Take a gander at the reading from Luke that we'll be reading in the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday...."I came to bring fire"..."Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division"..."father against son and son against father"...."mother against daughter and daughter against mother"..."you hypocrites!"
I read this passage, and I wonder how it might be heard by churchgoers in their Sunday best clothes, sitting in comfortable pews, coming to church for a bit of peace and respite at the start of a busy week. I wonder who it was that Jesus was speaking to...and whether, just maybe, this passage is specifically for those who have gotten a bit too comfortable.
Now, we all know that no matter how comfortable we might be, we can always claim to be in some pain, we can always claim that we have been wounded, and are carrying burdens that make even the most visible signs of comfort (wealth, health, possessions, privilege) into pain and suffering. But, let's get real, for many people in the United States, we earn in the top 5% or 10% of the world's population, and for many in our pews the number may be closer to the top 2% or less. Of course, comfort is not all about wealth, health, possessions, and privilege - but it sure can help.
So, how will we be hearing these words today - that Jesus is not here to be codependent to our lame claims of victimhood. Jesus here sounds like the demanding coach, the boss who is supportive, but also demands much, the parent who is able to both express affection and practice tough love. Jesus paints a picture of turmoil, that the Kingdom of God will turn everything on its head - even our cherished relationships. The Kingdom of God will shake us to the core, and will clearly "afflict" those of us who are all too "comfortable."
I'd like to say that I was ready for this kind of Kingdom. I'd like to say that I wasn't so comfortable, and was prepared for this inbreaking of the Spirit - which will certainly come with more than a few sufferings. I'd like to say that I wasn't one of these privileged ones, that I was fully radicalized, like the Sons of Liberty in Boston in the 1770s, or the philosophes in France before the Revolution, or like the Freedom Riders in the Civil Rights Movement.
Jesus' words are sticking to me this week. My homiletics professor said it is good to preach to the point where the "shoe pinches the foot"...well, unless I wimp out...I think I better take on Luke this week. Let's see where it takes me.
~The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Luke 12:49-56Jesus said, "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:
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?"
- 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."