Monday, August 13, 2007

Jesus came to bring fire. Luke 12:49-56

Its tempting to read Luke 12 and do anything but listen to what Jesus says to his hearers. Jesus is bold in Luke 12 and that boldness is down right frightening. Jesus point to the crowd of thousands who came to see him in the marketplace is troubling: he came for a reason, for a "baptism that he had to endure." Its tempting to find some way to avoid Jesus' point, but the growing intensity of Luke pushes us further and further towards the cross.

Jesus seems to have made a judgment about humanity ; he wants to see us on fire for the sake of the kingdom of God. He doesn't speak here about hellfire and damnation; rather he speaks of a consuming fire, a passion that doesn't leave everything settled and neat.

Jesus' bold words in Luke 12:49, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" aren't the words of a weakling. They are the words of a bold man who's mission and a vision would lead to radical transformation.

Fire was, for the ancient Greeks, an important, even basic element of creation (Bauer Greek English Lexicon). Fire was key to clearing out the old and bringing in the new. But fire was and still is beyond simple human control. We still fear it's power and teach our children to keep away from fear that it will harm us.

Jesus' wished that the fire of the Spirit that burns away the old were kindled when he walked the earth. He came, "to bring division, not peace." He came to bring fire that could consume the old and dead and make way for new life. He came not to approve of the way the world works but to see it completely transformed.

Letting the fire of the Holy Spirit loose in the church is risky. God might very well confront our sin. Letting the Word of God lose is equally risky because the God who meets us in scripture, like the fire of the Spirit, is only contained at our own peril.

Jesus came not to lull to sleep but to move us to action to see the kingdom of God not as a fairytale but as promise made by the king of kings who came to reveal it to the world. He came to set the world on fire. I pray to see the fire of the Holy Spirit at work in this age. AMEN

3 comments:

Pastor Eric said...

A couple thoughts:
(1) I like your comment that fire is something beyond human control. And this fire is something Jesus wants running wild in the church. That is indeed scary because, like you said "God might very well confront our sin."

(2) Fire is cleansing. We spend so much time trying to fight fires in a forest when the only thing the forest wants is for the fire to burn. Fire clears the old under brush and allows new seeds to pop open so they can grow. I think there are too many firefighters in the church.

(3) Fire is unpredicable. You never know where it is going to go or what it will do. Another reason why the Church is scared silly of fire. The Church desparately wants to say the "fire" is 100% contained and under control.

Thanks for your thoughts on this text. I think this might be a fun one to preach on.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

Eric,
I especially appreciate your second point the most. The new seeds popping after fire is the proof that the old needed to be cleared away. Repentance is a risk that many aren't willing to take. It's amazing how little risk we'll take compared to the reward God gives to all who believe.

Lawrence said...

Just came across your blog - what a treat! I like the approach. I've linked to my own site, disclosing new worlds (http://lectionary.wolsblog.com) suggesting they come her weekly, so I hope you get some traffic from me.

What intirgued me about the fire this week is that it seems to link back to John the Baptist's characterisation of the type of Messiah Jesus would prove to be (ie the wrath of God incarnate) when, of course, he wasn't.

Warmest Christain greetings.