Once upon a time, in a city made almost entirely of wood, there was a crude little fire station. The building was a shack, their equipment inadequate, but they kept a constant fire watch over the city and rushed to every outbreak and saved thousands of men, women and children, cats and dogs.
The heroic little fire brigade became famous.Some of the grateful rescued bought new fire engines,new ladders (some with inlaid pearl rings), and new hoses (some with gold nozzles!), and even had a new Head Quarters built, complete with a hospital emergency wing.
The new equipment was kept spotless, in fact they became defensive over all the tools of their trade, because water and heat tarnished the nice clean brass and gold plating. So they tended to be over protective. Many members joined the Fire Fighting Association (as it was then called), and they all enjoyed the fire fighting songs and pep talks from fire-singed veterans. A ‘B.F. Degree’ was devised (Bachelor of Fire fighting), and even an F.H.D. for the very clever, a ‘Doctorate in Fire Handling’.
The city grew: more homes and factories were built. Then a chemical plant exploded and caused a holocaust in the built up inner city area, and survivors were brought out, many severely burned. But all where shocked and heartbroken. This tide of devastated people engulfed the Fire H.Q. Hospital and despoiled the lonely clean wards, and some unfortunates even bled on the new carpet! The National Fire Fighting Council met and hurriedly erected a temporary place to house the worst cases until they were more presentable. The same Council developed a new programme of events which would occupy everyone every night of the week.
Meanwhile a handful of folk insisted their job was rescuing people from burning buildings, and putting out fires and preventing them from starting. They were eventually forced out to form their own fire brigade, but were back to an old truck and patched up hosepipes. But they’d learned not to put their emergency treatment centre too near to their H.Q., so as not to disturb the fire trainees. They in their turn grew, and became prosperous, and only a few ever went out to do battle with fires, so some formed a new fighting force, and in turn they …..Yes, you’ve guessed it! The process of institutionalisation took over yet again. Meanwhile the city grew. More fires broke out, and more people were trapped and not rescued from the flames. That’s the end of today’s story. Now hear these solemn words from Ezekiel Chapter 33 v.5:
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.
A Prayer: Deliver us O Lord from playing at religion.