WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS
LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE
O Lord, take our ears and hear through them,
take our hands and use them,
take our lips and speak through them,
take our eyes and smile through them,
take our hearts and minds and wills,
and use them as lamps of love,
by which your light may shine in all
the darkness of this suffering world.
Modern Prayer, anonymous
There Is A Season: A Time for Spiritual Healing
Many Effects of Fire
Fire. Heat. Energy. Combustion. It is all around us. It is within us.
Fire is at the heart of our planet and our solar system and the universe. Fire has the power to heat, to ignite, to destroy, to refine, to cause regeneration, to cook, to purify, to transform. It has the power to bring people together. It has the power to sustain and protect. It has the power to harm and to kill.
We see fire naturally occurring in the sun, stars, and raging wild fires.
We see humanly created fire in fireworks, sparklers, and candles. We see it in campfires that gather people together to share stories that shape our reality. We see it in bursting bombs and tumbling buildings. We see fire stoking the engines of industry. We see it in electricity which can provide light as well as spark fire.
There are many instances in scripture where we see the power of fire. In Genesis we see the fire of the sun divided into the light of the day and the darkness of night. We know the story of the burning bush and Moses and we’ll talk more about that a little later. There is the pillar of fire that leads the Hebrews through the wilderness at night as they flee from slavery in Egypt. There is the star that guides the wise ones to Jesus, the light of the world, who tells his followers that they are the light of the world with a light that is not to be put under a bushel basket. There is the fire of Pentecost igniting the disciples to form the church. And there is the fire of the book of Revelation leading to the emergence of a new world. And there are other images of fire in our scriptures that remind us of the power and presence of the Divine.
The image of fire, of light, conjures illumination, literal and figurative. It suggests elucidation. God’s word, a lamp to our feet, a light to our path. (Psalms)
Fire is powerful. And its power is made manifest in many ways.
This time of covid has been like a time of testing by fire. We have been destroyed, renewed, and transformed. We have seen new realities and new truths in this pandemic time. We have seen destruction and refining and purifying. We have been brought together around the hearth of Facebook Live and Zoom.
We have experienced many changes during this time – in our schedules, sleep patterns, activities, habits, dress. In how we live with our pets, what we eat, and how we shop. We have experienced heartache, grief, loss of relationships, dreams, loved ones, jobs, and income. And this has changed us.
When we think of the power of fire to destroy, to renew, and to transform, we see that we have experienced those kinds of changes in significant ways during covid.
Personal Time of Reflection – Covid has had many effects. It has been a season of transformation. What changes have you noticed – in yourself, in the world around you, in the community, in relationships, etc. We all know things are different now. But how are they different? You are welcome to make a list of these changes. There are pads and pens for your use.
Music from Hilton
Sharing in Small Groups
Tending the Fire
The June 2 issue of Christian Century has a collection of short narratives called Spark. I want to share one of the stories with you. It was written by Ingrid Rasmussen from Minneapolis:
The night after George Floyd was murdered by police, I got a call that the medic site serving demonstrators near the Third Precinct in Minneapolis needed to find a new home because of encroaching fires. The caller asked if the church I serve as pastor, located in the heart of growing unrest, would open its doors and tend to the wounded.
It was a big ask. Our building had been completely closed for two months because of the pandemic. But faithfulness and love require different things from us in different moments, and that night we needed to say yes. Because some congregants were already protesting in the area, we went from doors locked tight to doors propped wide open in about 20 minutes.
A few days later, a man approached me carrying a lantern. He introduced himself as Brian Dragonfly from MIGIZI, a Native youth empowerment organization located across the alley from the church. MIGIZI’s building survived the first night of unrest in the neighborhood, but the next night a fire spread from a neighboring structure. The building and most of its contents were destroyed.
When Dragonfly arrived to assess the situation, the building was still burning. “I decided to capture the fire,” he told me, holding up his lantern. Would Holy Trinity Lutheran Church tend the fire for MIGIZI until they could rebuild? He thought that the flame might bring some comfort to his community in the weeks and years ahead.
In our sanctuary, he set the lantern on the altar. I ran to find a candle. We shared the fire and along with it the trauma of the preceding days, the conviction that not all that was destroyed was to be mourned, and the hope that the ashy moment in our neighborhood’s life would be an opportunity for new life.
Later, I decided to bring the flame home for the night—I was more than a little fire-conscious in those days. I drove the candle home in my car’s cup holder. When I made it to my home with the flame still flickering, I wept. Even shattered dreams need tending.
Ingrid C. A. Rasmussen
Tending the flame. During this covid time, we, too, have had to protect and tend the flame – of our lives and our spirits, our hopes and our dreams.
In this time of stress and danger and threat, we have had to keep alive our humanity, our creativity, our divinity. And we have had to help to tend the flame of others around us who have been dimming.
So how have we fed our spirits? How have we kept our flames burning, our coals warm? What star has led and guided us through this time? What spiritual practices, readings, habits, prayers, resources, relationships have been life giving? How have we kept the flame of our spirit alit during this time? What has led and guided us through this wilderness of covid?
In this time of personal reflection, you may give some thought to how you have kept the light alive during these days of covid. How have you nourished your spirit and maybe been a light for others?
Music from Hilton
Sharing in Small Groups
What is emerging for you as we emerge?
We know fire is needed to foster life. Naturally occurring fires and controlled burns are needed in nature to spark new growth and to feed the soil with ash and debris from vegetation. There are pine cones that need fire to release the seeds they contain to seed new trees. So new life can come from fire. Fire is needed for new life to emerge.
So in thinking about this covid time, a time of trial by fire, we think about how new life will emerge. What will come forth? What is being brought to life? What conditions are emerging that will enable something new to come forth?
In the book of Exodus, Moses has escaped from Egypt to save his life after killing an Egyptian overseer. He is busy living the pastoral life as a shepherd in the hinterland far from the centers of power. He has gone on the down low. And one day as the sheep are grazing, he sees a bush. Let’s listen to that story:
Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock deep into the wilderness, Moses came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
The messenger of Yahweh appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a thornbush. Moses saw — ‘The bush is ablaze with fire, and yet it is isn’t consumed!’ Moses said, “Let me go over and look at this remarkable sight — and see why the bush doesn’t burn up!’
When Yahweh saw Moses coming to look more closely, God called out to him from the midst of the bush: ‘Moses! Moses!’
Moses answered, ‘I am here.’
God said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground!
‘I am the God of your ancestors,’ the voice continued, ‘the God of Sarah and Abraham, the God of Rebecca and Isaac, the God of Leah and Rachel and Jacob!’
Moses hid his face, afraid to look at the Holy One.
Then Yahweh said, ‘I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt; I have heard their cries under those who oppress them; I have felt their sufferings. Now I have come down to rescue them from the hand of Egypt, out of their place of suffering, and bring them to a place that is wide and fertile, a land flowing with milk and honey — the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have watched how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now, go! I will send you to Pharaoh, to bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’
The plight of the Hebrews lit a fire in God and God enlisted Moses to respond. So, we can think about this time of covid, and all that we have been through in the past year, as individuals, communities, and as a society, and think of the needs that have come to light. What has gotten your attention? What desires, callings, or needs have arisen for you? What has troubled you? What sacred passion has been ignited in you during this time? What fire is God kindling in you to bring you to life, to bring life to the world?
Before we take some time to think about this, I want to mention something. Sometimes we may feel that it’s all that we can do to keep ourselves going. We don’t feel we have the capacity to do anything more. Moses could have ignored that bush. But there is a cost when we ignore the fire, when we don’t pay attention to the passion that burns in us. We may experience frustration, addiction, conflict, depression, apathy, despair. There is a peril to missing your calling, to not helping, to ignoring how you are needed in the world. There is a cost to you and to others.
So we are going to spend a few quiet moments thinking about what has been ignited in us during this covid time. What has lit our passion? How are we being drawn by the fire? What desires, what callings, needs have arisen for us? What are we needed to be doing?
Music from Hilton
Strengthen my tongue that it may
Convey even one single spark of all
Your glory to future generations.
Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321
The bush is there, awaiting our notice, bringing God’s dreams to light.
Now it is time for the matches.
For what we are going to do, you need 90 matches. You also need three rubber bands.
Please get out your matches, and make 3 bundles. One with 21 matches. One with 19 matches. And one with 50 matches.
Here’s the story with the matches. Spiritual guide and therapist, Gunilla Norris has created a practice involving matches to help with staying focussed while engaging in a process of spiritual transformation. [See Matches: Bringing Heart and Will into Alignment 90 Days of Practice, Gunilla Norris]
This practice involves allowing a spiritual intention to surface. And noticing it. Identifying it. And fanning that flame.
The intention. This is not a self help goal per se. Like, I am going to put the top on the toothpaste tube every day and train myself to always do that. Those kinds of goals are important but this process is not designed for that. This is about something that has been sparked in us, something that is emerging or awakening in us, and that is transforming us into more loving, fully alive people.
After the stress of the pandemic, and all that we have been through, this match ritual is an opportunity to pay attention and see what is coming out of that experience that we want to bring forward. Maybe you have been struck by something in these days and months of covid and it is an ember seeking to become a flame. This match ritual is about fostering that inner intention.
Here’s the process. Once we have identified an intention, we speak intention and light our match, once a day for 90 days. This daily practice is an outward ritual signifying an inner intention. It is symbolic. While 3 weeks, 21 days, can lead to a new habit, 90 days can lead to transformation.
The match helps to remind us of our fire within, a divine fire, seeking to be made manifest in us. A flame captures our attention. When we light the match each day and it burns down, we have to stop, pay attention, focus, to be safe with the fire. This gives us time to remember our intention and keep it in focus.
Then after the 21 match bundle, there is the 19 match bundle, to make 40. A sacred number in the Bible. The days of rain in the story of Noah before a new world emerged. The years the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness before beginning their new life as a settled community of justice and peace. There is the story of Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, a time of preparation for his ministry. So, first the 21 matches, for 3 weeks, getting into the habit of lighting the match, and then the 19 matches to make the sacred 40. Then 50 matches, a time of solidifying the intention and taking us into the period of transformation. The whole thing is a slow process requiring patience and acceptance. A time of emergence. Some people say after the 90 matches they make more bundles and keep going.
Here are some more details about the match process. Norris recommends saving the burnt match stubs in the box to help remind you of your faithfulness and how far you have come. She also suggests decorating the box, maybe inside and out, with images or drawings or cut out pictures from magazines. This will help to reinforce your intention.
Also, if your box has a cardboard strip inside, you can write a scripture verse or a word or a quote on that to help fan the spark of your intention. And along the way, you may find that you want to put something in the box.
It helps if you light the match at the same time each day. And say your intention as you light your match. And if you miss a day, then you are to begin again with match number one. It’s not about failing. It’s about being honest and truthful. And learning from your experience. And being true to consistency. That helps to foster integrity. So, it’s important to be constant. Ninety days in a row.
You may feel reservations or doubts along the way. That’s ok. If you feel resistance, examine it. Listen to that resistance. Maybe it’s a sign that you are going deeper and that something is changing. If you have doubts and feel the process is silly, accept that. And keep lighting your matches. Continue. Let go of the outcome. If it feels rote, well, then pay attention to that. Are you resistant in some way, putting up an obstacle? All of these experiences can offer opportunities for deeper awareness. They can shed light.
So, now we’ll take some time for reflection on the intention, on what passion is enflamed in you, on what kind of transformation your spirit is seeking, what is your deep desire, how is God calling you?
If after the time of reflection, nothing has surfaced for you, you haven’t caught sight of a fire, a passion has not been ignited within, not to worry. Norris says to light your match each day, pursue the outward practice and something will come. Be patient. A spark will appear.
Time for personal reflection.
Music from Hilton
Those who would like to are invited to pair up with someone. Share your intention with the other person. If you are willing, consider following up with that person in the days and weeks to come. Help to fan one another’s flame along the way. Offer support and encouragement. Maybe share what you see happening in each other. Share what you are experiencing. Having a partner is a way to keep the flame burning and see what it is showing you.
So if you would like to, spend some time in pairs and share your intention and discuss being continuing companions on this journey.
Dedicating Our Match Boxes
You are invited to hold your box in one hand. Place your other and over the box in blessing. If you are in pairs, hold your box, and let the other person put their hand over your box, and vice versa.
Let us pray:
We dedicate these matches as a symbol of our desire to be transformed by the flame of divinity, burning and glowing in us, shining the light of love in the world. Through this process may our passions be rekindled, may our deep desires meet the needs of the world, may our fire nurture new life, growth and transformation for the good of the world. May these boxes remind us to come out of the boxes we make for ourselves so that we can see the full light of life and love in all of its raging splendor. Amen.
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Morning Prayers — Savior’s Prayer
Have everyone light a match not from a bundle.
Go, set the world on fire.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556