Sunday, August 16, 2020

Leave Only Footprints...Or Maybe a Little More

Burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15) and burning coals (Romans 12:9-21). Two (more) stories in scripture that employ some element of fire or flame. There is an interesting fire-related difference in the two, though. When I think about burning coals, I imagine the grill that fired hundreds of family cook-outs and barbeques. I can picture those glowing charcoal briquettes (my dad was in the lumber gas grills for him). Heating up slowly, passing through the flame stage and then becoming a bank of glowing embers ready for the ribs, sausage, corn, portobello mushrooms, and more that might be on the grill on any given occasion.   


       Vincent Van Gogh. Peasant Burning Weeds. 1883. Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)/Drents Museum (Drenthe)

After dinner the coals were usually still glowing enough that the coat-hangers-turned-marshmallow-sticks were brought out, sometimes with chocolate and graham crackers, to make dessert. The coals were dealt with before bedtime, and by the next morning there was nothing but a pile of cold ashes. 

There were no ashes after Moses left the holy ground where he spoke with God. Because the bush burned but was not consumed. That means no ashes. Aside from the bush, which was there before, only Moses' footprints were left. 

Paul's instructions to the Christians in Rome (Romans 12:20) include a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22. Do more for your enemies, he instructs. Give more, love more. As I heard more than once when I was growing up, "Kill 'em with kindness."  Heap burning coals on their heads. The hope seems to be that at the end of such actions as feeding hungry enemies and giving drinks to thirst ones, what will be left isn't just cold ashes, it is a new or restored relationship between former enemies. 

Take only photographs, leave only footprints is good advice for walking through nature. Such attention to detail is important when thinking about the potential for fires. We have all seen what is left (or not) after a wildfire. For Moses and the Christians in Rome, the result of the fire is not destruction. It is growth and transformation. People who are no longer enemies. Moses commissioned to lead God's people. Those are what is left. Not just footprints. Maybe a little more. 

On Art&Faith Matters on Facebook, another part of Paul's instruction in Romans. Can you tell which verse from the thumbnail at left? Check your answer on Facebook

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