the fire chief yells again. “Get out of here. Your achieving nothing except hindering us from doing what needs to be done. We need fireman who are ready to give everything they’ve got to put out this fire, people willing even to lay their lives on the line. This is not the place for token contributions”

Source | Story retold from Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations
(Orbis, 2004) pages 173-275

See also Tony Campolo, Let me Tell You a Story
(Thomas Nelson, 2000) pages 82-83

CONSIDER THIS

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is urging us to realise that radical discipleship to Christ means much more than mere involvement or token contributions to the mission of the church in the world. Radical and authentic discipleship calls for wholehearted and total life commitment.

BLESSINGS IN SMOKE

There was a shipwreck and only one man survived, cast ashore on a tiny island with nothing but the clothes on his back. For a while he hoped for rescue. But in time he knew he had to make a life there on the island. And that is what he did. He taught himself to fish and hunt, to garden and cook, and he built himself a charming little cottage overlooking the bay. He even carved a tiny flute which he played every night after supper.

One day he hiked to the top of the mountain at the center of the island to see what he could see. As he reached the top, what he saw was a tower of smoke and his little cottage going up in flames.

He ran down the mountain as fast as he could. But it was too late. The cottage was in ashes – and his flute, his garden, his tools, his bow and arrows – everything he’d made with his own hands was gone, all gone!

He wept. He raged. He cursed God. He despaired. And finally, as night came, he collapsed on the sand and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning he was awakened by sailors who had rowed ashore from a great ship to rescue him. “But,” he exclaimed, “how after all this time did you know I was here?”

“Ah,” said the captain, “we saw the smoke from your signal fire.”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, Sunday Morning (1996)

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • When you have reached the end of your rope, as the saying goes, tie a knot and hold on. Perhaps this is what hope is about: Hold On, Praying Expectantly.
  • When all seems lost and we can feel our emptiness and feel our aloneness, Life has a way of surprising us blessing us and filling us  in a way we’d least expect.

THE GIFT OF FIRE

There’s this guy who invented fire.  He takes the tools for making fire and goes up to the north, where there are some tribes shivering in the cold.  He teaches them the art and the advantages of making fire.  And the people become interested.  they learn.  And what do they know? Pretty soon they’re cooking, they’re using the fire for building.  And before they had time to say thanks to the inventor, he had disappeared.  He didn’t want any thanks; he just wanted people to benefit from his invention.

He goes to another tribe, and he attempts to interest them also in his new invention.  But he ran into a snag there, see?  The priests began to realize how popular the guy was becoming and how their own influence on the people was diminishing.  So they decided to poison him.  A suspicion arose among the people that it was the priests who had done it, so you know what the priests did?

They had a huge portrait made of the man.  They put it on the main altar in the temple.  They devised a liturgy by which the man would be honoured, a ritual; and year after year, people came to pay homage to the great inventor and to the instruments for making fire.  And the ritual was faithfully observed.  But there was no fire.  No fire.  Ritual.  Remembrance.  Gratitude.  Veneration.  Yes.  But no fire.

Source | Anthony de Mello, Rediscovering Life. Pages 102-104

PONDER AND CONSIDER

“Why do you call me Lord Lord and fail to do what I tell you?” [Luke 6:46]
And what is it we’re told to do? Love. Be kind.  Be compassionate. Be merciful. Forgive.

  • Are you trapped by the need for recognition or fuelled and propelled by the urgent longing to make a difference and make the world a better place?
  • What is your reaction to the success and popularity of others?

WHO REALLY LOVES GOD

Saint Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic, saw an angel rushing towards her, carrying a torch and a bucket of water. “Where are you going with that torch and bucket,” she asked; “what will you do with them?”

“With the water,” the angel answered, “I will put out the fires of hell, and with the fire I will burn down the mansions of heaven; then we will see who really loves God.”

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I wonder if we could live our lives without the threat of punishment or the promise of reward. Could we just do the right thing because it is the right thing?

YOUR BEARD IS ON FIRE

A man was standing in the middle of the town square. While lighting his pipe, he accidentally started his beard on fire. To the townspeople witnessing this event, he seemed to just stand there, doing absolutely nothing about it! Thinking that he somehow was unaware of the growing blaze, they ran up to him and shouted, “Your beard is on fire! Your beard is on fire!” and the man replied, “Yes, yes, I know – can’t you see that I’m praying for rain?”

Source | Story as told by Anthony De Mello

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Indeed, when it does rain, the rain is available! But in the meantime you better watch what you’re doing! And if your beard does catch fire don’t wait for the rain. Do something. Praying for rain does not help.

WRONG EMAIL ADDRESS

A couple were going on vacation but his wife was on a business trip.

The husband went ahead to the destination first and his wife would meet him the next day.

When he reached his hotel, he decided to send his wife a quick email.

Unfortunately, when typing her address, he mistyped a letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher’s wife whose husband had passed away only the day before.

When the grieving widow checked her email, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor in a dead faint.

At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen:

Dearest Wife,

Just got checked in.  Everything prepared for your arrival tomorrow.

P.S. Sure is hot down here!

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Miscommunication, conscious or unconscious, intended or unintended, can in fact shift the whole tenor of a conversation and deform what could have been a vacation with a taste of paradise into a dreaded visit that tastes and feels like hell!