Shaped By The Fire (Acts 2:1-21)

By | June 5, 2011

Pentecost Sunday
Confirmation Sunday


     Did you hear about the woman who called the fire department one day. She was very agitated, “Come as quick as you can,” she cried, “my house is on fire.”  Then hung up.

      A few minutes later she called back, and “Hurry, hurry as fast as you can, it’s spread from the kitchen to the dining room.” And then she hung up, again.

     A few minutes later, she called one more time, this time, with the volunteer fire crew all ready to roll the dispatcher said, “OK, lady, just calm down and tell us how to get there.”

     It was obvious by her response that she was a little confused because she said, “Oh, uh, well, don’t you have your little red truck anymore?” (1)

      We can’t get much of anywhere without direction can we. Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples and the day we mark as the birthday of the Church. This is the day in which God sent the Holy Spirit to empower the people of God to do the work of God in the world. This means that none of us ever have to attempt to live the faith or to walk the walk or to do the work of God without direction, ever again. Let’s look at the passage for this morning Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV): [1] When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  

[2] And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  

[3] Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  

[4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  

[5] Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  

[6] And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  

[7] Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  

[8] And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  

[9] Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  

[10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  

[11] Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”  

[12] All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  

[13] But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”  

[14] But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  

[15] Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  

[16] No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:   

[17] ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  

[18] Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.  

[19] And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.  

[20] The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.  

[21] Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’   

     The passage describes the wind and the fire of God’s Holy Spirit sweeping into the lives of the disciples and believers in the early church. It changed their lives and our lives forever. The wind blew through with an awakening. The fire shaped their lives and gave them direction.

     In 2005 I had the honor and privilege of being part of an international start up team for the Upper Room’s Walk to Emmaus in Ireland for the Irish Methodist Church. I was one of the Spiritual Directors on Walks #1 and #2. It was an incredible experience. On one of our free days, we took a tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory. It was absolutely fascinating but it became spiritual experience for me. For me, it became definitive of the work of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. And it all began with a simple phrase by our tour guide.

     She was showing us the inspection room. All of sudden we heard a loud crash. Some of us jumped. And then the guide explained, “When you get to the Showroom and Store, you will find that we don’t sell culls or seconds. There are no seconds in Waterford Crystal. Anything that is imperfect and not of the highest quality, we destroy. Then we melt the glass down and start over.”

     I wasn’t there to write a sermon or even look for anything spiritual, but that phrase, “There are no culls, no seconds,” clicked in a part of my brain and from that moment on, all I could see were the spiritual aspects of what the artisans were doing.


     You see, what struck me is, that there are no culls in the Kingdom of God. You and I have been created in the very image of God. It may be trite to say it, “But doesn’t make junk.” There aren’t any seconds; there aren’t any culls in God’s Kingdom.

     We are held up to the Light of Christ and declared fit for the Kingdom, not because we are perfect. But because in the hands of Jesus and the through the Fire of the Holy Spirit we can be perfected. Jesus is the artisan. The fire of the Holy Spirit is His tool to shape us. All we have to do is put ourselves into the hands of the Master Artisan and let ourselves be perfected.  There are no culls, there are no seconds. Because of that, each of us, and especially the young people are being confirmed today are challenged to trust the Master Craftsman to shape your life.


     The next place we visited was the Glass Blowers. The furnaces used to heat the glass to it’s pliable and molten state, heats that glass to 1400 degrees Celsius or 2550 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hotter than a West Texas summer any of us have ever experienced.

     It’s in that heat that the glass begins to take its shape. The glass blower reaches into the furnace with a hollow iron rod, chooses just the right amount of molten glass for his particular project and starts the shaping process. 

     He pulls the molten glass out of the furnace and begins the process of shaping it. He blows the glass into the beginning shape and then uses wooden molds and tools to finish the process.

     God does the same thing with us. At our creation, God breathes life into us. And then at our baptism, God breathes the presence of the Holy Spirit into our lives and the shaping process begins to take place. God also, uses a wooden tool to shape and mold us in the fire of the Holy Spirit. That tool, of course, the cross of Christ. Through the Cross and through the Holy Spirit, God shapes our lives. But the work’s not done.


     Once the piece is shaped and molded, then it’s brought to the Glass Cutter. These are the artisans. A Master Glass Cutter goes through a stringent training that involves a minimum of 5 years as an Apprentice and 3 years as a Journeyman. That’s about how long it takes to become an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.

     Glass Cutting is a very precise and specialized skill which  requires steady hands, dexterity and concentration. And while the piece is marked, the pattern is done by memory, whether it is one of the flat cuts or one of the wedge cuts.

     The actual cutting is done with a cutting wheel. And because that cutting generates so much heat that the crystal would shatter, the wheel is constantly cooled with water. The water acts as both a lubricant and as part of the cutting process.

     Each piece, though created to look like each other are in fact, unique. No two Glass Cutters hold the piece or cut the piece in exactly the same way. Nor do they do each piece exactly the same. They are unique, just like you and I are a unique creation of God’s.

     When each piece is finished and inspected it is bathed in a series of chemical bathes, cleaned and polished. The same thing could be said for the waters of our baptism. Through our baptism we are bathed, cleaned and polished.

     The physical water may dry up but the spiritual waters of our baptism still run and flow through our hearts and souls as Christ shapes and molds us into God’s own unique design.

     That brings us to one last phase of the Waterford Crystal Factory. Sometimes special pieces are created or chosen to have further enhancement added through etching.

     The etchers are the true artists of the craft. They turn beautiful pieces of crystal into almost priceless works of art. When the crystal piece is created a place is left for the artist to etch anything from a woodland scene to a family crest.

     For me, this symbolizes God’s call in our lives. I believe that we are all called by God. You may not have discovered your calling yet. Mine is preaching. But I don’t think we are truly happy if we are not doing what God has called and equipped us to do. And I believe that the Master Artist and Creator has etched that calling on our hearts and spirits.


     So, you see, what started out as a tour, became for me, a powerful spiritual experience. I’ll never look at a piece of crystal the same way again. Because of Pentecost, because of what takes place in the life of those who confess their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, we can no longer look at each other the same way. We have been changed.

     And we will continue to change and be perfected under the hand of the Master Craftsman who is shaping and molding our lives through the Fire of the Holy Spirit. Today and every day we put our lives into the hand of the Master Craftsman to be Shaped by the Fire.

     I want to close with something Dr. Laurie Wirthlin, who was with us in Ireland, wrote in an email.

     “After going through the factory I realized that I had been praying for the wrong thing – I had been praying that I would be translucent and that Christ’s light would shine through me …. What I realized after going through the factory was that I needed to be praying to be transparent —- that no part of me hindered the light of His Love from shining through me.

     I am praying that you and I will become like a transparent pieces of beautiful crystal – Taking the fire of His Love & Light that has been put into our hearts into the world, and letting it shine through us with Grace and Peace in His Service.” (2)

     Our challenge today is two fold. First: You’re called to let the Fire of God’s Holy Spirit warm your heart and set it on fire like the early disciples.

     And Second: You’re called to let the Fire of God’s Holy Spirit shape you, form you and mold you into the person God would have you be.

     You have been created in the image of God. God has breathed the breath of life into you. God has seen God’s handiwork in you, lifted you up to the Light of Christ and declared you fit for the Kingdom. And now God simply wants to continue the good work God has begun in you so that the Light of Christ will shine through you and bring God glory.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1.   Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), March 2000.

2.   Dr. Laurie Wirthlin