Our combined early-morning prayer meetings have been in the Salvation Army in Ayr during the months of April and May. For June and July we will be meeting in Ayr Uniting Church.
Even though 6am is rather too early for many older people - and for parents of young families! - there has been good representation from a number of Burdekin Christian Churches.
"Blood and Fire," of course, are the words that appear both on the Salvation Army flag and on their emblem. The literature tells us that "this motto refers to Christ's sacrifice and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit."
The uniform has changed. Styles of music in worship have changed. Community service aims have broadened... Is the "blood and fire" motto a bit out-of-place - out-of-date, even - in the twenty-first century?
It’s not our place to comment, really. What we need to ask ourselves is what we mean by relevance in our world. How do we find timely words for the timeless message which alone is able to bring life to our fellow-Australians? Have we sometimes gone for "relevance" at the expense of "truth"?
I have just been reading a lecture given recently by Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. Among other things he said, "The churches in our community have a magnificent record of blessing the community through loving and caring social work. But the starting point, the dynamic, is the truth of the gospel. It is through trusting in the promises of God and being ruled by Jesus Christ that we are set free to love others. In other words, the dynamic of the Christian life is the truth of the gospel, and to abandon, or re-write or even assume the gospel, is to commit spiritual suicide."
So... back to the "blood and fire" theme. They are both very earthly elements. They remind us that God has acted - and continues to act - in this world.
In our tradition most of us haven’t been in the habit of following closely all the details of the "Christian calendar." There have always, however, been three important seasons - Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
The "blood" is a reminder of the death of Christ for our sins - the very beginning point of our renewed relationship with God. He didn’t stay dead. He rose to life on the third day, and seven weeks later ("a week of weeks") was the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The "fire" is a reminder of the coming of the Holy Spirit - so essential for our growth in Christian living and service.
Yes, we’ve been celebrating Pentecost again. As we read the story, we realise the importance of both "blood" and "fire". Any movement that leaves out one or the other has missed the point.
© Peter J. Blackburn, Link, June 2002