Pentecost +2 - Year C
1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39
This is a very dramatic use of fire. It consumes everything, including its usual counterpoint of water. There is no rainbow promise here, only power.
It is always interesting to see what it is that people will give credence to. “Let’s have a battle with, Fire! That will keep our attention and focus on end results. This will be an easy one to judge, no gray areas here—it burns or it doesn’t. And best of all, winner takes all.”
Here religion is a contact sport. My fire means your death.
It is possible to have religion be a relational gift. My fire means our new friendship through mutual wonder.
Key is whether we attend to the multi-valency of life. Fire is scary; fire is helpful. Are you scared enough to use it proactively against someone else? Are you helpful enough to use it to provide a community feast?
Finally a question, what else might Elijah have set as a test? Of course it would have to be something that the followers of Baal would see as legitimate. Would providing a feast for Jezebel’s birthday have done it? How about taming a pack of wolves and teaching them to herd sheep? It might be that, practically speaking, fire was the best of poor options. It might also be that it wasn’t. It is re-thinking and re-imagining past events that put us in a better position to see how else we might play out our next similar occasion.