Beauty For Ashes
I sat by the campfire hypnotized by the dancing flames, and glowing embers, bothered only by the occasional mosquito that buzzed in my ear. It was a fire I started many hours earlier, while others were in the water, playing board games, or reading by the dock. This fire was attended to countless times. Throughout the day, someone would be walking by and throw another couple of logs on the fire.
It was a hot fire. The coals inside were a glowing red, dusted with brilliant white ash. Heat poured out from the fire. It felt amazing on our legs and hands after a rather cold evening. Often, the conversation would hit a lull and all eyes were transfixed on the fire between us. It drew us all in.
Everything else of interest paled in comparison to this hot, mature and roaring fire.
As I stared into the hot cavern of coals that peeked out between the outer logs, I was reminded of that old church chorus, “Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning”. The coals were ashen white, and any black remnants of fuel were long burned away. They glowed with living fire, that rippled through their fragile form.
I remembered setting and starting that fire. There were white ashes from the night before laid in piles like flakes in the pit. But they had no form or strength. When I touched them, they disintegrated in to the finest powder.
Watching the muted flames roll through the glowing centre of that fire, I realized something. The only thing keeping those white ashen coals in their wooden shape was the fire itself. Somehow, two formless substances were cooperating to not only hold their form, but create a brilliant light, and emit incredible heat. These ashes were incredibly and impossibly beautiful.
“Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” – 1 Corinthians 3:12-13
The ash was the only thing the fire could not consume. Every combustible aspect of those wood fibers were completely depleted and unrecognizable. The fire left nothing else. And more importantly, the fire needed nothing else to glow white hot in the centre of that campfire. That ash had no structural value whatsoever, and yet it provided enough for the fire to maintain its intensity, and the classic shape of lumped coal.
I see these words of Paul in a new light. We may well have completely misinterpreted the purpose of Christ’s fire of judgement. Clearly Paul tells us the purpose of this judgement is not against us as people, believers, but rather our works. We have wrongly preached to make sure our motives, and service, and agendas and plans are pure before God lest all of it be burned away. I think this to miss the point entirely. We focus on the minor as if we had any clue how to keep our motives pure in everything we do!
No, the focus is the wonderful fire of Christ that will fill each one of us, and consumes everything that tries to keep a record and reminder of our own greatness and accomplishment until all that remains is only which cannot be consumed. Ashes. But it is enough! That beautiful fire does not leave us as lifeless, formless piles of ash. No, that fire continues to fill and ripple through our beings giving us shape, and life, and purpose. It sustains our beings, and causes us to shine in the darkness. It emanates through our lives providing comfort and heat to those left out in the cold. And, it is a fire that will never burn out, and never run cold. It is an eternal fire.
It not an angry fire, but it is the very love of Christ that consumes all that is incapable of accepting love, until our entire beings are saturated and glowing with His presence. The wonderful thing is, we do not wait for this day Paul describes for it to begin. No, this day only describes the finished work of Jesus in our lives, the Day of Completion. The fire of Jesus’ love has already touched our lives, and is already doing it’s wonderful work of consuming all that does not reflect His character and His glory.
This is good news! It is not about what we lose. For what we lose is worthless. It is all about what we gain.Beauty for ashes.
Reposted from Faithwalk Blog on newhopeottawa.ca