One of my diversions is dabbling in auctions, not eBay, but the traditional “going… going… gone” live auction. Only, these days, live does not necessarily mean standing in a room with a crowd of bidders. The auction house I deal with has gone totally online. The auction takes place on the internet. An item is displayed on screen, people enter bids from their computers, the price goes up, until the last bid has stood for 12 seconds. Then the next item pops up.
I have purchased all sorts of interesting things. Sometimes, the lots are in bulk. One day my daughter mentioned she did not have a measuring cup set. By chance, they were offered at auction and the next week, she had her set – two in fact- and I had another 34. And then there are the Beanie Babies, compressive bandages, cute animal heat packs, and magic wipes (just add water), to mention just a few.
Some of my purchases have ended up at Scots. A few years ago, some high tech spirit burners went to auction. These were round cylinders with a solid base to hold the methylated spirits and a glass sleeve so that the flame was safely isolated from the surroundings. I bought two. If you were at worship on Pentecost you would have seen them on the communion table, with the flames leaping and dancing. Spirit burners celebrating the day of the Spirit.
The pun is obvious. Yet perhaps we can learn something from the symbolism.
For a start, those spirit burners need fuel. I topped them up with metho before the service, just enough, I noticed, to get them through the service. How do we top up the fuel for the Spirit in us? For an introvert, this might be through time spent in reading, prayer or quiet meditation, while an extrovert might seek out the company of others, in fellowship with friends or maybe just standing in a busy place absorbing the aura of the crowd. The Bible mentions that Jesus went off to pray. Perhaps that was his time to recharge. But I wonder too if those many meals shared with others, and maybe even the humour found in many parables could have boosted his spirit. There are no hard and fast rules – perhaps I could have filled the spirit burners with brandy instead of metho. What is important and vital for our lives is that we take time and seek opportunity to replenish our reservoirs.
Then, there is the flame itself, dancing in the burners inside the glass tube. The story of Pentecost uses the imagery of flames descending on people. Have you ever wondered what those flames did? Were they purely for show, symbolic of changes inside the minds of the disciples? The flames in the spirit burners were not large enough to supply much warmth. They symbolised the Spirit on Pentecost. Yet maybe they did do something.
I find the flickering flames in the burners entrancing. I watch them leap and dance, never identical, but repeating almost patterns. It is relaxing, soothing, refreshing. I am not alone in this response. Others can spend hours looking at flames. Flames can bring life. This is paradoxical, as flames so often carry negative connotations of disaster and loss. Yet the flames in those burners are things of delight and enjoyment. The flames themselves can become the fuel to recharge us.
I wonder if this points to another way that the Spirit works within us. Not by granting special charismatic gifts like speaking in strange languages, or healing, or talking with trees, but rather, the Spirit within us opens us up to be sources of delight and refreshment to others. The Spirit makes each of us things of beauty that add to the life of others. Certainly, this is how God sees us. In the aftermath of Pentecost, let us remember that we are like the flames, to see ourselves as God sees us, dancing with life, and to see others in this way.
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
P.S. Let me know if you need a set of measuring cups…
© Scots Church Adelaide Ph. 08 8223 1505