[Jesus said:] 49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they 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.” 54He 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. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
I became a pastor because I believe there is good news to be proclaimed – Jesus death and resurrection is news that must be shared – the message of Jesus Christ is what the world needs to hear.
In my 30 plus years of ministry, the times I have enjoyed the most are the times of harmony and peace, where we all get along, and agree on things, work together, and the church is focused on sharing the good news. I call these the Kum By Yah moments – tongue in cheek – where we can all join hands and sing Kum By Yah.
The NOT so fun times have been the times when there has been discord and disagreement, division and bitterness. Those times are the hardest and most frustrating times in ministry. As pastor, I have questioned at those times what I am doing wrong. What have I done to cause this, or what can I do to fix it, so we can get back to the Kum By Yah moments?
Several years ago, we had some “less than Kum By Yah” moments in the church, with divisions in our denomination, and in our congregations. This came on the heels of the church-wide assembly, where some difficult decisions were made about the future of the church. At the church I served in Westerville, here at Epiphany, and at churches across the country, there were people who rejoiced at these decisions and others who are upset about these decisions. I was overwhelmed by the time and energy that went in to dealing with this issue.
I vividly remember back then praying a prayer I prayed several times in those troubling times – “Dear God, I give this issue to you – I place it in your hands, and trust you to lead us to do what is right.”
In preparing for that Sunday, reading the scripture and praying to God, my prayer was answered. God said, “Look at Sunday’s lesson. Why do you think it’s there? What Jesus said 2000 years ago rings true for you today. There will be division, two against three, three against two, family member against family member. It is just going to happen. Jesus states a fact.”
The fact is, even though I hope and wish for the Kum By Yah moments, that will not always be the case. There will be division.
SO, and here is the message for the day, DON’T be discouraged by the division. It is a fact. It is going to happen. It has happened before, it will happen again.
Instead of worrying about the division, focus on the message. Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
Instead of worrying about the division, celebrate the diversity God has given us in the body of Christ. It is the diversity that allows us to know that even though we have differences and divisions, we can meet together at the foot of the cross, where the ground is level, and where together we meet God.
The truth is that Jesus’ words are challenging. He challenges to us is to live by God’s standards, not the world’s standards. Jesus tells us to:
Forgive not just once, but 70 times 7 times
Love your enemy
If someone asks for your coat, give your shirt as well
This is NOT what we were raised to do –
Watch out for number 1
Someone hits you, hit them back
Stand up for yourself
To make the love the unlovable, touch the untouchable, and forgive the unforgiveable.
He invited the outcast to the table, offering forgiveness and life,
Jesus upset many around him by welcoming in those who were never welcomed before.
And those who did not feel welcomed were those who thought they knew who was in and who was out.
Jesus’ words caused tension, and division, and led him to be crucified. His message is challenging. And that challenging word may cause division, tension and brokenness. Is that what God desires? No, I do not believe so. But Jesus knew it was going to happen – just stating the facts.
The good news is that it is not our differences that define us, but the cross that saves us. Through the cross of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of the things that we have done or left undone in our relationship with God and others. We are freed to share the love of God with others. It may cause tension, even division. That is a fact.
Do not let it stop you from hearing the good news.
Do not let it stop you from sharing the good news!
Let us pray: O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression, and you call us to share your zeal for truth. Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed, and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.