I have been meditating on this image since the Easter sunrise service, when it was taken (thanks, Cami Stough). It was a beautiful morning, but a bit breezy. We had heard the Gospel and sung some songs, and I invited everyone present to light a candle of Paschal hope.
At first, it looked as though the center candle, from which everyone was supposed to light theirs, was going to go out. But as people lit their candle from the center, and planted it in the sand, an amazing thing happened. Each of the candles flickered and seemed to go out, and then they re-lit!
Now, I am sure that there is a simple scientific explanation for this: I assume that the heat generated by the bank of candles was just enough to light the wick of the newest candle. But still, it was way cool and a little magical.
What I have been thinking about since then is how like those candles we are. Our personal flame – the passion that keeps us going – is fragile. We can get blown out by a failure or exhaustion or opposition. But when we nest ourselves in communities of faith, when we surround ourselves with light and heat and joy, we are miraculously re-lit. This is one of the reasons I practice my faith within the church, as frustrating as it can be to be in the church. I need the heat and light of those other Christians, whose candles will also go out if they try to practice their faith alone.
But of course, this only works if the candles are really close; and that’s what really got me thinking. If we don’t create circles of people who are really close to each other, who “in deep” with each other, the heat thing doesn’t work. For those of us who are active in a church, we need to ask the question: have we built a community that is close enough to generate real heat? Or are we just flickering within sight of each other? This is particularly true for clergy. We know a lot of Christians and other people of faith. But are we in a circle that generates heat? Just going to church, just knowing some people who share your faith, just being part of a community won’t generate enough energy to keep things going. It takes the energy of deep relationships, and those take time and care.
I will be looking for people holding candles during Eastertide and see if we can build a circle that has the power to re-light the flame of the Spirit.