Fire can bring up so many images. There's the fire in the belly that motivates an action. There's the fire in the head that can make me speak before I've thought out what I'm going to say. There's the walk through fire when I have to do something that I am afraid to do. Of course, there's always that saying of being tossed from the frying pan into the fire. And I have certainly felt that many, many times.
What struck me as I meditated on fire was the story from the book of Daniel, where King Nebuchadenezzer orders three men to be bound and tossed into a furnace and have the heat turned up because they refused to worship a statute of his royal pompous Highness (they were loyal to God, and weren't about to get involved in idolatry). This plan backfires... literally... and the men emerge unscathed, with God in their midst, much to the shock of Nebuchadenezzer. Thinking about this story, I was left with a question: is it not possible that if I put my trust in God, I can survive the fires of my life's challenges? The answer seems to be "Yes".
So, in taking that thought a step further, I can't help but think about the challenges of the past week faced by the LGBT community. Tuesday, we were once again reminded that we are still in a struggle to have our relationships treated fairly and equally under the law. California's Supreme Court upheld Prop H8. President Obama is upholding the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, resulting in the high-profile dismissal of Lt. Dan Choi, a gay man who is also an expert Arab linguist (given that some of our biggest enemies right now speak.... umm... Arabic... this would seem to be a bad move.) And as I have become increasingly outspoken on LGBT rights, I have to weigh the practical problems such boldness might cause me in my work life, my income and my future. Figuratively speaking, queer people... me included... are in the line of fire on the ballot, in the church, in the military, and in the world.
But then, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of the Daniel story survived a blazing burning fire in a furnace, I keep thinking that the gay community will emerge from the fires of discrimination without a singed hair on our heads. Because I believe we are part of God's plan, and we are good.
As we approach Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit's none-to-subtle entrance as a rush of wind with divided fiery tongues resting on each of the apostles and causing them to speak in languages foreign to them, I am reminded that the Spirit is in the world... and will give the wisdom of speech to those who must stand up for ourselves and the rest of society's "others". Far from extinguishing the fire, the Spirit is like the bellows that grants us the strength and courage to love and serve God by loving and serving the divinity that dwells within all people, regardless of who they are. And once lit up inside with that fire of the Spirit, it is impossible to go back or be pushed down.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. --1Peter 2:10.