THE BONFIRE OF OUR VANITY
If you were a firework for God, which one would you be?
Of all the dates we commemorate in our common life, the uncovering of the first high profile terrorist plot on November 5, 1605 is the most enduring. Thankfully it has long been detached from its anti-Catholic roots and, like many rituals, has lost meaning beyond superficial appearance. For several years, bonfire night has become a rolling programme of events beginning some time in early October and ending in late November, though am I alone in detecting a recessionary feel to the celebration this year?
Jesus said: let your light so shine before other people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
I suppose you could say that we are rather like fireworks for God. Which then, would you be?
Perhaps you would be like a rocket. Rockets fly off into the sky but for a while we cannot trace where they are until suddenly they explode in bright patterns of light. It is possible you have grown accustomed to people not noticing you – until, that is, something unexpectedly occurs. The assumption you have made that God always seems to work through other people and not you is flawed, because he has been preparing you for this moment. Suddenly you will fill other people’s lives with colour and kindness as your life explodes with good things like a rocket.
Maybe you would be like a Catherine Wheel. This spins round and round, sending off sparks of light which change colour as it spins. It could be that your calling is to spend much of your life doing the same things day in day out. Some middle aged people suffer a relentless sense of stifling tedium in their lives. The merciless suspicion that there is no broader point to their existence can lead to a retrenchment where weekend entertainment becomes the goal to which weekday work leads. If only they knew how much of an impact they actually made on the people around them! Christians must resist such despair because with God there are endless possibilities in how he may use us to bring the new life of his kingdom to birth.
Some of us, sadly, are like a banger. Bangers make everyone jump with fright as they go off. There is no colour, only noise. Bullies scare people with sudden and capricious mood swings. There is no illumination, only the fear among others that at some point they will explode with a loud and ugly sound.
I think the firework we are most like in life is the sparkler. Like most children when handed a sparkler, I was entirely unimaginative when given a brief few moments to trace out a name. It would be Simon, Simon, Simon, Si… until the glowing ember was extinguished. Yet Jesus said: let your light shine so that other people may glorify God. He was especially critical of people who sought attention for what they do in life. The achievement of the Christian is, as with a sparkler, to trace the name of Jesus in ways that help people to glimpse the presence of the living God. We act instinctively from complex and sometimes selfish motives meaning that the name of Jesus we trace is sometimes only briefly visible. But others only need to read that name once as it sparkles to know whose name we bear.
It is against the background of darkness that colour looks the most beautiful.
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