Fire season

by Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

June 10, 2003

As the warm summer sun streams through the Ponderosa Pine forests of eastern Washington those who reside in the midst of this great beauty share one common apprehension. photo of Pastor Jaynan Clark EglandWith the warmth comes dryness; the ground is laid for wildfires. Crackly, dry pine needles are underfoot. Numerous branches and pine cones were forced to the floor by the falling snow last winter. All this litters the entire area as if lying in wait and whispering, “All is prepared.” The ground is laid, the fuel is present and the possibility of fire is growing with each sunny, dry day. Fire could come at any time now and things could get very wild.

When you move into a geographic area such as this you accept this as one of the real and present dangers. Much like Midwesterners accept the probability of tornados and our tropical dwellers plan for hurricanes. Our one road into Spokane takes us past three fire stations. Each has its own fire danger awareness board. It reads, “Fire danger today is—.” We begin the season at “Low” but will progress, sometimes rapidly through the levels to inevitably remain on the highest level of threat—“Very High.” It is not comforting to pass by and read, “very high” every hot summer day and well into the fall of the year.

Because it is a high fire area, many people are employed as firefighters. The National and State forest workers are trained to be “hot shots” and “smokejumpers.” Those men and women go into forested areas that are accessible only by air. They parachute from planes into dense forest carrying in their packs all they need or have available to them. They have a “Pulaski,” a fire-fighter’s first line of defense. It’s a hand tool with both a hoe and an axe, named after an heroic forest fire fighter Edward Pulaski, which they dig fire-lines with. They also have safety gear, basic survival items and what they call a “shake and bake.” This is a special body bag of sorts that is fire resistant up to 1000 degrees. It is to be used only as a last resort if one is caught in a wildfire and cannot escape. Many forest fires can burn in excess of 1500 degrees, thus the rather foreboding name.

Fire season is upon eastern Washington, as is fire season upon Christ’s church—it is called Pentecost. The biblical account of the Pentecost event as recorded in Acts 2 is wildfire personified in the Holy Spirit. Was this really the birth of Christ’s church? From a historical perspective that is how we treat it but look around and ask yourself these questions, “Then what has happened? Who doused the Spirit with a bucket of cold water?”

Can the church you worship in and serve through really be the birth-child of this Holy Wildfire?

Institutionalized and structured, the Church seems not to whisper but scream out in need of constant and continual renewal and reform to be even remotely recognizable as the church originating from the Pentecost event. When Jesus’ disciples take it upon themselves to practice the vocation of firefighting, being hot shots and smoke jumpers we engage in constant and organized efforts to manage the fire, to minimize its effects, to contain it and finally to put it out. Fire, by its very nature has free reign and that freedom is viewed as threatening and hazardous to those followers who have vocationally joined the firefighting forces and are in the long line of historic succession known as dousers, the bucket brigade; putting out the fire wherever and whenever it threatens to be wild and free.

As a movement within Jesus Christ’s church, WordAlone cannot be about firefighting but rather must take up residence within the fire regions where the fire danger for the day always reads, “Extremely High!” Renewal and Reform and deeper theological Reflection within the church call you not to fight the fire, not to attempt to manage, control, minimize or strive to put it out but to fan the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is whispering to you, “All is prepared . . .wildfires are inevitable.” Come Holy Spirit!