Posted on Wed, Aug 17, 2016
August 14, 2016
Luke 12:49-56 “Refined Faith”
Jesus the Cause of Division
49 ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 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.’
Interpreting the Time
54 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. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56 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?
What is that rule we make at family reunions? There are three things we are never to talk about around the dinner table … Politics, something, and religion … I wonder if that rule came from today’s Gospel text…
Where is the Gospel in Jesus’ words? Where is the loving white skinned sheepherder we see in our devotionals? What is Luke trying to tell the young church by including these very harsh words in his story about the Good News of Jesus?
There is a great sense of urgency to Jesus’ words. There is judgment, there is lament, and there is truth.
Remember how uncomfortable we felt when we heard John the Baptist say when he speaking about the Messiah who was about to come onto the scene? “He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’” (Mt. 3:11-12).
Jesus talks about the meaning of His baptism, “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” To be “baptized” means to be “chosen,” and Jesus has been chosen for a very difficult task, and that is to give his life for this stiff-necked world, bent on self-destruction, and nobody is heeding Jesus words, or paying attention to his actions.
Jesus is not just wishing for something to happen, Jesus is already caught up in God’s Will and the plan will be fulfilled on Good Friday and Easter morning.
But as Jesus makes His journey to Jerusalem all the things that need to be quenched in the unquenchable fire, will be revealed. Jesus will reveal the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and these are the ones who are supposed to know the scriptures, especially the relationship of prophecies about the coming Messiah and Jesus’ words and actions. Everything Jesus has done has done to fulfill all of the Law and the Prophets, but all he has received from the religious leader is pushback, anger, and threats.
Jesus has used The Truth, God’s command to love one another, to expose the corruption and suffering generated by greed and self-centeredness of the rich. And then, by speaking over and over about God’s desire to mend relationships and the building up of community forgiveness and love, he exposes the selfishness and apathy that blinds the people of God. And this isn’t a new problem for God’s people. There are ramifications to following God’s commandments to love and care for all people, these are called, “Blessings.” But there are also consequences for those called by God who don’t care for their neighbor, the widow, orphan and stranger.
26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)
The issue goes back to there are consequences for the People of God. Way back in the Old Testament, after Israel was established in the Promised Land and they had their temple, they were still commanded to serve and care for the widow, orphan and strangers; yet, they didn't serve each other. And the prophets warned them, it doesn't matter that you are a chosen people, living in your chosen land with your temple and power… you are still commanded to love one another, to serve one another. And the Lord said He would use other armies to punish His people, and then God used the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptian armies to clobber Israel and drag them back into slavery. These were the ‘curses’ the prophets were talking about and the religious leaders understood this all too familiar story. They should have understood that Jesus words and actions fulfilled what the prophets proclaimed, “Love one another as God has loved us, especially the widow, stranger, and orphan.”
Then Jesus makes a very good statement, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 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?”
When the people, and again, especially the religious leaders saw or heard about Jesus healing, teaching and raising the dead back to life, what do they think they were looking at? How could they miss the fact, that God was in their midst… or better yet, what was it that blinded them to this truth? Were they afraid to admit what they saw and heard in Jesus was more of something to be feared, rather than believed?
But what about seeing God in the places and people we meet? Or in reading the Gospels and hearing that Jesus died and rose for you, and what about allowing our faith to come alive and letting that Good News change the way you see, hear, and speak in the world? Hearing the Good News of unconditional love and letting the Truth, that God’s love IS FOR YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBOR, enter your heart and therefore letting God’s Good News cause you to love and serve your neighbor?
God’s presence and mercy surround us like the air we breathe. What holds us back from letting the presence of God, the mercy and grace of God, refine they way we see the world and treat our neighbor?
A refined faith see’s God’s grace and mercy as a way to truly live a life of freedom and joy. You have heard the Gospel, ponder the Good News and let the words change you and refine you into the People of God, living in joy, mercy and service. Amen.
“And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
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