Summary: NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY SERMON I DON’T EXPECT IT TO BE APPROVED (Just maintaining my calendar). It was written by Karl Barth - but its definately worth reading (and I’ve got a decent responsive reading to go with it...) MP: Fire produces coals and a
Title: Fire Upon the Earth
“I am come to kindle fire upon the earth and what would I desire more than that it should already burn!” (Luke 12:49).
What shall I say about the fire which Jesus came to kindle? Above all, that this fire does not yet burn upon the earth, as little today as then when he cried out in a deep desire, half-prophetically, half-entreatingly, “What would I desire more than that it should already burn.” It has never burned anywhere. I do not know of any place in the past or present to which I might point and say, “See there, in that person, in that achievement, the fire burns which Jesus kindled; there you can see it with your own eyes and touch it with your own hands.”
Oh yes, there is much smoke upon the earth, smoke of fervid, urgent love for God and man; smoke of quiet, sincere faith; smoke of anxious, unshakable hope; smoke of profound, progressive ideas, ideas so exhaustive that they reach that beyond which one cannot think; smoke of noble, courageous zeal for the good; smoke of universal movements for the betterment and re-creation of temporal circumstances.
Who would dare to ignore this rising smoke, especially in our day in which the hope and the good will and the earnest search of men for something new reveals itself as the deepest nature of man. Where there is smoke there surely is a glow, always and always the glow that Jesus has started. But smoke is not fire, even if there is ever so much smoke. We dare not become too easily satisfied about that which Jesus expects. Jesus was not so easily satisfied either, in what he desired to bring and give to us.
Some people are frightened at the sight of rising smoke. They become deeply disquieted when there are plain indications and action of a power that can disturb and interrupt the entire course of life. To them we must say: “Yes, you are right in being frightened, and in time it will grow much worse. Something entirely different is yet to come. Beware of that day, when not only smoke, but, out of the latent glow that you now surmise, bright flames will break forth.”
There are other people who are happy when they become aware of the rising smoke. They welcome the indications and the activities, at least those which they understand; they are overjoyed by the faithful light which is being diffused into the darkness of this life by these indications and activities; they would like to see more of it. To these we must also say: “You are justified in your rejoicing, and in time it will become much better. Something entirely different is in the coming. Rejoice, rejoice, concerning that day, when the bright flames will break forth out of the latent glow which you now surmise.”
Thus the word of Jesus about the fire is today, as then, a threat for some and a promise for others: “What would I desire more than that it should already burn!” For all, however, this points to the fact that that which is real, essential, true, which Jesus wishes to give and to bring us, is not here as yet. The glow has been started, but the fire is not yet burning.
The Advent Season is life for us, for some a time of fear, for others a time of hope, for all a time of expectation. And yet, when we think it over quietly, we must always admit that fear and hope are strangely mingled in us all.
First, we want to hear something about the glow that was in Jesus’ heart. Indeed who can find words to talk about it? It is remarkable to observe how people were so at sea when faced with Jesus in His lifetime; how the glow that was in Him, even then could not come to a flame.
“He is a prophet,” said some; “He leads the people astray,” others thought. “He is the Holy One of God!” they said on the one hand; “He is a glutton and a winebibber, the associate of publicans and sinners,” on the other hand. “Blessed is the womb that bare thee,” some are saying, and others answer, “He bath Beelzebub. By the prince of demons casteth he out the demons.” “He preaches with authority,” thus some praised him; “He is beside himself,” thus others reviled him.
Judging from these conflicting opinions, we can see plainly that the people met something in Jesus with which they did not know what to do, something that did not fit in with their habits and conceptions. One could look at it this way and that, as something glorious beyond measure, or as something really vicious, in fact frightful, and we will simply admit that to this day it is about the same with us.