Luke 12:49-56 CEB
I love cast iron skillets. My love began back when I was a camp staffer at Christmount. We were leading a mountain camp and decided to cook breakfast over the fire one morning, and I wanted to cook it on a cast iron skillet. Not having any idea what I was getting into, I went to downtown Black Mountain and purchased one. Did I stress that I had no idea what I was doing? Cast iron has to be seasoned before it can be used. After it is seasoned it takes on a black hue. My skillet was silver. It was brand-spankin' new. Luckily for me, Jamie Brame, my boss stepped in and helped me out. He, almost gleefully, took my skillet and seasoned it for me. Thanks to him our Mountain Camp had breakfast over a fire, and I vowed never to cook something as messy as eggs again during a camping trip.
I loved that skillet. No one was allowed to cook or clean it except me. Often, after cleaning it, I would allow it to sit on the stove instead of in the cabinet. All my food tasted better when cooked with the gleaming black glory I called my skillet. Then one day it happened. While I was out, a cleaning lady came and completely sanitized and scrubbed the kitchen from top to bottom. She knew nothing of cast iron and assumed the skillet must be dirty if it was sitting on the stove. She scrubbed it clean and left it wet in the sink. (Seasoning does two things: it creates a non-stick surface, and it keeps the iron from rusting.) I came home and my black skillet was red. The whole thing was rusted. I was devastated. I tried to fix it, but I did not have the talent. It was gone. With as much dignity as I could muster, I gathered up the sad remains of my skillet. Later that night, alone in the backyard, I buried it next to the garage. Now I could never be sure, but I thought that I heard the sound of "Taps" being played. Gently. At least that is how I remember it. The father from a Christmas Story and I can cry together over our losses.
While I no longer own that particular skillet, I now own four other cast iron skillets of varying sizes. They were either purchased, inherited, or given to me since that dreadful day I lost my first one. Of the four, I seasoned one myself. I did it recently, and while I did I thought about the process. Seasoning a skillet means cooking the oil onto the surface. It really seems to be a backwards process. It permanently makes the skillet dirty in order to make it usable for life. Anyone who is heavily into sanitizing and cleaning probably wouldn't like to own their own cast iron skillet. A cast iron skillet continues to season for life. So every time you cook, you are cooking more oils onto the skillet. Howard Hughes, stay away. It's not for him.
In the same way I look at the scripture and see the backwards nature of Jesus' words. Jesus doesn't like peace? He wants us all to burn? What?! Is this the same Jesus who said, “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children?” (Matt 5:9) Don't get me wrong, but is this the same Savior who rebuked the Disciples for suggesting raining down fire on the Samaritans like Elijah did? Why is he suggesting such an action now? This is not the scripture for the staunch pacifist, who believes division is bad at any cost.
The scripture reminds me of seasoning a skillet. It reminds me of a skillet because to gain something worthwhile and special, something odd and backwards needs to be done first: We must speak out and say what is wrong. Today, this has taken the face of traditional and secular ideas going against one another. Mainline and Evangelical voices expressing their distaste for one another's worship style and age brackets sharing how other age brackets are failing to meet their needs. This all comes together and we have a fire beginning to kindle. In my mind, it is the exact kind of fire Jesus wants. It is the type of fire that brings healthy conflict to a head where it can be dealt with.
So here is the problem. We clearly have this fire beginning to kindle, but this fire can go in one of two directions. If it goes the right way it can season the beginnings of a new chapter for Christianity. We will turn this dissonance into a cadence that will bring our songs together. We will create a safe place where all these voices can be heard. In that arena the next question will naturally be, “Now what?” We will start to experiment and try out spiritual ideas to see if something can stitch, or stick us back together. It will lead to a spiritual enlightenment.
Or... we refuse to contain our fire and it burns out of control. We disconnect more than we have ever disconnected. The Body of Christ burns up and ceases to exist. Instead of the healthy flame of renewal, we get the wildfire of destruction.
So let me ask the question: Now what? Now we try things! Feel like people would connect over coffee? Start a coffee fellowship! Connect over music styles. Attempt to create a show that will help those outside 'church' find connection. And celebrate when others make an attempt, no matter how crazy that attempt is! Discover the next step by simply giving it a shot. What if you fail? Well, most of us will. Failure is always an option. Yet, I have learned through Fig Tree Christian, failure is simply being able to check off what doesn't work. The important piece to all of this is to keep connecting through our disagreements. For God's sake, let the voices be heard. Let your voice be heard. Speak up! Listen!
So many have stopped talking because they have been hurt by the other voices online. I, personally, have been deeply hurt through the internet. Some people have said some cruel things to me. Yet, I have celebrated in those pains because communication happened in those moments. I have learned to put down my sword and pick up my doctor's kit. This lesson didn't happen because I was at peace in my life. This lesson happened because I was at odds with the very people God called me to love. While my faith journey has left me 'well seasoned,' I look around me and see our collective faith has been left to rust. It's time to clean this up and fix it the right way. So get out there. Listen to the stories of others, and try stuff out. If someone calls you crazy, who cares? John the Baptist kinda looked like a nut too. If we don't pull this dissonance together, it will all burn up before it has ever begun. The Christian story will only exist as a story we tell our grandkids. "Ah, remember when we gathered together and worshipped God in a church?" Now what? For God's sake, go find out.
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