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July 2019

Playing with Fire

Whilst the weather at the time of writing in early June does not live up to the title of flaming June I remember the orange skies over NW England last year when Lancashire moorland was very much ablaze.  It also reminds of our ambivalent relationship with fire as it can be both creative and destructive.

Early human groups first learned how to use and then control and create fire and it had a fundamental impact on how human societies developed, to migrate to more northern (and southern) latitudes, to improve diet and later to produce metal implements from copper, tin and iron. Much later it enabled the development of steam power and the internal combustion engine which as well as being the basis of much technological improvement was also a factor in the climate issues we face today.

The destructive power of fire is evident in the destruction of natural habitats and human habitation both by accident and intention, sometimes the intention is to provide replacement vegetation and indeed some Eucalyptus shed their bark to act as kindling so when forest fires occur naturally their competitors are destroyed and the heat from the fire is necessary for their seeds to sprout!

Despite our own fascination with fire we also need to use it responsibly not only for our own benefit but to consider the impact that our own choices have on those who are more vulnerable and the legacy we leave for future generations.

The word fire occurs over 600 times in the Bible and not surprisingly in both a positive and negative context.  Amongst these are ideas of refining and purifying and also denoting God’s presence – as with Moses and the burning bush and at Pentecost, celebrated in early June, when the apostles received flames of fire above their heads. 

Perhaps the next time there is the opportunity to contemplate a burning flame, it might also be the time to consider the flame of love burning in God’s heart for each one of us and the flame of God’s presence in our own lives both to overcome the faults of the past but also to bring us reassurance and hope for the future.

Charles Hill

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