Today’s first reading from Jeremiah brought to mind the surreal landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho, which I visited on a long road trip through the American West several years ago. It’s a surreal landscape of lava flows, ash, and shards of rock so sharp they’ll slice through your shoes if you wander off the trail.
Jeremiah’s image of a “barren bush [that] stands in a lava waste” to describe those who trust in men and not in the Lord brought Craters of the Moon to mind. I remember rounding a cinder cone, descending onto a river of hard rock, and thinking I’d wandered into Mordor.
Today’s readings are not for the conflict-averse. Today’s world is not for the conflict-averse, either. Within our communities and families, we experience conflict over vaccines and politics. Irresponsible political and media actors seem intent on increasing racial conflict. In the Ukraine, armed conflict threatens. But, as even the Bible demonstrates, the world has never been a conflict-free zone.
Conflict is a part of the human reality Jesus entered into. Conflict is not always bad, either. Political conflicts between big states and small states produced the checks-and-balances of the American Constitution. Theological conflict has led to doctrines that give us deeper insight into the nature of God. We wouldn’t have a Creed if there hadn’t first been disagreements about the Trinity. The fact that sometimes we disagree doesn’t make us bad Christians.