Feeding God’s Flame

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Walt Disney World has always held a special place in mine and Andrew’s relationship. We spent many dates at Magic Kingdom and Epcot in our high school and college days. We got engaged at Epcot – outside of Japan after we finished our dinner in Italy – where else on earth could that happen without the help of the Concord?! We have been so blessed by friends over the years who work for WDW that have gifted us tickets and helped us experience the magic again. For my birthday Andrew surprised me with a season pass so we can retreat to the wonderful world of Disney whenever we like.

One of my favorite experiences at Disney is the fireworks show at Epcot. One of mine and Andrew’s first dates was watching a Fourth of July fireworks show atop Happy Top Mountain in Kentucky while serving on a mission trip together. After he proposed Andrew asked that our first activity as an engaged couple be watching the fireworks show at Epcot; I could think of nothing better.

If you are familiar with the show, you know that it is a combination of fireworks and extreme pyrotechnics – complete with a raging fire that flames from a steel globe that sails on the surface of the World Showcase Lagoon. I have viewed this show from many different places along the shores of the lagoon and no matter where I stand, I can feel the power and strength of the heat radiating from the flames sourced within the globe. Sometimes it is warm and pleasant upon my face. Other times it is so intense that I need to turn away.

The flames are bright. The flames are full of vigor. The flames inspire.

This week we celebrate Pentecost – God’s giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s people and the birth of the Church. Acts 2 tells us “When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:1-4). Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them – tongues that were bright…tongues that were full of vigor…tongues that inspired.

I am sure that the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and those gathered with them created an energy that had never before been seen. Strength and power to heal and to prophesy and to dream and to make dreams reality were at the fingertips of the leaders of the Early Church and they employed this strength and power for the Kingdom’s good! For those the apostles served their presence, gifts, and ministry were welcome, warm, and pleasant happenings; their service drew people towards them like moths to a flame…or Methodists to a potluck. To others the apostles’ presence and gifts caused people to turn away.

As we prepare for the celebration of Pentecost and our active remembrance and participation in receiving the Holy Spirit, I wonder how God’s holy fire will manifest in us? Will it rage with such an intensity that we ignite new ways to engage our faith through critical thinking and companionship and compassion? Or will it be like just another day where a fire is started, but deprived of the necessary elements to help it breathe and grow, it fizzles out? I want to be like the flames emanating from the globe at the World Showcase. I want to be bright. I want to invigorate. I want to inspire. I want to do all of this for God’s glory, for the vitality of the church, and for the exponential growth of grace in the world.

God gifts the flame and we feed God’s flame by committing ourselves to the needful work of critical thinking, companionship, and compassion in conversation with and in response to our faith. May God’s Pentecost flame burn brightly within each of us; through it and because of it may we illuminate the world.

Prayer: “Fire who fuels all fires that burn, suns around which planets turn, beacons marking reefs and shoals, shining truth to guide our souls: come to us as once you came; burst in tongues of sacred flame! Light and Power, Might and Strength, fill your church, its breadth and length.”* Amen.

*”Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow,” The United Methodist Hymnal 538.

Faith and Works: Hear and Do

Sunday’s Scripture ~ James 1:19-27

Andrew and I are high school sweethearts.  We met as 16 year-olds in our church’s handbell choir – and as they say – the rest is history.  We dated through our remaining years of high school and on into college.  In December 2004 we got engaged outside the Japanese archway that is affixed in the World Showcase Lagoon (not sure Walk Disney calls it a lagoon, but I am!) at Epcot.  We are very fortunate that have friends, students, colleagues, and congregants that work for Disney and invite us to spend the day with them in the parks around our anniversary in December.

As a special treat when we visit Epcot in December the Disney’s Candlelight Processional is in full swing.  The Candlelight Processional is a mass choir/mass orchestra ensemble that sings its way through the Christmas story while portions are spoken by a celebrity narrator.

A few years ago we attended the processional not knowing who the narrator would be and I was stunned to learn that Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin would be the narrator that evening.  If you are not familiar with Marlee, you should know that she is deaf.  She lost most of her hearing by the age of 18 months, but loss of hearing did not hold her back in life or keep her from her dreams.

I cried through the entire processional.  Marlee spoke the Christmas story to a hearing crowd…she spoke the story perhaps without any significant knowledge or awareness of what her own voice sounds like.

The most moving moment of the evening, however, was listening to her sing.

Silent Night.  Holy Night.  All is calm.  All is bright.  Round yon virgin mother and child.  Holy infant so tender and mild.  Sleep in heavenly peace.  Sleep in heavenly peace.  

In her final words to the congregation gathered that night she bid each of us to do what we could to ensure all people would sleep in peace.

In peace.


I will never forget this evening with Marlee.  She couldn’t hear the Word; she was physically stopped from doing that.  But her deafness did not impair her from doing the Word, from speaking truth in love and truth to power in a very public forum.

She connected hearing and doing/speaking and doing in such an incredible way for me that evening.  She spoke with integrity.  She spoke with conviction.  Yes, she’s an actress by vocation.  But this, my friends, this was authenticity.

Marlee spoke “pure and undefiled before God, the Father” and challenged all who could hear – and those who can’t – to do what we can so that all may sleep in heavenly peace.

I heard.  And I’ve been doing.  And I’ll keep on keeping on.

Prayer: “Lord, whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need, who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed: we, your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart, consecrating to your purpose every gift that you impart.”* Amen.

*”Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 581.