In Exodus, Moses calls the Lord from Mt. Sinai. The Lord comes in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear him speaking with Moses and will always put their trust in the Lord.
In Colossians, Paul opens by thanking God for the people there and the love they have for all the saints. He speaks of the dominion of darkness and Christ as the centerpiece of becoming an inheritor of the saints in the kingdom of light.
In the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist points the finger at the Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them a brood of vipers and speaking of his own baptism of one of repentance, and the one who comes after him baptizing in fire, through the Holy Spirit. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing flood, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Scripture often makes distinctions – separations one from another. We separate sheep from goats, good from bad, foreigners from natives, darkness from light, clean versus unclean. Today Moses and Paul are both making distinctions about who is following and who is not.
Ironically, the separations in scripture are often not meant to divide, but to bring together. Sheep and goats were separated in the context of a parable or in apocalyptic language. It was meant to persuade and change hearts NOW. Rarely does scripture condemn the past, but invites people into the future.
Today is no exception. Paul speaks of being inheritors of the saints in the kingdom of light. He puts words together so beautifully. And in doing so he reminds us that in Christ, we have all experienced this light. It is a letter of rejoicing, as well as demanding more. We have time to revel and be filled with the awe and wonder of the love already shown to us.
I have had the privilege to stand on a threshing floor in Israel. It was one of the threshing floors in Bethlehem, where Ruth most likely met Boaz. Standing there, Matthew’s words from today’s lesson came to mind – wheat goes in the barn, and the chaff gets burned in the unquenchable fire. But I also thought about Ruth – a foreigner, the most unlikely of candidates for God’s grace, but she experienced a welcome. She turned a separation into an indelible connection that would never be forgotten.
I hope that as we live out today, God finds ways to turn the chaff of our life into productive wheat, and we are bathed in the light of the gospel’s effervescent joy.
P.S. The picture above is one of the threshing floors outside Jerusalem, in continuous use for thousands of years and probably used by Ruth and Boaz. I have had the privilege of standing there, and you can too if you want to go with me to Israel. www.fpcokc.org/trips