A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the minister decided to visit him – it was a chilly day. That evening, the minister found the man at home all alone sitting by a blazing fire.
Guessing the reason for his minister’s visit, the man welcomed him, and led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The minister made himself at home but said nothing.
In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, he took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more.
Soon it was cold and dead.
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The minister glanced at his watch and chose this time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more, with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
With that, the minister smiled at his host, shook his hand, and let himself out.