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Fire and Brimstone

October 21, 2020

Categorised in:

Jer 23: 23-29 and Luke 12: 49-56

I think it was Oscar Wilde who once said:

Whenever people talk to me about the weather,
I always feel certain that that they mean something else!

And so in this weeks gospel
to set alongside the sunnier results of Jesus’ ministry:
unity and reconciliation
we have these more ambivalent forecasts of stormy weather to come:

‘I came to bring fire to earth- and how I wish it were already kindled!’

But perhaps this invocation of fire- shouldn’t be so surprising to us:

Every Sunday in the main Cathedral Eucharist we say the words:

Renew us by your spirit
inspire us with you love
and unite us in the body of your Son.

These words form part of the epiclesis
literally- the invocation of the Holy Spirit
the ancient centre piece of the Eucharistic rite.

In the Book of Common Prayer the epiclesis is a little more hidden…but it is there:

We find it in the request that all present may be fulfilled

that we might be made very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ.

This is Cranmer’s version of the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

And I wonder if you have ever stopped to think what on earth we are doing?

I wonder if we really know what storms we are letting ourselves in for?

Because just like Luke’s Church- and Cranmer’s-
as we seek to interpret the present time-
we must watch out for the Spirit of God-

and pray for ourselves and for our world:
that all present may be fulfilled with


Each day here in the church we sing or say Magnificat-

It is full of judgment and blessing.
Fire and Rain.

The mighty cast down from their seats
 the humble and meek raised up.

And I sit and look at the massive monument to rich and famous and I think.
Oooh dear….

And then I sit a little longer and think about the great bishops in their chantry chapels
and I think… Oooh dear….

And then- once I have exhausted my supplies of hypocrisy- I look to myself-
and think… oh dear me.

Which am I? Cast down? Or Raised up?

And I wish- and pray- painful as it might be
for the refining fire of God’s Spirit in me…

that I may be fulfilled with

And just as we pray for ourselves so we must pray for the world around us:

There is division in our nation, now playing out in the division of disease response.

And in unemployment. And homelessness…

And so on.

Our whole geography- city wide, nationwide- is rife with it…..

And so as we pray for ourselves so we also pray for our world
for our whole Big Society:

that it too may be fulfilled with

Today’s gospel reading ends with the gospel writer
making Jesus accuse the crowds of hypocrisy:

And the hypocrite is cast as one who,
though they are perfectly able to read the signs in all their fullness-
ignores the half that is not convenient to them.

We can’t stop the Spirit of God moving

like a storm front

like a fire.

So let’s not be hypocrites ignoring the bits of weather we’d rather weren’t there.

But rather as we pray through the epiclesis this afternoon

Let’s be clear of everything that we are asking for:

The comfort and the challenge.

The fire as well as the light

Pray for yourselves. And pray for the world:

Renew us by your spirit
inspire us with you love
and unite us in the body of your Son.


Luke 12:49-56
Jesus the Cause of Division
‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Interpreting the Time
He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Jeremiah 23:23-29
23Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” 26How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD. 29Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?