Pentecost 13 :: Burn, baby, burn!

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Fire is a common symbol of holiness and protection in Holy Scripture. It can represent God's action in the world and quite frequently is used to describe God's Word, "a consuming fire." While sometimes seen as a sign of God's destructive action against the sinful, fire is also descriptive of the purifying work of God's holiness. In the same way that fire is used to purify precious metals, God's purifying fire cleanses people from their sin.

It may seem somewhat odd that, in our Gospel message from St. Luke today, we hear Jesus say, "I came to bring fire to the earth." Isn't Jesus supposed to bring love and mercy and forgiveness? What's all this, then, about bringing fire? Well, that's where we have to see fire as a metaphor for purification and cleansing. Fire may, of course, be destructive, but it can clear out the old underbrush of sin, strife, enmity, pride, greed, etc., etc., that clutters human life. Forest management personnel use fire to clear out dead vegetation and old growth in order to help trees and new vegetation to flourish. Such use of cleansing fire can mitigate the damage done by uncontrolled fires resulting in widespread destruction and possible loss of property and life.

Jesus' mention of fire is not to destroy, but to build up. The fire of his holiness helps to cleanse us from all that which would keep us from being true followers. By ridding us of all the "stuff" in our lives which keep us from being faithful disciples, the fire of Jesus prepares us to receive the growth of new life in love.

Thanks be to God!

Link to RCL Lectionary for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C


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