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NORTH MAIN SERMON AUGUST 18

 

10th Sunday after Pentecost

COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS  Luke 12:49-56 New International Version (NIV)

Not Peace but Division

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Interpreting the Times

54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

 

 

God! Where are you? We need help? We need you? We'll do better, we promise!


We are such a fickle people, O Lord. It is easy for us to accept greedily your blessings in times of peace, and to cry for mercy in times of difficulty. We want you to pamper us. We want to be your special people. We don't like the idea that you might indeed care for those whom we would reject. We have no idea how to interpret what is going on in the World these days.  Such is our lot! We need once again to be reminded of the many ways in which we have chosen to be the "wild grapes" rather than the faithful vines. We have been given opportunities time and time again to serve you by helping others. Today we have gathered in worship to praise you and to offer our gifts. But it is our commitment and our lives of service that you would appreciate. Witness and service to you are not easy. They may require some sacrifice. We may face some misunderstanding and ridicule from others. We need to interpret what you are asking us to do... You call us to be faithful, to be steadfast. Help us, O Lord, to make the kinds of commitments which will bring healing and hope in this troubled world in which we live. Disciples must be ready to stand up for God's ways, no matter what people—even their friends and relatives—think and say. Our Scripture states it clearly that there will be division. It is far more helpful to recognize these realities and prepare for them. What did you have in mind for each one of us let alone for the world... were you a savior or were you actually a revolutionary?  Did you come to bring us peace or to stir up things and wake us up... It's not a stretch to say that Jesus was a rebel. He was. He was bucking the system, turning over tables, and saying all sorts of subversive things in the days when he was walking the earth. JESUS REJECTED THE OLD “BUSINESS AS USUAL” THEME. In the large city of Jerusalem, he attacked the money changers, who were running a racket, swapping temple shekels for Roman money at a profit. He didn’t just chew them out, he physically chased them out. When a corrupt tax collector decided to follow Jesus, he returned all his ill-gotten gains and then some. “Business as usual” just couldn’t continue when Jesus got involved. JESUS TURNED THE LAW ON ITS HEAD. While he didn’t break Roman law, there were hundreds of complex and burdensome religious laws that the religious leaders had added to Scripture and Jesus did not like most of them. Jesus railed against a religion that focused more on rules than people – more on obedience than love. The Bible says Jesus intentionally healed people on the Sabbath, knowing it would violate the religious law… He interpreted the law differently... The Sabbath was made for people, and not people for the Sabbath he said. Jesus was not a political person… People flocked to hear him speak, but he generally avoided political messaging—but he did talk about the kingdom of God. If we think our politics are complicated, we should take a look at the time in which Jesus lived. There were hundreds a rules and laws that made no sense.  When he healed people on the Sabbath, he often asked them to keep quiet about it, but they rushed out and told their stories, which spread like wildfire. So, Jesus shunned politics because it was difficult to interpret these rules that did not take care of the people.

 

  So... It is perfectly appropriate, then, for Christians to call Jesus a rebel. One reason why Jesus is unlikely to have been a real rebel though is that his disciples were not arrested after his execution. Had they been known insurrectionists, the occupying Roman forces would almost certainly have moved in to arrest them… Certainly if the Government had thought Jesus was a real revolutionist and his disciples the same, something would have happened to the disciples during this time... For Christian theology, Jesus most likely stirs things up a lot... he did stir things up… – but it turned out to be a resurrection, not a revolution. Jesus, was more of a ‘spiritual’ rather than a political leader.  Those who heard Jesus’s words would have understood that ‘the things that are God’s’ included mercy, justice, feeding the hungry, welcoming the immigrant, sheltering the destitute and protecting the poor from the oppression of the powerful. Some aspects of the way Jesus is portrayed in these texts have an obvious radical resonance. He is presented as homeless, property less, peripatetic, socially marginal, disdainful of kinfolk, without a trade or occupation, a friend of outcasts, averse to material possessions, without fear for his own safety, a thorn in the side of the Establishment and a scourge of the rich and powerful. Jesus has most of the characteristic features of the revolutionary activist of the day and even some today. Was Jesus, then, a revolutionary? Not in the sense that we think about a person today. The Gospels offer two different pictures of Jesus. On the one hand, there is the divine being who preaches salvation in another world. On the other hand, there is a Jesus in the tradition of Jewish popular revolution--a figure of this world who opposes kings and oppressors, and who promises his followers real material benefits in this life. Jesus revolution started on Easter morning and continues on today. This revolution provides hope for the hopeless. God can change anyone. God can really save anyone who comes to him. The apostles sat is the upper room and were afraid to believe… but Jesus appeared to them in person after his death, and that appearance changed their life forever… Even then the disciples had a hard time interpreting the things that were going on. But... when we look at the apostles, we can easily see that God can do amazing things through ordinary people when He empowers them through His Spirit. Remember this… If an angel ever says to you…, ‘Be not afraid,’ you’d better watch out: a big assignment is on the way.” Jesus comforts with one hand and then shoves us out to work for him on the other hand… God essentially took a group of fishermen and used them to turn the world upside down... God used persecution to cause the quickest expansion of a "new faith" in the history of the world... The risen Jesus does not appear as the powerful one, but as the wounded and forgiving one. That does not sound like a rebel … Fellowship is a term we toss around frequently in church life, but too often we simply mean chatting with friends during coffee hour. True Christian fellowship is a radical concept. The power of the community lies in the willingness of its members to testify to Christ’s resurrection. In the gospel reading, the Jesus comes to bring division among us to stir us up and wake us up and start us interpreting what is going on today… The story is about a community gathered in one heart and soul.…How is it that we cannot interpret the current times… This is the true Revolution that Jesus started and still continues today. Why did some people have a hard time with Jesus? He challenged what they believed and cared about. The same thing happens today when we challenge people.  Jesus was a rebel who broke many rules of the religious patterns established by the people of his day. Instead of pleasing the masses, he focused on spreading unconditional love and putting faith into action.  We truly need Jesus more today than ever… We can’t possibly figure out everything all by ourselves. We need to remember that Jesus’ relationship with the Father is what ultimately determines his identity and being.  Our relationship with God is what makes us unique and different than anyone else also. Jesus sets this question before us today.  What will be the thing that determines your relationship with God? Does that relationship matter so much to you that you will allow it to shape your life and identify you as a Christian. Where do we put that rebel Jesus who walked on water and performed miracles for us and died for us...? Where do we put that tiny baby born in a stable in our lives today in this world that we have to interpret. For our part we just need to determine our priorities in our life and then live them the way Jesus wanted us to. Jesus did not come to earth to just bring peace to us, but he did leave us with his peace. He simply said, peace... I leave with you my peace.