What difficult words for today! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). . . “I came to bring fire to the earth!” (Luke 12:49). Where are the words of comfort?. . .
God's word is like a hammer. . . Through the mouths of the prophets, it hammered away at the proud, stubborn hearts and stony foreheads of God's own people who, while maintaining the outward pomp of liturgical service, refused to treat their poor sisters and brothers with compassionate justice. . .
Today, the divine hammer continues its eternal work. It levels our pride, destroys our selfishness, and smashes our guilt. God's word, like a hammer, shatters the idols we have made as we have fashioned God into our own image. God's word crashes, smashes, levels, and pulverizes with the truth. Yes, it is often painful, but it necessary for new life and the re-creation of our lives and our world. . .
God's word, like a hammer, builds a new creation, a new family—not built on the idols of our high and haughty ways, but upon love for God and for each other, love that transcends human boundaries of family and friends. – John Paul Salay
Jesus uses two primary images to describe what he is about: (1) fire is used both for judgment and purification and (2) baptism that signifies Jesus' upcoming death. . .
Jesus makes clear that he has come not to bring status quo peace that the people expected, but to require more. . . This will cause the division of families as each person chooses whom to follow.
Jesus concludes by chastising the people because they are so clever in reading the weather signs. . . but they are blind to the signs of what God is doing in the world through Jesus. . . The people should be as wise before God as they are before the natural order. – Carrie L. Lewis La Plante
God makes clear that God is near to the people, but bigger than they can imagine, both immanent and transcendent. There is nowhere to hide from God, but God sees all that the people do. – Carrie L. Lewis La Plante
Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2
Paul’s use of athletic imagery for the life of faith makes the most sense, of course, to those who have actually endured the training to run a marathon. Those of us who have not taken on such a mighty task appreciate it from afar, but we have all known what it means to slog through to the end of a project or even a day. Perseverance is both an attribute of maturity and the path to maturity.
But we do not run alone. Jesus runs with us.
The word of God that came to Jeremiah is harsh. The writer of Hebrews goes through a long and gruesome list of the kinds of ordeals that our ancestors in the faith endured during their religious journeys. The words of Jesus sound downright threatening when he speaks of families and households being divided. Most of us know that believing in God won't make our lives automatically easer. . .
What we are promised is that we will never be alone. . . And that finally, when we make it to the end of our marathon, we will be able to rest and rejoice, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and welcomed by the never-ending love of God, who is carrying a sign that says, “Hurray! I knew you could do it!” – Daphne Burt
John Paul Salay is Loyola University’s Minister of Liturgy and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Carrie L. Lewis La Plante is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Indianola, Iowa.
Daphne Burt serves as the pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (ELCA) in Hamden, Connecticut.
Homily Service 40, no. 9 (2007): 32-41.