Light My Fire

Meeting a friend at a party recently, I was saying that I wished the whole Church (large "C") would go up in flames so that we could just start over. If Jesus did intend to found the Church--something I strongly doubt--then what we have now is certainly not what he might have had in mind.

However, even with all the weapons of mass destruction that humankind has been able to invent to selectively destroy almost everything else, there probably isn't one that would accomplish what I had in mind. And having given it some more thought after reflecting on worship experiences that have left me feeling singularly unignited, I began thinking of something that Rob Voyle, founder and director of the Clergy Leadership Institute, said in a seminar I took with him. He said that it doesn't accomplish anything to light a fire under people. All that that results in is burnt butts. He said that what we want to do is light the fire that's inside people. Find what sparks them and nurture it into a flame that lights them and the world up.

That's what I yearn to see happen with, in, for, by the Church--to ignite the flame inside people so that we burn to set the world upside down. Poet-theologian Amos Wilder says that going to church should be like "approaching an open volcano where the world is molten and hearts are sifted. The altar is like a third rail that spatters sparks; the sanctuary is like the chamber next to an atomic oven: there are invisible rays and you leave your watch outside."

Second century mystic, Irenaeus said that the glory of God is the human being fully alive. When are we more fully alive than when we're fueled by that atomic oven that is our authentic selves engaged in what we love to do best for the good of all? I believe that falling short of the glory of God is ignoring that core of heat and light and spiritual nuclear fusion that goes on in us that reflects the image and fire of God. Frederick Buechner believes that our ministry is where our great joy and the world's great need meet. Somewhere in this world there's a need that doing what is our great joy will meet. It's a win-win situation.

Like all human institutions--even those which are spiritually motivated and well intentioned--the Church's efforts to be a raging fire of inspiration will vary. But bonding with that authentic soul that each of us has been given by God as a birthright is also an entry into the sanctuary. It's in the hallowed spaces of our soul that we should pray to encounter flying sparks.

Yes, I still wish the whole Church would go up in flames, but perhaps not the flames that destroy but rather light us up so that we ignite the world.

Where can we connect with the process of spiritual nuclear fusion going on inside us--no matter how small--and help change the world?

Catching Fire
by Davna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not go in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open to me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing, a torch a promise.
I choose to risk my insignificance: To live.
So that which comes to me as seed,
Goes to the next as blossom,
And that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

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