The Holy Gospel: August 15, 2010 (Year C)

Read:  Luke 12:49-56

Meditation:  “Fire!”

Jesus compares his coming to fire.  From childhood we have been taught not to play with fire.  Fire burns.  We learn to have a healthy respect for it.

This week’s Gospel lesson begins with a clear message from Jesus: “don’t play around with me.”  He is on a mission of utmost importance and supreme significance.  We must not take him lightly.  We must not relegate his influence to a minor place in our lives.

But we do.  We dabble in discipleship.  We skim the surface of faith.  We give God the “leftovers” of our lives.  We “play church.”  We move Jesus down on our list of life priorities until he is more ceremonial than transformational.  We want a religion that makes us respectable (e.g. civil, mannered, prosperous), but not one that makes us different.  Jesus becomes a “nice” addition to our lives, but not Life itself.

By using the imagery of fire, Jesus puts an end to any notion that he can be nothing other than “one more good thing” in our life’s collection of “good things.”  To accept Jesus is to embrace fire.  Fire burns.  To accept Jesus is to invite change—no more trying to have our cake and eat it too.

E. Stanley Jones put it this way, “If God exists, God matters.”  We cannot say on the one hand, “I believe,” and then on the other hand expect everything to stay the same.  Jesus burns away the dross, refining our lives until the gold emerges.  Jesus does not hang a picture of fire in our souls, he ignites a fire in them.  When we deal with Jesus, we will get burned.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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