In our scripture video just now, the creators left off one snippet of a verse. Right at the very end, the Book of Romans reads:
Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.
Do good. Love. Feed the hungry.
What does piling burning coals of fire on someone’s head have to do with any of that?
If you are anything like my, you might have assumed this had something to do with sending someone to hell. That your actions of good will serve to highlight their deeds of evil and justice will eventually come to them.
And to tell you the truth, I’ve skipped over that verse, or ignored it, like the creators of the video did… for a long time. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the scripture.
But one day, I learned about what it really meant to pile burning coals of fire on someone’s head.
As we just explored with our children, we need fire to cook our food. We need fire to warm our houses. Fire can seal up wounds and provides light in the darkness.
In the ancient world, a fire meant the difference between life and death.
So what happens when your fire goes out?
Without resources to start a fire again, you would have to go begging with your fire bowl, and pray that someone would take pity on you, and share some burning coals from their own fire with you.
Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Pile burning coals upon even your enemies heads.
We have been called to serve. We have been challenged by Jesus Christ throughout the gospels to step out of our comfort zones and to give of ourselves to others. Even if they don’t look like us or talk like us… even if they are our enemies.
But this call doesn’t start with the Paul or the gospels…. It goes back to the beginning.
Moses was called… through fire… to help set the people free.
He was an ordinary guy, living in extraordinary times. He was the child of a slave. He was a murderer. He stuttered. And yet God got his attention through a burning bush and called him to serve.
God’s power transformed his weakness into strength. And through God’s power the people were freed.
Moses just had to show up.
Today, we are going to hear some stories of folks from this church, who were called to serve in Omaha this summer. I hope you will hear that they are ordinary folks, just like you. But they heard the tug on their heart to go, to serve, to feed the hungry, and build houses for those who were struggling. They heard the call to pile burning coals on a neighbor’s head… to help make sure they have everything they need to survive.
Along the way, they changed lives… but I hope you will also listen for how they were changed.
[sharing from members of our mission team]
The call to serve is not just for some people in the church. It is for all people. There are thousands of ways to serve.
This week, we have a special opportunity to serve and feed the hungry through Meals From the Heartland’s annual Hunger Fight. On Wednesday afternoon from 2-4 pm, we will be taking a group of 30 from the church to pack meals for those who are hungry.
We still need lots of volunteers, so if you can give a few hours to change lives… please sign up as you leave!
In two weeks, we are going to fill out our time and talents sheets. But before they show up in your bulletin, I pray that God would light a fire in your life. It might not be as dramatic as a burning bush, but wherever you feel your heart strangely warmed… wherever something out of the ordinary catches your attention… wherever you sense like you could make a difference (as ordinary as you might be)… listen.
Listen to that call to love, serve, and pray. Listen for where God is trying to get your attention.
My prayer is that as you offer yourself up for service, the fires of God’s love will transform this church, this community, and this world. And that God would transform your life, too.
Fire does that you know.
It takes what is ordinary and transforms it.