And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. Acts 2:2-3
On October 8, 1871, a cold front moved across the upper Midwest generating strong winds. These winds caught small brush fires farmers had set to help clear land. A firestorm ensued, meaning superheated flames more than 2000 degrees F were pushed by winds over 110 mph. The firestorm engulfed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and eleven other communities. One eyewitness described how the fire seemed to jump the Peshtigo River. The fire generated its own tornadic winds and resulted in an area twice the size of Rhode Island burned. A conservative estimate of fifteen hundred lives were lost. It seemed nothing could stand in the conflagration’s way. It was the most destructive fire in U.S. history.
Wind and fire are an unstoppable combination.
Forty days after His resurrection, in some of Jesus’s final instructions to His disciples, He said they were to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the power from on high (Luke 24:49). Ten days later, when that power manifested, it came as wind and fire. Thousands upon thousands were saved. It was the most amazing day in the life of the church. From there the wind and fire pushed outside the city limits to the surrounding country and eventually the entire world.
On Pentecost by using wind and fire to mark the arrival of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God teaches us that nothing can stop the spread of the Gospel. Furthermore, its impact is unmistakable. Wind and fire harnessed and used for God’s purposes are powerful and productive.
Today the Peshtigo Fire has largely been forgotten. Buildings have been rebuilt. Survivors have passed on. The loss isn’t felt as urgently. Even in 1871, the tragedy was overshadowed by the Chicago Fire that happened the same day.
Today we know the name Pentecost, but other things have been built on top of it. People who felt the power have long since passed on. We don’t feel the need for it as urgently.
Wind and fire. They are still in use, still available. Pray we don’t become firebreaks and wet blankets.