Old Testament Lesson Jeremiah 23:16-29
Second Lesson Hebrews 11:17-31; 12:1-3
Gospel Lesson Luke 12:49-53
Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read. [Luke 12:49-53]
We’re not as divided as it seems. How many times have you heard that lately? We heard it during, and after the Democrat National Convention. We heard it after the Republican National Convention; and we heard it after police were gunned down in Dallas and Baton Rouge. In the midst of blatantly obvious division; we hear, “We’re not as divided as it seems.”
We live in a time when terrorists, across the globe, target Christians; killing and maiming innocent people because they don’t believe in their god; a time when atheist activists in our own country misuse the laws meant to give freedom of religion to all people, in ways that silence and demean Christians, dividing Christians from the rest of society; a time when our society accepts this misuse of the law and piles on, implying that Christianity deserves every bit of the persecution it gets because Christian rhetoric fuels extremist terrorists. And, we’re not as divided as it seems?
We are divided; and not just politically, but spiritually. Knowing the root of the division should point us in the direction to close it; knowing the root of this great spiritual discord ‘should’ influence our response to it. And as we believe, teach and confess that Scripture holds the answer to questions regarding our salvation, let’s listen to the words of Jesus in our Gospel lesson today and trust in his words to give us the answer.
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Do you see the root of the division in Jesus’ words? Or would you rather ignore it, or look the other way because it’s not the answer you want? I have to admit, this doesn’t sound like the Jesus we all know and love, does it? I’m not sure I’d even recognize those words as being his. I mean, Jesus always talks about unity and harmony … you know, Kumbaya; not casting fire on the earth, and division. But these are the words of Jesus.
And the times we live in are times of division, times for taking sides; not in anger, but in love. Taking a stand for what Scripture commands; taking a stand for what it teaches us about our salvation and what it teaches us about our Spirit led life of sanctification; does not make you a bigot or intolerant. Seeing the world through eyes of hate that relish division makes you an intolerant bigot.
Standing firm in the Gospel, standing firm in the love of Christ, will cause division between those who proclaim the truth in love and those who angrily, obstinately refuse to receive the Holy Spirit’s teachings and instead turn away when the Spirit calls them. And as the division grows, slanderous words intended to lump all Christians into one stereotypical mold, sifted together with the fear of repercussion from extremists in our society who persecute those who disagree with their particular ideology, will cause more and more people to join in the persecution of Christians; to save their own skins.
All of this was bound to happen. This is what Christ Jesus warned us was his purpose; to bring division; to cast fire on the earth. God will cause division between father and son between mother and daughter; division between those who believe and those who do not; and this division will spread outside the home into the community. So scripture does tell us the root of this division; but now that we know the root of the division, what are we to do?
The world has several answers that promise to end division. Scripture has one. As members of the world, we’re told we can attack, or we can run. Either will bring unity; unity with the persecutors or unity with those who live as victims. But the Word of God calls us to answer this persecution in yet another way; a way that won’t result in unity across the board, but an answer that will be God pleasing and yet divisive at the same time.
In the midst of persecution and division, God’s Word calls us to forgive. Only in forgiveness will you find unity with your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. A unity so strong that it divides you from the world, separates you from the world. Only in forgiveness will you find peace.
Oh, you’ll still experience persecution, you’ll still know division, because although you’re separated from the world, you’re still in the world. But in the midst of this persecution you’ll know peace; the peace of God that surpasses all understanding; peace that only God can give.
This is the peace that comes from knowing that, for the sake of Christ, all your sins are forgiven. Peace that comes from knowing that God now looks at you differently. God no longer sees your sin condemning you to eternal death in hell. What God sees is Jesus, justifying and redeeming you as a resurrected child of God who has life.
A resurrected child of God who was united with him through Baptism, and who continues to be kept united with him through the bread and wine of Holy Communion. A resurrected child who confesses their sins and now hears the words of absolution spoken by their pastor and knows that their sins are forgiven in heaven, all for the sake of Jesus who came to cast down fire and cause division.
Because the division is not between God and his people. The division is not between the members of Christ’s body. And as members of his body, we don’t contribute to further division by attacking or running away like the world tells us to do. The division between us and the world will always be there, but that division dissolves as one by one the forgiveness that Christ empowers us to use makes the body of Christ, grow.
Through the forgiveness and love that Christ pours out upon us; the forgiveness and love that Christ commands us to share with our brothers and sisters … and the world, division within the body of Christ will be mended, and the body of Christ, the kingdom of God, will grow as more of those in the world become a part of it; but division between the body and those remaining in the world will be increased.
We do live in the midst of persecution and division, and the world we live in is fractured and divided, but we need not fear. This body is united in Christ; and this body does know the peace of God which passes all understanding.
And so we can say it, and mean it: peace be with you.
In Christ’s service,