Out of the Ashes
By Ben Smith of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:38-48 NRSV
I was driving down the mountain where once was thick, lush forest filled with countless animals and trees-a most incredible scene. Struck by the density of color, the smell of freshness, and centuries of growth, I was often left in awe of creation’s mystery-until a few years ago, when a large fire ripped the heart out of this landscape and swallowed it whole. Once nirvana, this paradise was turned into barrenness, filled with kilometers of rubble, grey ash, and black tree trunks. I never fully understood the power of fire until I stood in the middle of that landscape.
As I continued to drive and reflect on what had happened a few years prior, creation’s mystery was front and center in my mind. These black, seemingly lifeless trunks of coal were now covered in fresh, green shoots. Out of the ashes, a lizard scurried across the rock to find food, and a blue wren graced the tree’s new branch, singing the day into being. What was once dead was now alive!
Wonder consumed me. How can a forest that has only known life be burned to a crisp, yet, when all is lost, innately know how to recover?
And now I wonder again. How can a church who, for hundreds of years, has only known growth now be in a state of decline and find hope for the future? It seems, if we listen to the earth, that the hope is in the ashes. When we read deep into our hearts, we know that resurrection occurs when we go back to our inner being and search for life. Deep within us we know how to live. All we need to do is decide.
Spirit, now live in me.
Breathe deeply and enter a few minutes of silence. Be attentive to where you sense new life emerging in you. Search your memories of the previous day. When did you notice the sacredness of life in surprising places or forms in the world around you?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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