Touched by fire
Although every month has something special about it, and with the arrival of a royal baby it will definitely be special for Harry and Meghan (as well as exhausting!), the month of May has a particular place in the heart of Methodists. On the 24th of this month back in 1738, John Wesley unwillingly attended a ‘Religious Society’ meeting, on Aldersgate Street in London. It was during this service that he felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ and from then on knew God’s love in not just his head but his heart, in a very personal way.
John’s life had been touched by fire, in a very real way, in his very early years. When he was only five years old, there was a fire at his father’s rectory in Epworth and he was thought to have been beyond saving, when a couple of neighbours came to help the family of eight, by pulling him out of his bedroom window. It was his mother, Susanna, who referred to his rescue as ‘a brand plucked from the burning’, a reference from Zechariah 3:2. She believed that he had been saved for a reason.
Having last month watched the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, I was reminded of the power that fire can have. From a small spark, a blaze can erupt and destroy anything that is in its path. It doesn’t make exceptions for 850-year-old buildings that have been places of prayer and sanctuary. When I was younger, my family lived in Central America and the locals would often burn off sections of trees and shrubland for the ground to be ready to plant with crops. Fire was used to cleanse the ground and make way for new things to grow. I was impressed that a day after the fire at Notre Dame, the French president said that they would turn the catastrophe into an opportunity to come together.
At the end of this month, we will be coming together as a village, at the Revels. As I have been reflecting on the sparks that can change and inspire people, I think this is a great example of how someone’s passion to bring people together can be caught by others, not just those close to them, but also across the generations. It is an opportunity to meet with neighbours and friends, to celebrate each other’s skills and talents and have fun together, building a stronger community.
So as the Methodists remember the fire that was placed in Wesley’s heart, may you remember and celebrate the things that inspire and fire you, even if the fire has to burn and cleanse the ground to make way for new things. Let us support and encourage each other as we take opportunities to come together.