The Fire Is Already Kindled
St. Bartholomew, Apostle
24 August 2016
While in California, my host took me to Big Basin State Park. This state park is famous for the giant ancient redwoods that tower there, dwarfing the hiker. I looked up at the stately giants rising 30 stories above me and realized both my insignificance and the greatness of God, who created these soaring signs of His majesty. God's earthly domain continues to undergo building, renovation, and rebuilding as the centuries wind down to the final judgment, where each one will receive what is due for what he has done in the body whether good or evil (2Co 5:10).

The renovation that goes on among the redwood trees is often worked by fire. Even lightning strikes will burn the redwood but not destroy it. Many of the trees show the unmistakable signs of blackened bark caused by fire. And yet they still stand as majestic kings over the forest floor. The fire clears out the vegetation around their feet, blackens their trunks and also gives rich black earth to those soaring shafts. The fire in its raging destruction also makes the redwoods stronger.

So it is for us. The Lord is taking all that is unworthy in our lives and burning it down; destroying it. And in the creative destruction of his empowering Word He leaves us with nothing but His gifts. In economic theory, creative destruction predicts that unproductive and bloated industries or businesses will be destroyed in economic downturns. This allows the misallocated capital to be directed toward more productive business endeavors and industries. The Word of God in its destructive power often focuses our jumbled and chaotic lives, with all their misallocated resources; often misallocated toward what is spiritually hurtful, harmful or wasteful. Our Lord refocuses us toward that which alone can bring survival in the crisis of divine judgment.

How grateful we are when we finally realize we have been poor stewards of our children's lives by letting sports events intrude on church life, allowing athletics to cheat the little ones of the Savior who has redeemed them by precious blood. How grateful we are when we realize we have been poor stewards of our own lives by focusing on our career or work to the detriment of our faith and hearing the Word of God preached. How grateful we are when we realize how important our husband or wife really is to us and begin to treat them as a sacred gift, as a treasure from our heavenly father. How terrible it is when we must suffer the loss of such things before we recognize the enormity of the blessings showered down upon us by God. Joni Mitchell's little song had it right: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." Sometimes we recognize our blessings and call them what they are, only when they're gone. Sometimes the Lord's creative destruction in our lives brings us to that point.

I tell people who leave the church to become reintegrated into the pagan culture around us and abandon Christ how deeply I grieve for them, because sometimes our Lord forces our return to the church by destroying our false gods. And those gods are anything that has become our treasure upon which are our hearts are set (Mt 6:21). And so I hear from the grieving years later, "Why didn't I listen? Why did I have to lose my wife and children? Why did it take such great suffering and loss for me to see where my true treasure was?" The fire has already been kindled.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"By this fire, the glow of love, the heretics are to be consumed, and all who understand and teach ungodliness. Because we have despised this fire, God has given us over to wrong notions, so that we have become hangmen and burn heretics with natural fire, to be consumed ourselves in turn. So when you say: 'But their delight is in the Law of the Lord' (Ps 1:2), you should not rest assured and pat yourself on the back, as if you were one who loves the law of God. Rather you should sigh with the greatest possible burning desire to Him who alone has come to send fire upon the earth (Lk 12:49). And as long as you live, think of yourself in no other way than as one who does not yet love God's law and who desperately needs this desire for the law." 

Martin Luther, Commentary on Psalm 1, 1.6
Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  (ESV)
Collect for St. Bartholomew
Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an apostle to preach the blessed Gospel.  Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For William Heine, that the Lord Christ would be his companion in His walk as a leader of the church's school

For Susan Narr, that she would be strengthened in her body and soul

For all those who labor in service industries, that they would find joy serving others in their vocation
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2016