I went off lectionary before Easter and then life got crazy and exciting as I led two churches to merge this past spring and summer. I'm back in the preaching saddle again, although the narrative lectionary doesn't start for a few more weeks. I'm in a four week series that teaches a form of literary interpretation called bricolage. Bricolage is the act of taking diverse things and allowing them to speak to one another to create meaning. I've chosen to use this method to look at how the scriptures speak about the elements of the earth: water, fire, wind and land. This week is Fire.
He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. 2 The Lord’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn up. 3 Then Moses said to himself, Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up.
This is the offering by fire that you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs a year old without blemish, daily, as a regular offering. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; also one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour for a grain-offering, mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil. It is a regular burnt-offering, ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing odour, an offering by fire to the Lord.
Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
I'm drawn to the Malachi passage along with the Numbers passage. But am stumped by the fire that calls us and the fire that ultimately devours us. I think I'm letting go of the "us." Perhaps the eternal fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth is first hyperbole and second not about individuals but about behavior, ideas, systems, and the aspects of our world that are not "good."
If so, then what of our offerings? What of our gifts to the alter? How are these behaviors, ideas, gifts and sacrifices from us (individually but moreso collectively) righteous or made righteous? One thing remains true, the purifying process is universally felt. But we may have been misinterpreting the purpose of the refinement, the goal of the sacrifice and how when we see something on fire, we are drawn to examine it.
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