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God As Flame

I am approaching this week’s picture of God as flame with caution and trepidation because I know the impact fire has had on our lives, on our community, and is currently having around our country.

But scripture is full of images of fire. Fire leads the Israelites through the wilderness. Fire consumes offerings to God. Fire purifies God’s people. God reveals Godself in fire. The Holy Spirit comes as tongues of fire.

And so, the idea that God is fire or flame cannot simply be ignored.

And yet, there is also a tension in choosing such an image. For while fire warms us, and gives us light, and makes it possible for us to cook and to read late into the night and to keep warm in winter. Fire can also destroy: fire can engulf bodies, devour towns, annihilate whole cities.

Fire is essential for life and civilization, and fire is a threat to both.

And so, what do we do with such an image of God?

Well, you should come to worship on Sunday as I wrestle with that very question. But I think such a picture of God requires us to hold the tension of fire.

In their children’s book, What is God Like, Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner write, “God is like the flame of a candle, warm and inviting. With God close by, you can look to the light and see through the darkest of nights.”

In her children’s book, Images of God, Marie-Helene Delval writes, “God is fire. When we open up our hearts and our lives to God, we receive a fire that gives light and warmth, but also a fire that burns. And that can be a little scary.”

Perhaps the picture of God as flame isn’t meant to be simple or easy, but perhaps it is meant to challenge us to think of God in a new way, or maybe even in a way that makes us a little uncomfortable.

Grace and peace,


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