For Israel, for Jesus of Nazareth, and for the Church throughout the ages, the desert has been the constitutive experience that has formed their identity, taught them trust, and helped them recognize essentials—hidden beneath the apparently still surface of the desertscape, life abounds!
In the Bible and in Christian tradition, there is no narrative or legend about the creation of fire, but there are abundant experiences of visible evidence of the Divine Presence in some form of fire. From the desert of the Exodus through Isaiah's vision in the temple, to Malachi and to John the Baptizer's promise of One who will baptize not only with water, but with Spirit and with Fire, a strand of purifying, redemptive heat weaves through the witness of scripture. Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles with the risen Christ promising the apostles' forthcoming baptism with the Holy Spirit; in the next chapter, we hear about that Spirit given to individuals gathered in community.
The Spirit of Life that raised Jesus from the dead calls us from wherever we are, and gathers us into an assembly that in baptism already has experienced its first death and its second birth. The Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ shapes and forms us into the people of God—a gathering of the ordinary that daily walks the extraordinary Way of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, living as an alternative community to those under the reign of death.
Like the apostles of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, we live baptized into the cross of Calvary, into the empty grave of Easter dawn, and into the freedom and fire of Pentecost…