Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God?
But all of you are kindlers of fire, lighters of firebrands. Walk in the flame of your fire, and among the brands that you have kindled! This is what you shall have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. Isaiah 50:10-11 NRSV
No smoking in front of church. For sure, no smoking inside!
How things change!
At one time, not only did people smoke in church, they burned big fires there. They burned the carcasses of butchered animals with blood poured all around the altar.
Far cry from the incense and smell of candle wax that came later.
Now, we get upset if the kid in the row ahead of us drops a couple of Cheerios and steps on them. Maybe she was sacrificing to the Lord!
So much of Isaiah, so much of the prophets is so manic. Utterly and polarizingly manic. Did even one of this voluminous collections of poetry and prose written over centuries get written with full knowledge of the context of the other writings that it would eventually become part of?
Not many, I'll bet. That's in part why they are so difficult to read today. You need an owner's manual that practically translates every line and metaphor and establishes the context. Trouble is, nobody has time for that. The explanatory material would be 10 times the length of the Isaiah text itself.
Who has time for that besides Walter Brueggemann?
Another thing. The natural imagery of so much of Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, is no longer of much import to people today. Back then, the world and its weather and cataclysms were a matter of life and death to most people. Nights were dark, and mostly silent. Shelter from violent storms was minimal. Famine happened regularly about every three years. People were by and large very skinny, and they starved, got sick and died regularly. Often very young.
There was no massive international shipment of food aid and medicine. The natural world ruled.
The manufactured world didn't exist.
Today, we waste so much time fighting the creation vs. evolution pitched battle. We who are custodians of the doctrine of creation are often woefully ill-informed about the very processes that God uses to create and sustain life--the very creative processes of God staring us in the face! Soil, air and water do not come from WalMart. Until WalMart owns it all. Then it will.
No, the real conflict today is not creation vs. evolution. It is manufacturing vs. God. We won't fight a war to prevent the name of God from being blasphemed. But we'll sure as Hades fight one if we think our right to manufacture is in any way threatened. Even if all that manufacturing is keeping us from knowing God and is choking the very breath of life all around us.
Rush Limbaugh thinks the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is "natural" and should be left alone.
OK. Let him give away his broadcasting wealth to the poor and buy a fishing boat. Let him spend the rest of his days trying to be a shrimper out of Houma, LA. Let him power his boat with oars and sails instead of with a diesel engine.
RUSH IS RONG!
No smoking in church. No not using your eyes and your brains either.
House rules. Amen.