the one about division...
August 15, 2016, 8:00 AM

Sermon from August 14, 2016

Sermon Text: Luke 12: 49-56

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

You know what – whenever I read a text like this and end it with ‘the gospel of the Lord’ I feel like I do it hesitantly. When we think of Gospel and good news, we like to think about things that make us feel good, that empower us, that point to hope, grace, and love. Yet, then there are times when Jesus speaks – and we read those words in worship – that don’t seem to have any of those aspects.

We read and hear these words from our Lord this morning that make us feel uncomfortable – they unnerve us. It is tempting to just move along and not worry about what Jesus says here, we’ll just go look at something a little more gentle and nice.

But, I don’t want to do that this morning, that’s not fair to y’all, it’s not fair to our Lord – to only pick and choose what we want to hear without diving into those texts and words that make us squirm.

Fire, stress, division. Jesus mentions all of this and points out that he hasn’t come to bring ‘peace.’

Maybe there were those that interpreted this in a way that Jesus was inciting violence against those around him – to be against those who disagreed with him. Hearing these words from Jesus and feeling that they are given full reign to go set fire to crosses in people’s yards, to destroy those places they disagree with, to murder those walking out of their place of worship simply because their faith is different than those. Jesus has come to bring division and not peace right?

I’m sure there are those that read these words of Jesus and feel justified in their actions, but I beg to differ solely based on Jesus’ actions and thoughts throughout the rest of the gospels. Jesus’ character and person doesn’t match up with that interpretation. So, I don’t think Jesus is calling those around him to rise up and cause division and not to seek peace. The division that Jesus sees is the result of the Word that he proclaims – a word that is counter to hate and fear and violence.

There is something about speaking and proclaiming a word and life that is different from the rest that causes people to squirm. That causes them to be uncomfortable. That causes some to rise up against this new word. When people rub against the status quo of the world; especially a word that challenges those in power, that lifts others up, that calls for radical hospitality, that gives life and dignity to those that many have turned their nose up at – it’s going to upset people. There’s going to be division.

There will be those who lift up words and life that is counter to what God proclaims. To what God proclaims through the prophets, counter to what God proclaims in and through Jesus our Lord. And in spite of that adversity God calls us to speak the word faithfully – to speak God’s word faithfully and fully.

Speaking that word creates division in the world. The word of God speaks out against those who take advantage of those less than them. The word of God speaks out against those who lord themselves over others because of their status, their place of birth, their skin color, their accent, their way of life, and anything else that others deem ‘superior’ in some form or another. The word of God speaks out against those who care only for themselves and walk by those in need around them every day.

Jesus this morning speaks of fire that he already wished was kindled. When we think of fire, we tend to think of that which hurts, devours, and destroys. We think of the raging fires in California that wreak havoc on forests and destroy the homes and lives of those nearby. We think of the loss experienced by those who have had their world upended and changed forever because of a fire in their home. We think of those who seek to destroy, harm, and put down others by setting fire to objects in their yards, by burning down institutions that they don’t agree with, and more.

Yet, there is also that fire that we tend to overlook. The fire – kindled under a pot that warms and cooks food. The fire that a glassblower uses to help shape and form beautiful works. The fire of a kiln that helps make firm that which has been worked on and molded. The fire that a farmer uses to help bring new life and growth to select areas of their field and harvest.

That fire of the Holy Spirit that continues to re-form, re-shape, and re-orient ourselves to God’s vision of the kingdom on earth.

That fire that burns within our hearts when we know the Lord is close at hand and in our lives.

That fire that brings something new, not the fire that destroys wildly around us.

And, it doesn’t mean that fire doesn’t hurt. If glass could talk; I don’t think it would be very happy about enduring that heat and those flames. Yet, through that trial something beautiful is created. So too does the fire that God brings about on us create something new and beautiful. New life, new ways, new hope. A world that is counter to what is already here. That is counter to those in power. That lifts up the lowly and humbles the proud.

That causes division. It doesn’t bring ‘peace.’

I wonder as Jesus talks about peace this day if he was speaking out against those that wished he’d only wave his hand and make ‘everything better.’ The fairy godmother that says, ‘bippity boppity boo’ and makes the world perfect. The one that uses a little hocus pocus to make everything neat and tidy.

There are times that I think we hope and wish God worked that way. To magically wave a hand and make everything right. To answer yes to all our prayers. To make life immediately better. Yet, God doesn’t seem to work that way and God has never seemed to work that way. As Jeremiah writes, God takes the long view – the one who views with perspective. God is able to look out among the forest and not be blinded by the trees.

Whenever I think of how we want God to work in our world – by answering ‘yes’ to all that we ask, I can’t help, but think of one of my favorite surprisingly theologically deep movies – Bruce Almighty. Bruce after having been given the powers of God attempts to make everyone happy by answering ‘yes’ to all the prayers that he receives. Most of those prayers are in regards to a lottery that is taking place in Buffalo, NY. He answers yes to everyone who prays to ‘win’ the big lotto. And they all do. And they all split those winnings. They all receive $17.00. He brought division, not peace.

So, what are we to do? How do we find the good news in Jesus’ words this morning and in the rest of our scripture texts?

Much like how the Lord our God speaks in Jeremiah, I believe we have to take the wide view this morning. Taking into account the words that Jesus speaks, but doing so in the context of his ministry and life. The one who reaches out to those on the outside, the one who heals the sick and raises the dead, the one who speaks out against the corruption of power and the exploitation of those beneath the powerful. The one who calls us to live in love and grace, even as the loud beating drum and trumpet of the world sows violence, hate, and fear.

Having faith that the Word of God rises higher than the weeds of ‘dreams.’ That we continually speak those faithful words and live into the gospel that our Christ proclaims. Knowing full well that it can and possibly will cause division, yet we continue to speak that word of love, continue to pray for those who live in fear, continue to act in peace and love to bring about change in this world that God has created for us. Every. Last. One. Of us. Amen.

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