I’ve used the word “stoke” for as long as I can remember. It’s part of our English colloquial lexicon. A kind of slang.
In the 1950’s “the stoke” became a popular term for wave or surf riders. The stoke is high when you’re on the waves. It means, to be “overjoyed, ecstatic, thrilled, delighted.”
You’ll also find the word “stoke” attached to town or village names in the United Kingdom. It comes from the Old English term (which is probably rooted even further back in the Old Norse) stoc, which means a settlement or farm. So, as a noun, stoke can mean a place.
But the word “stoke” also has roots in the Germanic language, from which we get “stick.” And the German was influenced by the Latin instigare which means, “to spur on.”
Before we head out to the woods or the mountains or the U.S. National White Water Center here in Charlotte, where we mountain bike, I tell the girls, “Get stoked!”
They will flash me the “hang loose” sign or raise their “rock fists” and say, “Yeah, get stoked!”
Turns out the German and Latin “stick” and “spur on” root their meanings in the idea of “adding fuel to the fire,” or using a stick to push the coals of a fire together—to get the flames up, raging, and burning brighter.
Should we be surprised, then, to find this idea in the writings of the New Testament?
The writer of Hebrews urges his readers to stoke the fires of their faith. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” he says. But it’s not just about offering fellow Christians a word of encouragement.
The stoke comes from gathering together. It’s when we gather, that we should be caught up in the act of stoking one another on toward love and good deeds.
Why should we do this?
Because who doesn’t need encouragement in their faith? Who doesn’t need a time set aside to meet with brothers and sisters of the faith and hear stories of how God is working?
Hope does not grow in isolation.
But when we gather and lift each other up, our hope is stoked, our faith-coals are pushed together, igniting new flames.
When we neglect meeting together for the sake of stoking, we run the risk of falling into bad theology, weird teaching, or spiritual despair.
If you think “church” is about driving to a building, or punching your “spiritual” time-card or dressing up and looking the part of the “all-put-together-person” then you need some stoking, my friend.
We gather to worship the living God, first and foremost—church is about him.
And as we gather, we share with one another, spurring one another on in this life of faith.
We gather to stoke the fires of our faith so that we can persevere through the muck life throws at us.
We gather to hear stories of overcoming—so that our overcoming-hope grows.
We gather to share our own stories of pain and hurt and despair and how God met us in those dark places and delivered us.
We gather so that we never give up! To persevere! To fight!
Stop walking past one another in the halls of that big monstrous building, that too-cool-for-school “space” and give me a hug, for crying out loud.
Bear-hug me because I need it. Bear-hug me to stoke my fires. Because you better believe I’m going to hug you. I may even greet you with a holy kiss—watch out!
I’m sure my coffee-breath will stoke something in you.
It’s time to re-ignite the flames of our faith. It’s time to get the stoke back.
Time to find the delight in our gatherings.
Time to huddle and sing, kneel and pray, throw an arm around a brother or sister and get stoked.
Ok, I’m stoked. How about you?