Move with your fire
by PASTOR JEFF WILLIAMS
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
In the early days of the Tennessee Valley Project, a dilapidated log homestead had to be abandoned to make room for a lake behind the dam. A new home on the hillside had already been built for the cabin’s family, but they refused to move. The day of the flooding arrived and as the bulldozers were brought in, the family brought out their shotguns. A social worker was called in as a last-ditch effort to talk with the family.
After hearing them repeat their refusal to move, the social worker pleaded with them, “Help me to explain to the authorities why you won’t move in to your beautiful new home.”
“See that fire over there?” the man asked, pointing to a blazing fire in the primitive hearth of the log cottage. “My grandpa built that fire over a hundred years ago,” the man explained. “He never let it go out, for he had no matches and it was a long way to a neighbor’s. Then my pa tended the fire, and since he died, I’ve tended it. None of us ever let it die, and I ain’t a-goin’ to move away now and let grandpa’s fire go out!”
This gave the social worker an idea and she arranged for a large apple butter kettle to be delivered. She explained that the family could scoop up the live coals and carry them to the new home, pour them out, and add fresh kindling. With that possibility the family agreed to move. But they wouldn’t budge—until they could take with them the fire of their ancestors (by Leonard Sweet, “A Cup of Coffee at the SoulCafe”).
We get attached to places. And when we further attach relationships and activities with those places, they become even more important and we feel even more threatened by potential moves. When change is proposed or chosen by someone else, we can’t imagine leaving our current location. How will we function in a new place?
What a graceful, creative invitation to think that we can take what is most important with us! The ability to move our fire and add fresh kindling in a new location means we can respond to new opportunities with less fear. We don’t leave the fire behind or let it go out. By faith we not only take it with us, but we find it’s inside us.
The apostle Paul might not qualify as the most sensitive social worker, but he does offer the graceful, creative affirmation that “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27).
May you feel free to move with your fire to the next place, and there find hope and glory.