I thought I was blessed at my previous job when I could just walk across the college campus to visit Jesus in the tabernacle, but here at St. Benedict Classical Academy, Jesus is a mere 10 feet above my head. As I sit at my desk, Jesus sits in the room above me, in the little chapel of the schoolhouse. Most of the time it’s quiet upstairs, but every so often I hear the shuffle of students entering to pray or the creak of the door as a teacher enters to make a visit. But I know the room is never truly empty, as evidenced by the sanctuary candle that remains lit beside the tabernacle.
It is one of my tasks here as Director of Operations to ensure that candle stays lit. Recently as I changed out the candle, I recalled my thesis for my Master’s in Theology & Ministry of how God’s love shows up in scripture as different images and forms of fire. Fire comes in so many forms, just like God’s vast and enduring love. There is the spark of a match giving a tiny flicker of light, the flame of a lantern illuminating the surrounding space, the blaze in a fireplace giving warmth, the fire that cleans silver, and the unrelenting flames of a wildfire. A fire is warm – it gives light and can be a means of cooking, but it is also dangerous as it burns quickly and can be hard to contain. In the same way the fire of God brings light, comfort, and warmth, God’s love can also be unpredictable, powerful, and transformative.
In Exodus, God appears as a pillar of cloud and fire to guide the Israelites. If the pillar moved, the people knew to follow it until it stopped in order to find their new place of rest. In this way, fire was comfort and guidance for the Israelites. As he did for his chosen people in biblical times, today God continues to protect, guide, and provide for humanity. Like the Israelites, God may not speak directly to us, but will still make his will known to us, if we pay attention.
Furthermore, in the book of Malachi, God is described as a refiner’s fire who will purify the people of their injustices. A refiner’s fire is where a material, such as silver, is placed in a fire to cleanse and burn away any impurities so that it becomes pure silver without blemish. Yahweh is the refiner who will put Israel into the fire to cleanse it of impurities and injustices. Humans are not destroyed, but refined when encountering Yahweh’s refiner’s fire. The fire of God is one of love, which is why we are not consumed in it, but rather freed from impurities and transformed by it. God will not abandon us, but will hold us accountable along our journey of faith.
As the pillar of fire invited the Israelites to continue on their journey, the light of the candle in the little chapel of SBCA invites us all to continue on our own journey of faith, seeking God’s will. So, next time you drive by 2 Pleasant Street and look up to the second floor window and see the candle flickering in the dark, know that God is there, inviting us in to his transformational fire of love.
AUTHOR: Riley Casey, Director of Operations