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5.09.2007

Jesus Fire Dancer

So There I was...

…Enjoying the fire dancing. I am the pastor of a post-modern church, so my pastoral duties occasionally include things like fire dancing.

One of my folks invited me to come down to the riverfront park in our town and watch her spin about her head small flaming objects attached to chains. Some of her friends were dancing with sticks aflame at both ends, and the dancers were accompanied by a group of people banging on drums. All this was done after dark, of course, on this cool, early April, Easter Vigil.

It was all very tribal, very pre-Christian, or maybe post-Christian. The dancers moved to the beat we all heard, but also to melodies heard only by their spiritual ears. The fires made great “whooshy” sounds as they whizzed about, describing circles in the dark air as if some wizard was teaching geometry to an unseen class. The circles got big, the circles got small, ellipsis and figure eights appeared around the dancers heads, feet and sometimes between their legs. The attitude of the dancers seemed serene, reflective, in control. Occasionally flames from one dancer would interact with the flames of another. I saw flames lick at clothing and hair but no one ignited themselves.

All in all it was a great Holy Saturday activity. I am a Quaker and one of our testimonies is that every day is a holy day and that all activities can be sacramental, but we are free to participate an all that leads us towards God, and the Easter Story certainly does that. I have always had a fascination with the Saturday piece of the story, called by some the Harrowing of Hell. To harrow means to plow, or deeply disturb the earth; to disrupt the status quo.

It is clear that both the Apostles Peter and Paul believed that Christ was not inactive during the time between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Sometimes He is pictured as a preacher, speaking the truth to the souls in Sheol.
Talk about a captive audience!

Sometimes he is pictured as a liberator bursting the gates of Hell open from the inside. Eastern Orthodox icons depict Hell as cold and empty with one or two chained demons and Jesus resurrected surrounded by former inmates. That’s a great picture.

Hell exists. A place separate from God must exist for free will to mean anything, but the door is open and the exit sign is clearly marked. It is the church that has rebuilt the gates of Hell and found useful the scare tactic of inescapable torment.

While sitting in the dark and cold, contemplating Holy Saturday and watching neo-pagan fire dancers, I received a new image of Jesus - Fire dancer. In my vision He shows up in the dark and cold of Hell and converses with the Adversary:

A: Welcome, Always knew you’d end up here.
JC: Thanks, I make it everywhere eventually, you know.
A: Really? I think your traveling days are over bud. Like the flames?
JC: Actually I do like the flames. Mind if I play a little?

He reaches down and picks up two handfuls of combustion and starts drawing circles in the air. A crowd appears. A drumbeat starts from somewhere deep. He steps lightly and playfully, showing his mastery, his serenity, His cool. The crowd starts dancing.

A: Cute tricks, been done before, but it’s going to get old.
JC: Anybody ever done this?
The circle of flame above his head expands explosively, and He hurls it towards the gates. Those evil old doors crack and fly outward, and Jesus the fire dancer leads a parade out, up and away.

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