One of the things many of us enjoy during the summer is a campfire: the excitement of marshmallows (ever tried a Caramilk square inserted into a roasted marshmallow sandwiched in an oreo?), or just gazing into the hissing goals with someone special.
Campfires are beautiful. They are good.
And, after a few moments of being seduced by a comfy chair and a maybe a beverage, the world around us diminishes, literally. The aperture of the pupil constricts from the bright light, and especially on a cloudy or foggy night, we can see only what is illuminated by the perimeter of the firelight. The world beyond the possibilities: all of creation is in darkness.
Last Sunday, we heard Jesus tell us,
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple… none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (Luke 14: 26,33).
I don’t think Jesus is telling us to “hate” our families, that our families are evil, that life is rotten, or that possessions are “bad,”—that would be contrary to the entire Gospel. I think what he is reminding us of is that our possessions come to possess us. Even the good things. Maybe especially the good things. Like the campfire, we are seduced by the beauty of the created, and everything else, including God, is eclipsed. The Gospel is always inviting us to a greater detachment, a wider vision, a deeper yielding to this Holy Other that is always outside our ability to name, claim or possess.
This coming Sunday we will hear this same Jesus proclaim:
There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 10).
All creation is good, filled with the divine dancing in majesty of the Holy Trinity, all pointing and singing with Angels and Arch Angels, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Heaven and Earth are full of your glory!” Yet our natural inclination, our true desire which is for God, so easily gets directed towards the things that proclaim God. The beauty of creation becomes our idol, and we forget what it proclaims. I think this is the root of sin. Sin is misdirected desire.
Marshmallows stuffed with Caramilk between Oreos are not evil, but when they eclipse the greater truth of where I live and move and have my being, I need to return, I need to “turn around”—to repent. I need to remember I am possessed by God.
Baptism is the way we passed into that marvellous life-giving relationship. We have passed over, from death to life. We proclaim our participation as children of God awaiting our crowns, dancing in the Holy Trinity forever. And we lose our way. God’s creation is beautiful. Sometimes we choose ourselves over others, over God, we slide down that slippery slope, and human beings do terrible things to one other.
There is, indeed, joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents—one who turns around, again, and returns to the font, to be made clean and whole by the one who loved us first. Because God loves a good campfire with his family. So break out the marshmallows and all the fixings.