Thoughts on Fire and Love

“But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming” from Handel’s Messiah: a Soulful Celebration is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music in all of my memory; and when I watched our rendition recently, I wept. Seeing our sanctuary, our dancers all over our pulpit, listening to the voices of our singers made me fondly remember the magical ways we’ve used art to honor our God.
Handel’s music is based on Malachi 3, which promises a messenger who will come to heal the world. The text raises a question about who can stand up to what the leader brings. His coming will be like a refiner’s fire, purifying the impure gold and silver that is creation, and forming us into the treasure we are meant to be.
I’ve been reflecting on how the fire that took our sanctuary away from us is also a refining fire. Of course it’s neither judgmental nor punitive, but truly we are being transformed by it. Yes, place and space will change as we rebuild and design physical space for the next century and beyond. But we, too, are being transformed. The sadness and grief — borne of our love — are making something of us, and as we heal, imagination and vision will transform us as well. We will be the people who survived 2020! We will be the community who survived the fire, who rose up from the ashes, who made a new way while honoring the old way. We’ll forever be the ones who learned, in the midst of tragedy and turmoil, how to love. Period.
Come Sunday, as we light the Advent candle of Love, my sermon will invite us to say, “Yes!” when Love calls upon us. Special art by Adrienne Hurd, Lutin Tanner, Elizabeth Stanley, Dionne McClain-Freeney, Jeff Berman, and Reenat Pinchas will help us sing, like Mary did, even in our uncertainty. There are beautiful programs on Sunday.
On Christmas Eve, mark your calendar for The Night Before Christmas story time at 4:00 p.m. ET with Ben, Elise and me; a re-broadcast of A Bold New Love at 9:00 p.m. ET; and an opportunity to light a candle for Middle Church at 11:00 p.m. ET, tagging it #LightsForMiddle to share our story.
If you are wondering how to help us in this moment, be sure to share the Rebuild Middle short, and make a donation at And here are some other beautiful ways our community is rising-up to rebuild us:
You are light and love,