Hearth of the world

Dr David Nott was operating on a Palestinian girl in Gaza when people burst into the room and said the hospital was about to be bombed; everyone should flee. He paused, gripped by fear, and thought: I don’t have family responsibilities right now but I do have this little girl here critically ill. He turned to his anaesthetist and said, “I am going to stay.” The anaesthetist said, “I will stay too.” They continued working. The attack did not happen and the little girl survived.

open_bibleMany would be touched and inspired by such a true life incident when perhaps they would not stop to turn a page of the gospel. Years ago Simon and Garfunkel sang that famous line; ‘the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls!’ The ‘scripture’ texts that nourish many today are not read in churches but in the news, sport and the arts. People, like Dr Nott, live by the values of the gospel though they may never actually read it.

And the gospel in its turn reaches into daily life for images to express its values. The readiness of that doctor is the readiness of the man who is “awake … in the second watch … or in the third.” And Jesus concludes; “You must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:32ff). The traditional view of this text is that it refers to our death or the last days. But it is stronger than that. It refers to a constant awareness at all times.

There is, though, a tendency to view optimistically every reaching out of people to others as an expression of the gospel. We have to beware lest we blunt the sharp sword of the scriptures. Not every act of kindness to another has the purity of Dr Nott’s. We can be the victims of subtle deceits and mixed motives. We can act generously with hidden agendas.

I have this image of the Christian community at its best when it is acting as a hearth giving out warmth and life to all those who are reached by its fire. There are many on the periphery who feel the heat without knowing where it comes from. They may not be religious but they live by Christian values. It has long been prophesised that ours would be an age of “religionless Christianity.”

This age is certainly upon us and it means that those who claim to stoke the fire at the hearth take on their task ever more passionately because dark cold forces are waiting to stamp out the fire should it ever be reduced to embers.

7 August 2016                                    Sunday 19 C

Wisdom 18:6-9                       Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19                         Luke 12:32-48

Post published in: Literature

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