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NOT SILENCE. FIRE.
March 8, 2004
 
It has been an eMo tradition that Friday's meditation is on the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday's worship. But I have heard a cry of pain:
"I work on my sermon on Monday morning. By the time you do yours, it's
too late. Couldn't you do it on Monday instead?"

Well,certainly. I can swallow my jealousy and do that. Here it is. And
for you folks who don't get there until Friday morning, I will reprint
the sermon meditation on Fridays, after the one I write for that day.

+

Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all the other
Galileans because this happened to them?
Luke 13:2


The only possible answer is "no," of course. But we knew that.
We already knew that bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. We even knew that we're all a little bit of both, each of us an
uncomfortable hybrid of virtue and fault. We even knew that.

But we revert easily to an earlier understanding when we are injured.
One from childhood. You'd better behave yourself, someone said to us,
someone who was trying to help us learn to be good. God's got His eye
on you. And in some of our churches, it really was: up there on the
ceiling was an immense eye, painted right at the peak of the roof, an
eye like a human eye, unblinking, gazing upon all of us, the whole congregation. You're not getting away with a thing. God's got His eye on you.

Good fortune for good behavior. Really bad things for sin. This must
be how it works, we think when we are little. But we don't have to get
very old before we begin to notice that this simple symmetry does
not accurately describe human reality. Before we begin to see just how
assymetrical a place the world is.

We revert to it, though, all the time, no matter how old we get. What
did I do to deserve this? we ask ourselves and God. Why me? The
answer sounds like silence.

But the answer is not silence. It is fire. Moses turns off the road to
see an amazing thing: a bush is burning, but it is not consumed. The
great destroyer of human achievement and natural beauty engulfs but does not destroy. Fire burns eveything. Everyone knows that. Fire will kill
the bush, and it will kill you, too, Moses, if you hang around to watch.
it burn. Better move on.

But no. Not this fire. Moses does not move on. He stands to watch and
see. And God speaks to hium from the fire. Destruction is real here
on the earth. Its forces must be opposed. You will have to stand
against it. But I am with you when you stand, and you will be free.
I will help you get free.

The book of Exodus says little about how the children of Israel became
slaves in Egypt. One off-handed remark is all we get: "There arose in
Egypt a pharoah who did not know Joseph." Oh.

Not interested in why this bad thing happened. Not interested in what
they did to deserve it. We don't know what they did wrong. We don't know
they did anything wrong. God enters the story only when it is time to
set them free.

The fire can burn a bush and not consume it. It can burn through iron
shackles of whatever bondage you are in and set you free. Soon, it will
burn through a funeral shroud deep in the darkness of a tomb and kindle
life. And the bush and the shroud and the shackles will not be consumed. They will still be there. Good and bad things will still happen, and some of them will happen to you.

But you will be set free.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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