Fire has no shape or substance. You can’t taste it or smell it or hear it.
You can’t weigh it or measure it or examine it with instruments. You can
never grasp it in its fullness because it never stands still. Yet there is no
mistaking its extraordinary power.
The fire that sweeps through miles of forest like a terrible wind and the
flickering candle that lights the old woman’s way to bed. The burning
logs on the subzero night that save the pipes from freezing and give
summer dreams to the tabby dozing on the hearth. Even from millions of
miles away, the conflagration of the sun that can turn green earth into
desert and strike blind any who fail to lower their gaze before it. The
power of fire to devastate and consume utterly. The power of fire to
purify by leaving nothing in it’s wake but a scattering of ash that the
wind blows away like mist.
A pillar of fire was what led the children of Israel through the wilderness,
and it was from a burning bush that God first spoke to Moses. There
were tongues of fire leaping up from the disciples on the day of
Pentecost. In John’s apocalypse it is a lake of fire that the damned are
cast into, and Faithful and True himself, he says, has eyes of fire as he
sits astride his white horse.
In the pages of Scripture, fire is holiness, and perhaps never more
hauntingly than in the little charcoal fire that Jesus of Nazareth, newly
risen from the dead, kindles for cooking his friends’ breakfast on the
beach at daybreak.
--Frederick Buuechner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of
Faith (Harper Collins, 2004).