The sanctuary lights remain lit in the cathedral to represent the presence of Christ in the wine and bread nearby. Fire has long had a place in churches and temples all the way back to the beloved temple of the Jews. Much of the prophetic literature and one third of the psalms express humanity’s regret and anger at God that things have not turned out the way we either expected them to or the way we wish they had. Broken marriages, estranged friendships and family members, weird, twisted and sticky body parts, the effects of aging, the loss of money in an economic downturn, wars, the hemorrhaging of church membership as young people un-choose the church for the first time in history – these are all hard and sometimes bitter disappointments.
For reasons no one has been able to explain to me, we place the energy from that disappointment into conversations around money and sex. It is a bit like the biblical story of the demons which had to be sent somewhere; and so Jesus sends them from people who were possessed into pigs which run off the cliff to their death. The negative energy needs to be placed somewhere- a scapegoat- to get it out of us and so we place the pain of loss and regret into these two conversations – giving them more energy than they deserve.
Sometimes I go into the church and sit in order to get the negative energy of money conversations off me. A cleansing of sorts. As Canon Steward it would be easy for me to be those pigs – easy for me to take on the energy of the stress others feel about money. But when that happens I can at least see it and I go sit in silence with one of these small flames.
Keeping hold of these anxieties is neither helpful nor God’s hope for us. Stress is an perverted relationship with time says John O’Donohue and that has been my experience too. The call in my life is to exchange being successful with being gentle. It is hard to remember that, just as I have my physical father’s nose, I have my spiritual Father’s gentleness. Sitting with that flame reminds me who I really am.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.