Set the Earth on Fire!
Aug 15, 2016
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Mt 12:49)
We have a fire pit on the west end of the campus. There is usually a pile of brush sitting a few steps away and then some bigger wood to feed the fire for any group that wishes to use it. The fire is lit in a controlled environment and we expect that any group that uses it will make sure that it will be supervised as long as there is a live fire in the pit. I have been watching the reports of the fires in California and Canada. I have seen the massive walls of uncontrolled fire that consumes everything in its path. We have all sorts of fire fighters who have to enter into those chaotic and reckless environments to knock the flames down and to bring them under control.
Jesus tells us this Sunday that not only does he wish to set the earth on fire but he says "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two, two against three." Jesus wishes to light a fire on earth that is uncontrolled and consuming. Of course there will always be those who try to control and tame the flame. They see the fire as a threat that has to be domesticated and calmed and they will do all that is necessary to make it so.
I think the way that we treat clergy is a form of that domestication of the flame of faith. We are grateful for their gift of themselves for the faith of our church, but then we set them aside and treat them differently than anyone else. We make faith a private matter and seldom discuss it in public conversation. Too often if we do talk about our faith it becomes a dialogue about rules and regulations or a question of who is right and who is not. These are all ways of domesticating the fire of faith that Jesus is attempting to ignite.
Jesus came to make people, like Mother Theresa, who is driven by her love of Him and leaves everything behind to take up residence in the midst of the poor and outcast of Calcutta. In her wish to be close to her beloved Jesus she took in the dying and the outcast and cared for them as they entered into the next world. Her fire was so great that she attracted girls from around the world to join her in this mad passion for Jesus Christ. Some parents of her followers were not pleased that their well educated daughters would give up the life they had planned for them to take up a rugged life of dedicated service.
Jesus set the fire of St. Francis of Assisi who left behind his middle class life to embrace a life of poverty. His father had other plans for him, that he would inherit his clothing business so that he could live comfortably. Francis instead strips himself in the public square of Assisi to give back to his father everything he had given Francis. His father had sought to domesticate his impassioned son by reminding him of all he provided him. Francis had only one response because he was on fire for the love of Jesus.
Last year we had the gypsies begging at our door. I thanked them for coming to test our hearts. It was interesting to watch the different responses of our community. Some rose wonderfully with compassion and love while others looked at the wall to avoid making eye contact. One pastor of a neighboring parish wrote in his bulletin that he had talked with the police chief of his city who recommended that no one should give them anything since they were being public menaces. Wow - talk about the divisions that seek to domesticate the flame that Jesus wishes to ignite.
I believe that Jesus will always seek to ignite his flames of love. I believe there will always be those who try to domesticate and tame that fire of love because they are threatened by its wild quality which is always the indicator of the presence of the Holy Spirit. If you are lucky enough to witness this love at least get out of the way instead of standing against that which God wants to do.