President Stuart McMillan outlines why he chose “Hearts on Fire” to be the 14th Assembly theme:
Fire is a rich symbol for the First Peoples of Australia. If you are to enter another Clan/Nation’s country you light a fire at the Nation’s boundary to make your request to enter or pass through.
Fire sticks are used to care for country and pass onto others. Indeed fire is a symbol for most indigenous cultures – the many different cultural and linguistically diverse peoples who are the Uniting Church in Australia.
Fire, burning, shining and hearts are all rich symbols used in Scripture. Almost two years ago I had a wonderful contextual theological discussion with Australian & Bahasa Indigenous Bible translators about the Emmaus Road passage in Luke 24, particularly Verse 32: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
In Leviticus we read: “The fire on the altar must be kept burning continuously, it must not go out.”
For me this also speaks of our hearts and passion – the kind of “fanning into flame” which Paul spoke of; the kind of fire that a church which is no longer at the ‘centre’ of Australian society, needs to have on the margins, at the edges, to be relevant, to act and to speak in this space.
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of God’s word being in his heart like a fire. John the baptiser spoke of Jesus baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And it was tongues of fire which rested upon those gathered in Acts 2. Finally Paul exhorts those in Thessalonica hanging about waiting for Jesus to come, not working as Christ’s ones, “Do not quench the Spirit”.
I am thrilled by the passion (hearts ablaze) of the young adults in our church. A passion for justice for all peoples, for the care of the environment and for living the way of Jesus. I see this same flame in many members, communities & agencies of our church. I love the flame of excitement which the various cultures that make up our church have brought.
To be a Christian is to care for the marginalised and oppressed in our communities and in the world.
The fire of the Holy Spirit drives our commitment through UnitingCare, UnitingJustice and UnitingWorld.