Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”
May only God’s word be spoken, and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!
Oh, nelly! Take a deep breath my brothers and sisters. Buckle up a bit tighter, ‘cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride this morning. Jesus, comes to us this morning, not as the sweet little lamb that Mary had; rather as a prophet being prophetic challenging what we hold dear. In the Gospel reading this morning we hear Jesus say:
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."
Now, those are some harsh words. They are especially harsh if we rolled out bed and mosied over to church to hear some Halmark worthy platitudes about how God loves us and everything will be alright. However, if we have been paying attention to the Gospel of Luke as we have heard it proclaimed in worship this summer, then we shouldn’t be surprised at all. This Jesus who says, “I came to bring fire” is the same Jesus that told a would be follower, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” This same Jesus, who says I have come not to bring peace but division, is the same Jesus who told another would be disciple, who merely wanted to give his father proper burial, “let the dead bury their own dead.” The same Jesus, who says sons will be pitted against their fathers, says to a third hesitant follower, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Lastly, and most importantly for us to remember, this same Jesus that prays for the fires of baptism to be kindled is the very same Jesus who in three chapters earlier in Luke’s Gospel steadfastly sets his face towards Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets. He steadfastly sets his face towards the cross and Jesus invites us come along.
Today’s passage is about unbridled passion and unwavering determination. Now we admire unbridled passion and unwavering determination. For example, recently Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots, was interviewed at the start of their training camp about some the off season off the field issues of team. His answer was that he was not going to let anything interfere with his concentration on football. According to Mr. Brady, all that happened in the off season was in the past and he had “moved on.” It was exactly the “right answer” and sports commentators spent the next three days commenting on just how right it was. Mr Brady’s job is to spend every waking moment, and probably most of his sleeping moments too, on football. Another example is my favorite football player, Peyton Manning. He is known around the league for preparing longer and harder than his opponents. It has been said that he doesn’t work 9 to 5; rather 5 am to 9 at night. And we like that level of commitment in our athletes.
Football is not the only arena where hyperfocus and excessive discipline applied to hard work pays off with extreme results. Musicians and artist, CEOs and teachers, often exhibit this same quality of single minded determination. But our scripture today is not about rewards. It’s about sacrifice. And we often hear of captains of industry, high level athletes, and top notch artists having issues at home, of living in a house divided.
What we hear today is Jesus being very clear about the cost of discipleship. Jesus is very aware that the level of determination that he is calling his followers to have, will not make things easy for them. It will call for sacrifice, and sacrifice is never comfortable nor convenient. Making the decision to take up the cross and follow Jesus will cost us.
Now my brothers and sisters, I searched and searched, prayed and prayed some more to find some way to make today’s gospel more palatable. I looked high and low for the proverbial spoonfull of sugar to make the medicine go down, but it doesn’t exist.
It is as Robin Meyers asks in his book the Underground Church, “Are we Easter people or just the latest version of the Good Friday crowd?”
Now, my brothers and sisters, I do believe we are an Easter People especially here. We here at the Church of the Resurrection are a peculiar and specific manifestation of the Love of God that is beautiful. Our history is rich, our diversity profound, and our welcome is abundant, but the time is now my brothers and sisters.
The time is now for us to fill the pews to bursting. The time is now for us to focus with single minded determination on spreading the word of God.
Now is the time and the place is right here in North Omaha. This is where God has called us to bring in the harvest. This is where God has set forth the kingdom to erupt through us.
Now is the time, my brothers and sisters, for us to stand for justice.
Now is the time my brothers and sisters for us to have no fear of those that can merely harm the body but can not touch the soul.
Now is the time for us to walk this aisle and receive the Body of Christ at this table; not so we can be comforted in our personal salvation, but so that we can carry that very body of Christ out into a world so desperately in need of Jesus.
The time is now, for us to take up the cross, to set our faces towards Jerusalem, and walk with our Lord into the teeth of the empire.
My brother and sisters it is imperative that we grow this community, that we fill these pews; because the more people fed by God at that table, the more people we can feed out there. Amen!