Plucked from the Fire.

Methodists and fire have a storied relationship. John Wesley started his life by being “plucked” from a house fire moments before the roof came crashing down when he was six years old. (pictured in The Rescue of John Wesley from the Epworth Rectory Fire, 1840) The experience shaped him to the extent that one of his mottos, which he even inscribed along with a little picture of a house burning on one of his portraits, was “Is not this a brand plucked out of the burning?” Since he was one of the chief evangelists of a Gospel message of assurance, this favorite motto of his no doubt held spiritual as well as biographical importance for him. John Wesley also used fire imagery fairly often in his sermons and sayings. I referenced one, “Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn,” in my first sermon here at UUMC. Many are familiar with John Wesley’s conversion experience on Aldersgate Street in London, when he felt the Holy Spirit’s presence by saying “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” Our United Methodist Cross and Flame bears a reminder of this occasion and the twin tongues represent the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church who merged together in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church, which we hope carries out John Wesley’s desire to “reunite the two so long divided, knowledge and vital piety.” (Though the official explanation for the two flames is that it represents the two former denominations, it is more compelling in my own mind to refer to them as representing “knowledge and vital piety,” so if you’d like to take that approach, I won’t correct you )
I write all this to inform you that we had a small stove-top fire in the basement kitchenette on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, the fire did not spread or do any damage to the kitchenette—it just burned up a couple of oven mits, a crock-pot, and a plastic pitcher and caused foul smelling smoke to spill out all over the West unit of the church. Thank God Vincent Moore was close at hand and quickly put out the fire with an extinguisher. Thank God no one was hurt—aside from Vincent’s already fragile lungs being assaulted by the smoke. Thank God that two years ago, Dan Call smelled a gas odor in the basement to the attention of the trustees and then Ray Freeman found and sealed off a leaky gas valve in that same kitchenette. What was a minor emergency would have been a devastating catastrophe if people hadn’t been diligent about addressing an issue when they saw it. One of my good friends who is a pastor in Iowa is dealing with the aftermath of a major fire in their new fellowship hall only two weeks ago. I am glad that this minister isn’t consumed with the same task. Yes, we Methodists have a thematic connection to fire, but let’s keep it to the symbolic and spiritual kind, shall we?!