Summary: How The Tongues of fire at Pentecost demonstrates the power of God. Fire is a biblical image of God.
That Pentecostal Fire
Fire has long represented God and the presence of his Holy Spirit. (strike match or a lighter)
One day as Moses was tending his father-in-law's sheep, he saw an amazing sight. A bush was on fire, yet it was not being consumed. As he approached this unusual sight, he heard a voice saying, "Moses, Moses." Moses responded with the words, "Here I am". Then the voice, who Moses later discovered was God’s said, "Do not come any closer but take off your sandals for you are standing on holy ground." Out of the burning bush, God called Moses to lead the Israelite people to the promised land.
Then as Moses and the Israelites made their way across the wilderness to this promised land, they were lead by God himself. During the day time God was with them in the form of a huge pillar of cloud and at night by a pillar of fire. This fire was so bright they could see to travel at night.
One of the most exciting dramas in the Bible is the story of the prophet Elijah and his duel with the prophets of the pagan god, Baal. Many of the Israelites had begun worshipping this false god. In an act of boldness, Elijah challenged the prophets to a test between their god and the one almighty God. Two altars were prepared; two bulls were slaughtered and then placed on the altars.
The prophets of Baal began to call upon their god, dancing around the altar, praying to their god that it would bring down fire from heaven and consume their offering. This went on for the better part of the day while Elijah taunted them, "Perhaps, your god is taking a nap or else he is on a potty break!" Elijah was unrelenting in his verbal assault. Finally Elijah turned to the altar he had built. He ordered that nearly 10 gallons of water be poured over the altar and the sacrifice. He then prayed that God would show his power. As Elijah prayed, the fire of the Lord fell and burned up not only the sacrifice, but the wood, the stones, the soil around the altar and licked up the very water that stood in the trench around the altar.
As we move into the New Testament portion of the Bible, we find that it was a fiery star that leads the wise men to the small town of Bethlehem. As the star came to rest over a certain house, they entered and found the new born son of God; the Baby Jesus.
Finally we arrive at our text for today. It was the day of Pentecost. The disciples were all gathered together in one room praying and worshipping God when, suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven. The sound filled the whole house where they were gathered. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. They took this miracle of language into the streets and began to preach the Good News to the people who had gathered from all over the world.
Standing before us today (banner) is the symbol of the United Methodist Church, the cross and the flame. This symbol is a constant reminder of God's way of salvation-the cross and God's presence in his church, the flame.
To this day, fire remains a good illustration of God and God's Holy Spirit.
Fire cannot help but remind us of the power of our God. I am sure we have all seen portrayals of the old locomotive trains. They came equipped with a furnace which constantly had to have wood or coal thrown into them. The ideal being that the hotter the fire, the more energy produced, the faster the train would go. Fire produced power. Fire reminds us that God is so powerful that God merely said the word and the world came into being. What was that word? God said, “Let there be light.” And we are told, there was light. We must never confuse God’s power with that of a flickering candle. It is more like that of a raging inferno.
Fire reminds us of the presence of God. Stationed on our communion table are the altar candles. Those candles are visual aids to help us remember that God is present. As our services of worship begin these candles are lit signifying that were two or three are gathered in the name of the Lord, he is present. When the service concludes, the acolyte will light the candle lighter and led us out of the sanctuary. As we follow the fire we know that as we go into the world the presence of God goes before us.