Fire from heaven

Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.                    They entered a village of the Samaritans                   but they did not receive him.          James and John said, “Lord, do you want us                   to command fire to come down from heaven                   and consume them?”          But he turned and rebuked them.                   —Luke 9.52-55

It’s so easy and tempting and self-defeating to make enemies.

Last week the New England United Methodist Conference committed an “Act of Non-Conformity,” refusing to obey the denomination’s stipulations to discriminate against queer people. We are breaking a church law, hoping it stays broken forever, in obedience to the higher law of love.

In this act of ecclesial disobedience it’s tempting to want to call down fire on opponents, to make “sides” and create enemies and distance ourselves from them, and excuse ourselves from the command to love them. Bu we can’t. Especially in this struggle for inclusion and respect for all people, we have to practice it toward the very people who oppose it.

There is no “fire from heaven” to call down. There is only love that burns away our fear and anger. Jesus invites us into a way of reverence that harbors nothing but blessing and offers nothing but mercy, even toward the enemies of blessing and mercy. The way of the cross is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, even as we break their rules. Even as we give voice to the the anger of the oppressed, we cry out with love.

The work of justice is always both inward and outward, to proclaim and to confess, to witness to God’s transforming grace in the world and to allow that grace to transform our own souls. It is God’s righteousness, not ours, that changes the world. Our repentance is the building material of the Reign of God. At our Conference session last week we began by wearing sackcloth and ashes and praying for repentance. It’s not a bad way to begin every day.

O God, we call down the fire of your love upon us. May we preach love with love in our hearts. May we cry sorrow with love in our hearts, cry rage with love in our hearts, demand justice with your love in our broken, radiant hearts, your love in our crucified, risen hearts.

          Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light

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