Devotional

Fire

Croagh-Patrick.jpg

I arise today...
Through the splendor of fire...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

Like the sun and moon, the splendor of fire calls forth images of brightness, radiance and glorious light. Yet just as the softness of the moon’s reflective glow adds another dimension to the glorious light of God, so the warm crackle of a dancing fire further deepens the image.

Imagine yourself sitting before a stone fireplace or perhaps a blazing campfire. It may help to pull up one of the videos below and simply gaze into the flame on the screen for a few minutes. Of course the ambiance and warmth cannot be replicated digitally, but fond memories and imagination goes a long way toward taking us back to a serene moment of our lives when we found ourselves lost in the fire’s dance.

Fire is extremely practical and necessary for life; to cook, to keep warm, to cleanse or purify, an so on. Though we may use fire in so many ways, these functions are not the essence of fire.

Fire is mysterious, beautiful, inviting, though it can become equally dangerous and destructive. There is no exact science to determining where or in which direction each flare will rise from its source. Likewise, we cannot anticipate when Holy Spirit’s fiery tongue may fall upon us and ignite us in ways that our safe and solitary upper rooms can no longer contain.

We cannot anticipate when Holy Spirit’s fiery tongue may fall upon us and ignite us in ways that our safe and solitary upper rooms can no longer contain.

The splendor of fire has a way of both drawing us together and calling us to silence. We begin an evening around a campfire with laughter and storytelling as we roast hot dogs and marshmallows, but in the end, even the most talkative people find themselves gazing quietly into the mystery of the slowly dying embers. Perhaps the life of the fire calls us to reflect upon the splendor of our own lives, once so active and full of energy but in the end, we all slow down to rest.

At a silence retreat earlier this year, the stone hearth at the center of the retreat center invited nearly every participant to simply sit in its warm glow even as frost overtook the ground just outside the window. Some would read, others slept. Some poked at the logs to stir up the embers while other simply sat and stared. Though its strength grew and faded in cycles throughout the day, it kept burning until the doors were locked for the night. It did not speak audibly as the burning bush on God’s Holy Mountain, yet its voice whispered divine mysteries in the language of the heart and soul.

It is fitting that James describes the tongue as a fire and that the Holy Spirit comes in tongues of fire, for fire indeed has a voice. And like the flames themselves, the voice can speak warmth and comfort or it can consume all that is in its path like a raging forest fire. The fire itself is not alive, nor is God contained in the fire, anymore than God is in the rocks or trees or even in the sun or the moon. But there was a reason all of these elements of earth and sky were so sacred to the Celtic people and there is a reason St. Patrick and others did not entirely exclude these phenomenon from Christian worship. If God indeed is the creator of all things, why would we not expect to see glimpses of the divine nature, character and purposes in that which God has created?

We don’t listen to the fire or dance with the flames, but we are invited to hear and to dance with the God of the flames and perhaps, like Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, even to stand with the Son of God in the midst of the fire and not be consumed (Daniel 3).

Reflections:

1. Spend some time gazing at a fire. What do you feel? How do you see yourself? How do you see God?

2. What do you hear God speaking to you through the fire and how might the Three-One God be inviting you to participate in the dance?

3. In your life right now, would you describe the Holy Spirit’s presence more like a blaze, a fading ember, or somewhere in between? Why?


Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today,
Through the speed of lightning…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Moon

Croagh-Patrick.jpg

I arise today...
Through the radiance of moon...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

Interesting that the writer of this prayer mentions only the simple “light” of the sun, and yet describes the moon as “radiant.”

Radiance implies more than mere light. It envisions brightness, splendor or brilliance. If anything, this description seems more appropriate for the sun than the moon. After all, the moon shines with a much softer, gentler glow. We cannot even look upon the brilliance of the sun but the moon we can watch clearly from its rising to its setting with no ill effect upon our eyes.

Perhaps the difference is context. It is easy to take the sun for granted because when it shines, all is light and we never look directly at the source. The moon, however, functions more like a candle in the darkness. Rather than simply illuminating all we see around us, it’s glow does draw our eye across the darkness of the night sky to the source of the light. In contrast with the darkness around it, the moon is indeed radiant, especially when it is full or in some special state such as a super-moon or harvest moon.

Unlike the sun, the moon does not produce its own light. It reflects the light of the sun into the darkness. This too contributes to our ability to see its beauty. When the sun shines upon the moon and we are able to look closely enough, especially with telescopes or even camera lenses, we notice even the craters and ridges of the landscape. We cannot see such detail upon the sun without specialized equipment, but the sun illuminates the face of the moon and in turn, the moon shines its face upon us on the earth.

While the sun is a glorious metaphor for the brilliantly blinding light of Holy God, the moon perhaps offers a metaphor for our place as God’s children in the darkness of a sinful world. When God’s light shines upon us, every crack and crevice is exposed. Though we try to hide in the darkness, the world needs to see that even in our brokenness, we are still beautiful to the Creator who shines his light upon our face. Every crack tells a story and every crack we see upon the face of another reminds us that we are not alone and that God has brought us through every meteor impact we have faced throughout our lives.

As we turn our face to the light, so we must reflect that light into the darkness of the world. When we try to shine like the sun, exposing the cracks on the surface of others, people turn away in fear, shame, or even anger. But when we simply reflect the light and allow others to draw near in solidarity, we can bask in the glow of the Son of God and together radiate even more light into the darkness.

One final thought. The moon has little value for us during the day. We do not see its light. Therefore, if we are to reflect the radiance of the moon in a way that will bring light and hope to others, we must enter into their darkness. We cannot hide in well-lit sanctuaries where our scars are so easily washed out by the glare. In the moonlight we find a safe place to be real without being blinded. In the moonlight we discover that even with our all of our craters and scars, we are beautiful and even radiant as we reflect the glory of the Son, in whom all things are created and have their being.

Reflections:

1. Spend some time gazing up at the moon. What do you feel? How do you see yourself? How do you see God?

2. In what specific ways does your life reflect the glory and the love of God in the world around you?

3. In what ways have we turned our face away from the blinding light of the Son and no longer reflect His radiance?


Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today,
Through the splendor of fire…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Sun

Croagh-Patrick.jpg

I arise today...
Through the light of the sun…

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

St Patrick died on the 17th of March, 493. In his Confession he writes: “For the sun we see rises each day for us at His command, but it will never reign, neither will its splendor last, but all who worship it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who has done Christ's will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides forever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and forever and ever. Amen.”

Throughout history the image of the sun has represented “God” and in many cultures and religions, the sun itself is worshiped as the highest god. To ancient people who did not have satellites and cameras in space to explain the heavenly bodies, it is no wonder the sun would command such power and awe. Think about it. For life on earth, the sun controls everything.

The sun gives us light by which to see and work and live, and yet it is so bright that no one can actually look upon it. The rhythms of day and night provide our bodies with appropriate rest and awaken us to enjoy the life we are given.

The sun provides warmth to keep animals, crops, and people from freezing to death in colder climates.

Fruit and vegetables tend to grow more hearty when there is plenty of sunlight, and while rain is also necessary, too much can flood the fields and wash out the harvest. The sun is needed to dry things out before it rains again. This cycle of sun and rain is crucial to our survival. Too much or too little of either is detrimental.

Today we have learned far more about the necessity and the power of the sun and through the technology of solar panels, we have even discovered that the sun is a source of tremendous renewable energy, enough to power our entire planet with no drain on our natural resources. There is nothing we as humans can do to burn out the energy of the sun.

In so many ways, the sun serves as both the source and the sustainer of life. No wonder the god of the sun stood above so many other gods in ancient times.

For the people of Ireland in St. Patrick’s day, it was no different, and interestingly enough, Patrick did not try to argue against them. In fact, the circle we see at the center of the Celtic Cross is a way of acknowledging everything the people believed about the sun. Yet when juxtaposed with the cross, it takes on new meaning.

While the sun is indeed great, it is not great in and of itself. Rather, the sun is a gift from a greater source, who is the Son of God who died upon the cross so that we might come before the throne not of the sun, but of the very one who spoke the sun into existence.

So let us arise with joy in the light of the sun. Let the sun’s warmth bring a smile upon our face and the sun’s light guide us through the day. Let the setting of the sun grant us peace and rest through the night and comfort in the knowledge that it will rise again.

But in all of this, let us worship and bow down to the Creator of the sun, who gave us this tremendous gift. “Let there be light,” God said… and before anything else came into being, there was light, and God said it was good.

So let us arise today in the light of the sun and walk by the light of the Son of the Most High.

Reflections:

1. Meditate on a time when you found yourself in awe at the beauty and glory of the sun, perhaps a particular sunrise or sunset. What meaning did that time have for you?

2. How does the sun direct your attention to the Creator and remind you of the Son of God?

3. People will turn their lives upside down just to catch a glimpse of the sun during a solar eclipse. What would it look like if we were as intentional about seeking the face of Christ, the Son of God, in every person we meet?


Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today,
Through the radiance of moon…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Easter Sunday

A Reading for Easter Sunday

Luke 24:1-8

Let us join together in worship and prepare our hearts for the hearing of God’s Holy Word.

Readings from the Gospel of Luke based on The Daily Text series: “Listen to Him”. Reflections can be found on the Daily Text Website at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/

May God bless the reading and hearing of His Holy Word.

Holy Saturday

A Reading for Holy Saturday

Luke 23:50-56

Let us join together in worship and prepare our hearts for the hearing of God’s Holy Word.

Readings from the Gospel of Luke based on The Daily Text series: “Listen to Him”. Reflections can be found on the Daily Text Website at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/

May God bless the reading and hearing of His Holy Word.

Good Friday

A Reading for Good Friday

Luke 22:66-23:49

Let us join together in worship and prepare our hearts for the hearing of God’s Holy Word.

Readings from the Gospel of Luke based on The Daily Text series: “Listen to Him”. Reflections can be found on the Daily Text Website at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/

May God bless the reading and hearing of His Holy Word.

Maundy Thursday

A Reading for Maundy Thursday

Luke 22:39-65

Let us join together in worship and prepare our hearts for the hearing of God’s Holy Word.

Readings from the Gospel of Luke based on The Daily Text series: “Listen to Him”. Reflections can be found on the Daily Text Website at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/

May God bless the reading and hearing of His Holy Word.

Holy Wednesday

A Reading for Holy Wednesday

Luke 21:37-22:38

Let us join together in worship and prepare our hearts for the hearing of God’s Holy Word.

Readings from the Gospel of Luke based on The Daily Text series: “Listen to Him”. Reflections can be found on the Daily Text Website at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/

May God bless the reading and hearing of His Holy Word.