Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch newsletter 14 March 2021
I have never smoked cigarettes – well, the usual drag behind school bike sheds before being almost sick, and never trying them again. I used to have a cigar or two each year, to mark my or a friend’s birthday. It’s probably been twenty five years since I indulged in that Havana decadence. But I did enjoy smoking a pipe. Not so much smoking it, although I’ll come to that in a sec, but holding the lovely smooth bowl, savouring the exhaled cherry or whatever hint had been added to the tobacco, picking an aromatic pipe tobacco, wielding the stem as a pointer in pub discussions, playing with the tamp and pipe cleaners. If you’re familiar with an English pub, you’ll be able to imagine the scene. I even had a Donegal Tweed jacket, still do, it doesn’t fit now 🥲 Leisa will tell you that I spent more time playing with my pipes (English briars, Falcons, Meerschaums, an eclectic collection) than smoking. She would be right (she’s always right) because I never mastered the art of keeping them alight. Anyway, accepting that pipes are just as dangerous to health as any other form of smoking, I gave them all away. I see on eBay that old pipes are worth quite a bit now.
This business of keeping things alight is applied to love and enthusiasm. We say “The flame has gone out”, when relationships break down. We say the same thing when our early Christian zeal gives way to fatigue. Or disillusion and doubt or even plain abandonment of belief. Your life hasn’t worked out as you thought God had promised. A loved one wasn’t healed. The flame has gone out. Perhaps you’ve been red-hot alight all your life, praise the Lord for that, but the extinguished flame analogy resonates with me.
The thing is, unlike my gone-out pipes, the flame was never lit by you in the first place. 2 Timothy 1, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God. The ignition is God’s. Paul remembers the people who taught Timothy, and is convinced that their pupil has assimilated their faith – their flame, if you like. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
The flame is there, it’s put there by God and kept kindled by God, all of grace, inextinguishable. So go on, fan it into a blaze.
(Would that my pipes had had the divine spark 😉 )