Dazzling Light

” . . . the dazzling light . . . ”

“Every day for all time to come, sacrifice on the altar two one-year-old lambs.  Sacrifice one of the lambs in the morning and the other in the evening.  With the first lamb offer two pounds of fine wheat flour mixed with one quart of pure olive oil. Pour out one quart of wine as an offering.  Sacrifice the second lamb in the evening, and offer with it the same amounts of flour, olive oil, and wine as in the morning. This is a food offering to me, the Lord, and its odor pleases me.  For all time to come, this burnt offering is to be offered in my presence at the entrance of the Tent of my presence. That is where I will meet my people and speak to you.  There I will meet the people of Israel, and the dazzling light of my presence will make the place holy.”  (Exodus 29:38-43)

Tonight’s the night!  I started my tradition in 1981 with an empty coffee can.  I was right out of seminary, serving my first parish, and getting ready for my first Ash Wednesday service on my own as a pastor.  (I served as an associate three years before, but someone else prepared the ashes.)  I took the ashes from the previous Palm Sunday services in the parish, stuffed them into the can, and threw in the match.  It was a little frustrating, not much of a flame, and more of a smoldering fire than a really spectacular show.  Then, as years went by, I discovered charcoal lighter fluid.  The flames got bigger and bigger, suggesting the need for larger burning containers, and – well, you get the picture.

Up until a couple of years ago I burned the previous year’s palms in my driveway or backyard at home, watching alone and taking photos of the flames.  (Notice in the photo for this week you can see a woman in the flames on the right side.  She’s wearing a robe with long flowing sleeves and her hair is blowing in the wind created by the draft.)  As people heard about the process they asked if they could join in.  Imagine that, people coming together around a fire, lifting their joys and issues to God in prayerful celebration!  Sounds biblical — like the verse from Exodus!

Tonight we’ll gather together (children and adults) around the small metal trash can at the church and put in our dried palm branches along with our concerns and celebrations written on small pieces of paper.  I’ll douse it all with way too much charcoal lighter fluid, stand back, throw the match, and  — POOF!  Then we’ll stand there and experience something together that really defies our putting it into words – the mystical experience of being bound together in fellowship by the presence of God.

I am grateful that folks asked to share in the event.  Now it’s so much more than just me, alone, with my big flames and camera.  Now it’s a celebration of the presence of God together.  What a gift!  That’s why we gather in worship and celebration, not because we have to, but rather, because when we do we are blessed by the presence of God and one another.  That blessing may be difficult to describe or understand, but is just as real and meaningful as the sight of the stupendous flames in the pitch dark stretching toward heaven and making cool designs along the way.  We were never made or meant to be alone.  God calls us together, and we are blessed.

I pray that God will always keep me looking for ways to gather with folks in his name.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit http://www.survivingteendepression.com.

My other book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at http://www.wipfandstock.com and http://www.amazon.com.

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1hSpxC_G24


~ by revgenelson on February 22, 2017.

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