When I received the email from a loved one that contained the illustration I am about to share, I am sure it had been rehearsed in hundreds of pulpits around the world, but it was new to me, and I thought it worth sharing with you.
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the preacher decided to visit him.
It was a chilly evening. The preacher found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his preachers visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The preacher made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the preacher took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The preacher glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the preacher reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, ‘Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.’
We live in a world today, which tries to say too much with too little. Consequently, few listen. Sometimes the best sermons are the ones left unspoken.
The famous quote, “No man is an island” is another way of putting it. It should be of no surprise that when Christ left us here shortly after His resurrection, that, in addition to the Holy Spirit, He also left us an organization of other believers, imperfect as ourselves, who share common bonds, common experience, and common troubles, to lend strength and warmth to one another as we wait for Christ’s return.
He gave us a perfect Word. He gave us a perfect comforter, and He gave us companions who, like us, are also imperfect, charging us with the responsibility of reminding one another of our duties, and comforting one another with his Word.
So if you feel you have finally come up with the ultimate reason for not attending church this Sunday, and you are considering going to the thrown of grace to seek remedy for your loneliness and lack of comfort in this world, and the passion for Christ you have lost, let this gentle lesson of the ember set apart remind you what happens when we are separated from our brothers and sisters. We simply cannot be on fire for God (for very long) alone.