I didn’t start the fire!

The last time I went through a pastoral evaluation, the fire trucks were called. I was minding my own business in the church hallway, after being asked to leave the congregational meeting momentarily, when I started to smell smoke. I consulted with others before determining that yes, we had better call 911.

“I promise I didn’t start the fire, ” I kept saying to people as we vacated the church. And this was true. Someone had been in our small chapel burning incense without us knowing it. Fortunately no damage was done and nobody complained too much about the shortened meeting. Still, people gave me a hard(er) time. That’s because I had already developed a reputation at this particular church for some misguided choices resulting in a smoky Christingle-websanctuary on Christmas Eve. (The thought of candles made out of oranges sounded like a good idea at the time.)  Still to this day people at that church will ask me if I’ve started any fires recently.

I usually laugh it off but still, I will forever associate pastoral evaluations with loud sirens and big, strong people in big fire protected suits and masks walking around the church building assessing the damage.

If my memory is right, this fire incident occurred around Pentecost, a time when we read of “divided tongues, as of fire.” (Read Acts 2).

I tell this story/confession because 1) Pentecost is this coming Sunday and 2)My first three-year pastoral evaluation at Rainbow begins this coming Sunday. I hope to the good Lord that we will not need the assistance of big people in big suits and masks. We will be joined by a consultant from Western District Conference, but I doubt he will bring fire gear.

One never knows what will happen on Pentecost, so come prepared for surprises. And please, come prepared to stay for the brief congregational meeting after Sunday School.

And finally, I’d love someone to sing this Billy Joel/ Pentecost inspired song someday at Rainbow. (I’d do it if it wasn’t for being evaluated right now.) I commissioned my good friend and fellow Mennonite pastor Joanna Harader to write it last year:

Hit us with tongues of fire—with the wind that’s moving and the Spirit grooving.
Hit us with tongues of fire—let your love enflame us and your power claim us

Upper room, Pentecost, resurrection beat the cross.
Violent wind, Spirit kin in Jerusalem.

Gallileans, Cyrenes, Phrygians and those from Crete.
Elamites, Parthians, visitors from Rome.

Arabian and Egyptian. Too much wine. Too much din.
Prophecy, destiny, dreamers dreaming dreams.

Signs in heaven, signs below, blood, fire, smoke billows.
Darkened sun, promised One, Messiah Jesus Christ.

Hit us with tongues of fire—with the wind that’s moving and the Spirit grooving.
Hit us with tongues of fire—let your love enflame us and your power claim us.


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