The Burning of the Houses of Parliament.
 Turner, J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William), 1775-1851

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Title:The Burning of the Houses of Parliament

"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" How Jesus' words in the twelfth chapter of Luke disturb us -- and the Jeremiad accompanying these words deepen the strength of God's wrath. The Psalmist follows with further reminders: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

In this painting by JMW Turner, it is not fruit orchards or grape vines laid to waste, but an urban structure that was the seat of power in 19th century London. The fire began as a result of the disposal of older, worm-eaten logs of wood, stuffed into the furnaces that fed the heated comfort enjoyed by the Parliamentarians. Rather than give the less desirable wood to the indigent, underpaid workers and their families who lived in the recesses of the London streets, the employees at Parliament were told to dispose of it otherwise, for fear that Parliament would be criticized for their own extravagant use of fuel. The disposal resulted in an overheating of the Parliament systems, the resulting firestorm burning not only the Houses of Parliament but the very sections of the city that gave quarter to the poor.

The words of scripture for this week represent the prophetic call to right ourselves, to be alert, to understand what really matters and act upon it.

Artist:Turner, J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William), 1775-1851
Building:Cleveland Museum of Art
Country:United States

Scripture:Luke 12:49-56
Corinthians I, 1:18-31
Lectionary links:CProp15
General Subject:Fire

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Attribution:Turner, J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William), 1775-1851. The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved February 26, 2024]. Original source:
Record Number:54219 Last Updated: 2021-09-15 09:33:06 Record Created: 2009-02-10 14:06:06
Institution:Vanderbilt University Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition