Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
"For just as you presented the parts of your bodies
as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness,
"I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish
it were already blazing!" Lk 12
When my sister and I were growing up, our parents insisted that we eat everything
that we were served. We didn't have much, and our parents wanted us
to learn to be grateful for everything. For some reason, I really didn't
like asparagus. My mother grew it in our yard and it was plentiful
and the whole thing was unattractive to me - the texture, the smell - and,
of course, once we get convinced we don't like something, those unattractive
parts just grow in their power over us. As it turns out, I wasn't "scarred
for life" by my parents' "just give it a try and you will see how good it
is" approach. I now love asparagus.
I use this admittedly odd personal example to describe a similar
phenomenon I experience with the Word of God. I think all of us are
tempted to be "picky eaters," when it comes to chewing the Word of God.
There are parts of the Word that just seem "unattractive" to us. It's
something about the "texture or smell" of them that turns us off, and we
rarely give them a try.
A picture of Jesus saying "I came for division!" isn't attractive,
nor are the words of Paul about replacing "slavery" to sin with becoming
"slaves" to holiness. We'd rather Jesus had said, "I came so everyone
might just get along." And, so, we can be tempted to not chew them
and "taste and see" how good this Word is.
Jesus saw, and experiencd personally, a powerful opposition.
He came to challenge the established patterns of things. He came to
challenge power and manipulation, false religiosity and arrogance, selfish
living and neglect of the poor. He came to call us to a new way of
life, lived out of a sense of God's unconditional love for us - freed from
all anxiety, enabled to love others as we are loved. He really did
come to "set the earth on fire." He knew that to accept God's love
this deeply - so that it becomes our mission - will place us in the cross-hairs
All of us know this in even the simplest of ways. Just imagine a simple example. If each one of us comes home tonight and says to one or several of our loved ones (in words that fit our hearts, our situation): "Dear, I want to share with you how much I love you. I know I haven't always acted loving - in fact, I've acted in a very self-absorbed way too often. Please forgive me. Please help me love you more and more. Let me know what I can do to be with you and for you in your needs, and challenge me when I seem even unconsciously trapped in mine. I forgive you. I know that I have acted like I resent what you do or that I am disappointed in you, but now that I know I'm a forgiven sinner, I want to love and forgive you as the Lord has forgiven me. Let's don't ever talk dis-respectufully of each other again. Together, let's commit ourselves to live our lives more simply. Let's waste less time and emotional energy on our internal or comfort needs. Let's think about the needs of those in our family, our church community, and especially of the poor. Let's find some time - perhaps time we waste on mindless tv or reading, and let's do some service together. Let's take some stands on the side of the poor, and let's do something to write politicians, to vote, and make choices that benefit the poor. And, let me be really bold, let's spend some time praying together - just a few words before we go to bed, or when we get up and begin our day. Let's let the Lord be the center of our lives."
That is setting a fire. It may not be that that will cause
"division" in our family or friendships. But, each of us probably feels
the "knot" in our stomachs - just feeling how difficult this kind of simple
gospel language is to say outloud, even with those we love. It
may seem so very unattractive - because of the huge opposition to it in our
culture - but it may, by God's grace turn out to be something we love, at
least as much as I love asparagus.
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