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Pentecost 10C Sermon
Luke 12: 49-56
August
18, 2019

 

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Luke 12:49-56

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be 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.’
He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

One of the gifts that I think I bring to the ministry is the ability to be what is sometimes described with the abbreviation N.A.P. or, “Nap: Non-Anxious Presence” and describe the ability to remain calm, cool and collected when there is crisis going on in one’s life or in the lives of people around them. Sometimes that is as simple as making people smile or chuckle with a joke or story; at other times that is a show of empathy, a touch or a hug, and/or some deep thought on how we might deal with the crisis around us. To me, being a non-anxious presence has been a sign of being a helpful, strong, honest leader, showing confidence that all will be ok.

So, you can imagine how I react to Jesus’ words in our Gospel reading today from the end of Luke 12. This is one of those passages from Jesus’ earthly life that makes people like me uncomfortable! I sometimes consider Jesus the ultimate non-anxious presence! He usually seems so calm, cool and collected when the storms threaten to sink the boat, the people are seeking to stone the woman caught in sin, and all of those who are suffering from many diseases are in desperate need of healing. I like those stories from his life, because they tell of a Lord who calmly, gently comforts those who suffer affliction.

But sometimes all is not ok. Sometimes there needs to be serious emotions shown, action taken, passion expressed. Remember the story of Jesus clearing the temple and throwing over the tables of the money-changers. Remember how he calls the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day hypocrites and gets angry at them for leading God’s people astray. And in this passage today, he admits that he is under a great deal of stress as he gets closer and closer to Jerusalem and his suffering, his crucifixion, and his resurrection.

In the midst of this stress, Jesus speaks honestly about things to his disciples, lying to them or leading them on; he wants them to be able to see God’s kingdom coming just as well as they are able to see the changes in the weather. Jesus says that he has not come to bring peace, but division: even households will be divided against each other because of him. My non-anxious personality doesn’t really like that! I like things being okay! But Jesus is saying that all is not okay – and in his role as prophet, he sees that it is not time for comforting the afflicted, but for afflicting the comfortable. This is the same Jesus, but we don’t like what he is saying because in his truthfulness, he is trying to get us to realize that things are not “all right” in the world.
As a person who prefers to be the ‘non-anxious presence” I sometimes don’t want to admit that there is a lot of brokenness in this world that God created. The stress that Jesus mentioned is still experienced by many people today. Jesus often mentioned caring for the widows, orphans, poor and others who are vulnerable among us, and we still have that responsibility as his disciples today. The poverty that exists affects so many in our communities, and while it is good that we help people get by with food and shelter and other temporary assistance, the greed at the root of the poverty must be addressed or we will be neglecting our call as the prophetic church. We are called to examine our own greed and expose the greed of others so that all who suffer because of economic stress may know relief.

Brokenness in relationships – from the basic family relationships between spouses and children and extended family to fractured ties within our nation, between nations, races, religions and peoples – is one of those things that is not “okay” in our world. We seem to be drifting further and further apart in many ways, focusing on our differences rather than what we share in common.

The list can go on and on: Brokenness in regards to immigration issues & human rights; problems with our education system; fighting in regards to human sexuality issues; addiction to so many substances and activities that are too many to list; a criminal justice system that doesn’t seem to work; more and more instances of violence, and the debate over gun control – it’s not okay! Jesus cannot remain that non-anxious presence when he sees so much broken with the people that he loves so much, so he proclaims God’s word no matter who it offends!
I will admit, it is often easier to deny that there is something that needs attended to than do the hard work and possibly suffer division in the process of addressing the ills of our lives. Denial is part of the human condition; but Jesus is calling us to recognize that God is present and active in our world, going about the process of justice – God’s justice is about healing all of the brokenness and setting things right in ways that only God can do! When God is involved, stuff is changing! We are being taken to a different level of justice than we may have ever imagined! We cannot deny that there is brokenness in the world! So, we must not become offended by Jesus’ words spoken out of the stress of his impending death and resurrection!

As the church, we are the presence of Christ in this day and age. One of our prophetic callings is to speak God’s word even if it offends because it is not okay to live in this broken world! Six years ago, our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a statement on Immigration to be a teaching tool to help us prayerfully consider how we are to live as Christians amid the conflict present in this issue, and to love our neighbor. While not meant to state the church’s stance on specific issues, social statements do proclaim like Jesus that all is not okay in our communities, and we are to seek guidance from God’s word and God’s family in trying to be part of God’s healing process. This year the ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution denouncing racism – that is certainly something that none of us, I hope, can argue with. They also passed a resolution to declare the ELCA a sanctuary church body. This action has caused households to be divided, as I have heard from many of you passionate words of support AND disagreement. In the week or so since this news became public, my nature as a non-anxious presence has been thrown totally into disarray!! As our Bishop encourages us, though, I encourage you to breath and pray and read the statements that are available to you. I am not sure how this issue will reconcile, but what I do know is this: God’s justice will be done, and it will not look perfectly like what people of either side of these issues and debates look like!! We have such limited vision and imagination! As things unfold, all of us will certainly find that we participate in injustice through our sinfulness in some way. How will we react? By resisting, denying and defending ourselves? Or by owning accepting and repenting? God has promised never to abandon us even as God may be working justice that goes against some of our values. But just as Jesus will go to the cross and redeem all of this broken world, so will he redeem all of us in the midst of our division and disagreements. That is the good news that my non-anxious self needs to hear! May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.