(I preached this sermon on Pentecost, May 31, 2020. You can find the full worship service at www.ststephenlc.org).
Fire has three necessary ingredients — you need heat, fuel, and oxygen. Take away any one of the three and a fire will either not start or it will be extinguished pretty quickly. Heat is necessary for fire so that the chemical reactions can take place that produces fire or keeps it going. Think of when you strike a match — the friction releases energy and heat.
Fuel is necessary because without something to burn, you don’t have a fire. Think of any campfire you have ever been a part of. The wood is the fuel for the fire.
Oxygen is necessary for fire to start or continue. Without sufficient oxygen, the combustion process stops. Think of putting a glass over the top of a candle and watch it suffocate itself out.
In 1989, Billy Joel, the singer and song writer, released a song — We didn’t start the fire. Its lyrics include brief, rapid-fire allusions to more than 100 headline events between 1949, the year of his birth, and 1989, when the song was released. It encompasses the history of most of the Cold War era, although he never intended for the song to be that.
The chorus between some of the stanzas of events goes like this:
We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning. We didn’t start the fire. No we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.
We didn’t start the fire that burns across the globe and especially here in the US right now. It just shows up in different places, with difference intensities. It consumes. In some cases, it destroys and it kills. Uncontrolled fire can do that. Fire that is chaotic and unrestrained is destructive fire. It will burn hot, take up any fuel that exists and suck the oxygen out in order to keep burning and it will never be satisfied.
Anger has often been associated with fire. And for good reason. The three ingredients of fire are present with anger too. Anger gives us a warm feeling that can be comforting in an odd way when we are really upset and is addicting for some people. Remember the last time you were angry — how did you feel? Did you feel the heat, the warmth inside you?
Anger feeds on the fuel of our emotions, consuming parts of us to the point that our whole being is consumed by anger, and we lose perspective and reason. When we see through the lens of anger, possibly getting to…