Have you burned anything lately? Florida pastor Terry Jones had planned to do some burning on September 11—copies of the Quran; but he changed his mind—more than once. He did create a lot of smoke.

During the same week in Missouri, on U.S. Highway 60 between Dexter and Sikeston, there was an 18-car pile-up. For those of you who don’t know the area, Highway 60 is a four-lane divided highway that runs flat and straight. On even a bad day, it would take a lot of planning to create an 18-car pile-up. According to my mother, a news source I trust, a local farmer decided to burn some trash.  The burning trash set the farmer’s corn field on fire. The field bordered the highway. Along came some drivers—some maybe on their way to the Hickory Log, a restaurant my Dad thought to be among the best places to eat in southeast Missouri. They were just minding their own business and doing their own thing, as was the farmer; but his thing created smoke—so much smoke that the drivers couldn’t see the road or each other.

Smoke is like that. It obscures vision, and what one can see through the smoke becomes distorted. Sometimes seeing things distorted can be worse than not seeing at all.

Was Pastor Terry Jones seeking publicity? Some see what he did as nothing more than an effort to get publicity. He certainly succeeded, which makes you wonder if many in the media have not already been affected by smoke. Personally, I believe Pastor Jones acted out of his sincere belief that in the name of Jesus it was time for someone to take a stand. His problem was that he was looking at Jesus through smoked vision.

Somewhere along the way to 9-11, the smoke cleared for Pastor Jones. He has now stated that he will not burn the Quran, “now or ever.” That good news; except that there is still smoke out there. According to another news report, his statement was “now is not the time,” which leaves me wondering when next we may hear from Pastor Jones or another like him.

All this talk about burning and smoke has gotten me to thinking about the church. The more I read the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, the more convinced I am that the church is lost in a smoke that is the consequence of fires it has set. We have lost sight of who we are and of what our purpose is. We’ve turned our churches into clubs where the saved can sing their songs, rehearse and tell their stories, lose their excess weight, build up those abs, and be entertained. We’ve turned inward and forgotten that he whom we claim to follow came not to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.  We’ve installed lights in our sanctuaries and locked the world out, forgetting that the call of Jesus is for us to carry the light into the darkness.

I would like to be a faithful follower of Jesus. I confess the idea of wanting to be so frightens me. The cost seems high which leads me think that it would be less costly to stay inside; but that may be because I still have smoke in my eyes.

By the way, I didn’t burn a Quran this week. I had the novel idea to buy one and begin reading it.

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