Photo By Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash
I like fire.
You know… since we’re on the topic.
It is, by far, my favorite part of winter in places that become cold.
You can make a fire and it is socially acceptable instead of “making the air conditioner work overtime” or “wasting firewood” or “if we aren’t paying to cool the outdoors, we are definitely not paying to cool the indoors and the outdoors that are, now, cooler than indoors thanks to your fire.”
I like fire.
Watching it dance across the surface of the log, fed by currents of flowing oxygen, rippling from places of warm to cool, forking to heights like snakes tasting the air, it is a graceful ballet of pneumatic tension and thermal releases. I imagine that when God created fire, He put a special part of His artistry, his heart and emotions, into fire. I imagine that when Jesus walked the earth He took a special pleasure in enjoying this thing He made, feeling it smoosh His face when held too long and too close.
Sorry… i really wanted to find a different word.
“Smoosh” is the best I could do. Do you enjoy the way the fire smooshes your face?
I like fire.
Since we’re on the subject.
Jesus made a few mission statements during His time on Earth. You would think that would have called a lot more attention to what He was up to when He said them. Perhaps among the more provocative, especially considering my pyrocentric mind, was in Luke, when He said, “I have come to cast fire on the Earth, and how I wish it were already kindled,” (Luke 12:49 NASB).
One of the dangerous things about reading this section is to assume that its preceding material was necessarily spoken in conjunction. Mark is really bad about skipping around, but Luke, even though it is more of a straight narrative, nonetheless, needs to be looked at thoroughly before we assume that the preceding speech was connected.
And oh boy if it’s connected, the implication is freaking huge.
There is enough in context to suggest that the previous section is connected, even though most Bibles transition “the point” and head it with a new theme. But if you look at the discussion prior to Jesus wishing He could see the world ablaze, you see something that should set us, worshippers of the God of Heaven, on fire in 2020.
Jesus explained that they need to continue to be ready for what God is going to do, explaining that the master comes home whenever he chooses and the servants he has set over his house ought to be prepared to receive him at all times.
And Peter, as they say in Texas “bless his heart,” interrupts and asks if Jesus is talking to everybody everybody, or apostles and disciples everybody. And so Jesus, true to form, doesn’t answer with an answer. He answers with His heart to the heart that asked the question.
Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart ‘My master will take a long time to come,’ and he begins to beat the other slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; then the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect, and at an hour that he does not expect, and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accordance with his will, will receive many blows, but the one who did not know it, and committed acts deserving of a beating, will receive only a few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!Luke 12:42-49 (NASB) emphasis theirs
I can’t help but think about the feeding aspect of the parable. The servant is supposed to be feeding the others while the master is away. This is the direct answer to when Peter asked if this meant everyone or specifically him. This is the man who when he was restored by Jesus was told to feed His sheep.
I would say this is a parable for anyone who is supposed to lead others spiritually to understand the deeper things of God through word and action.
But yes, Peter. It’s you.
And so here’s the question.
Is our church right now ready for the reward of a happy master or are we ready for a giant beating?
Are we going to be whole and holy, or are we about to be ripped in half like the temple cloth that the Father would rip in two in mourning of the death of His Son on the cross?
Before you get really happy about “yes, we’re great! Holly Jolly Miss Molly!” remember that the rich young ruler told Jesus, the one who knew the answer to the question, that he had kept all of the commandments, and it is recorded for history and our memory that he straight up lied to GOD.
How did the church do when people of color called out for relief from the fear?
Did we tell them specifically and emphatically that black lives matter?
Did we tell them that all lives matter in the fear that any other statement would choose sides against someone else?
How did we do for Americans who wanted to see us have our morals intact when our highly immoral president claimed to be the clear choice for people of faith?
Did we hide behind a man who gave great lip service to pro-life movements with zero movement toward less abortion in America?
Did we challenge him to treat his enemies the way we are challenged by God to treat ours?
When a humanitarian problem arose at our southern border with families separated by desperation and a cloudy mess of legal decision making what did we do?
Did we care for the least of these?
Did we ignore them?
I’m not confident, but I do not feel like I am part of a church with a big “C” here in the West that knows that it needs to be constantly on the job as though the return of the King were imminent.
It saddens me that this is a divisive issue. It saddens me that there are some who will read this and get defensive at me “attacking” Donald Trump. I would love to say something non-chalant about it like “i’m over it.”
But I’m not.
I hate that the moment I began to question the moral integrity of a man who was rumored to be having sex with a porn star while his wife was giving birth was the moment that people came passionately to his defense because he could set the Supreme Court back to a more originalist bent.
That’s fine and I love that for the next three months that’s the state of the Supreme Court until it gets packed.
But let’s allow someone to do what we call a “good job” and make room to call foul on bad behavior.
No. I’m not over it.
The comfort in this Scripture is that Jesus said when He came to set the world on fire he followed up with more
Do you think that I came to provide peace on earth? No, I tell you but rather division.Luke 12:51
That’s an odd thing to say from the same mouth that would say in the upper room “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you.” But he also said He would give it differently than the world gives. And really, that is the fire. We give ourselves peace by ignoring problems and pretending that they do not require our involvement and intervention. We ignore the suffering of people and gain peace for ourselves by explaining that their problems are theirs in sourcing so theirs in the solving, ignoring the spiritually ignorant state of the heart that believes that.
Jesus is not interested in ignorant peace.
He is interested in fire.
Fire drives away the shadows of night.
It feeds us, removing the poison of foods and leaving only nutrients.
It hardens the metals that defend us and forges the weapons that are called upon to make peace.
Fire destroys rotten forests and makes room for new growth.
It opens up pinecones to release seeds for new life.
This Christmas as we celebrate the Prince of Peace and Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men, I want unity and not division.
I hate division and conflict.
I love fire.