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Communion Meditations (2006)

The Fireman

Originally delivered October 8

Consider, if you will, that fine specimen of hardy masculinity, the fireman.  Here is the man who rescues kittens from trees, exemplifying public service.  He rushes to fires and there exhibits his courage in battling the flames.  Sirens roaring, he dashes to the aid of the heart attack victim, oozing a professional compassion.

Macho, it seems, has returned to fashion.  A man of dirt and danger, skilled in things dangerous, he is our common example of things masculine.  Huge waiting lines form for just a few open positions as fireman. 

Have you ever asked yourself why this is so?  Like the Lone Ranger, the fireman is one who rides to the rescue, a hero—a real man.  As the old Westerns had it, the girls all bat their eyes at him and say, “My hero!”

Consider, then, the plight of his counterpart, the fire marshal.  No glistening fire truck, just a car going from place to place.  He never rescues kittens; he hands out tickets.  He appears to be a functionary, a bureaucrat—a nuisance. 

One reason is that he seems to be such a perfectionist.  He doesn’t want some of the oily rags in the sealed container; he wants all of them there.  Flammable liquids?  Store them in approved containers, in an approved place, in an approved way, or get an approved ticket.  He’s a pain. 

But let me ask you:  which of the two saves more lives?  We may not be able to count them exactly, but the fire marshal has much the greater effect on life and death than the fireman. 

Communion is like the fire marshal.  Prevention of sin is its aim, for it is much better to prevent sin than to need repentance.  But if it is not prevented, it can be corrected while it is still trivial.  How?  Examine yourself, as the Scripture commands.  Take heed of your temptations, and bring them to the Cross.  Take heed of your  “little” sins, and bring them to the Cross, asking His forgiveness.  Self-examination at Communion is that which keeps us away from sin.

Communion—the great prevention of fires—the fires of Hell.

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