16 Aug Friday
Since it is the strongest word among the four texts this weekend, I’m going to start with fire as a multivalent symbol, focussing on its purifying quality and on its symbolism of enthusiasm. The “cloud of witnesses” certainly had both these qualities going on in their lives. The runner purifies focus to have the energy and strength to race and win. And fire gives us joy, as in “for the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross”. We’ve all known this aspect of fire, perhaps sitting around a campfire or in front of the fire place in the company of good friends; it warms the heart, as they say.
Fire causing division is a bit more complicated. Its meaning relates to the passion one has for something and the confusion or resistance who do not have the same passion. Christ is divisive in contemporary American society, because of the heresy of American civil religion, now practiced even by many Catholics, who want only to “fit in” and to varnish over the differences. We experience of the artificial differences in the church between conservatives/tradionalist and liberals, each side painting the other as bad, negative, or off the rails.
Note that the very next words of Jesus after this fire saying are about reading the signs of the times, because discernment leads to decision. So Luke arranges this next saying in conjunction with the fire saying.