The Gospel of Luke 12:49-56
Jesus 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: 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.”
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?”
After you read this week’s Gospel, what were your thoughts? I am sure you had the same reaction to the message from Jesus as his disciples did. We sit and ask ourselves where is the Jesus who is a loving and peaceful person? On the surface we wonder really what is going on. Jesus many times used harsh reality to get his point across to his Disciples. He did this to help prepare them for what was to come. He knew that the commitment to Him would cause division in their families and among their friends. It is not that Jesus came to bring division, but his message would do so, as some would reject it. Jesus was also preparing us for a very dysfunctional world. In today’s world we are divided socially, racially, economically, politically, religiously not only in our own country but throughout the world. There is division in marriages and families, in the workplace, in our schools. The family is society in miniature, the place where we first and most deeply learn how to love and be loved, hate and be hated, help and be helped, abuse and be abused. It is not just a center of domestic serenity; since it involves power, it involves the abuse of power, and it is at that precise point that Jesus attacks it. This is not, however, the division that Jesus brings. The division that we read about in the paper and watch on the news is not Jesus’ doing. We humans have caused those divisions by our choices of relationships that ultimately determine who we are and how we act. Sometimes we have made some bad choices.
Jesus used the comparison about weather and time predictions to our commitment. So, what does the weather look like today? What time is it getting to be? What are the current concerns of the Kingdom, which Jesus is so eager to bring to completion? Are we being hypocrites, acting out our own short-sighted interpretation of “the way things are,” and missing the point of the way things ought to be? We seem to be quite interested in predicting the weather, right? Even those of us who aren’t farmers will check the weather report before we go to bed, and again first thing in the morning, so we can order our lives accordingly. The people crowding around Jesus were no different. They could tell if it was going to rain by noticing the smallest cloud in the west. And if the wind was out of the south, coming off the desert, it was going to be a scorcher. Jesus is saying that it is nothing less than hypocrisy when the same skills are not brought to bear on recognizing that the day of the Lord is near. Jesus chastises the crowds because they keep asking for a sign that he is the Messiah. Now, he chastises them for their complete inability to interpret the signs they have been given. We are faced with the dividing line, between two divisions. On one side life runs toward destruction and ruin. On the other side, life tends to move toward the new age of Christ’s reign on earth. If we can read the weather cues on either side of the dividing line, why can’t we tell what time it is? So what time is it? Time to wake up. Time to take off the blinders and see what God sees. Time to repent of our complacency, time to give up our willingness to maintain the status quo instead of moving radically into the demands of Kingdom. It’s time to take a good hard look at who we are, and what we do, and see how far it is from what Jesus asks of us. It’s time to realize that the weather is shifting. In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul writes, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” It’s time to become true followers of Jesus Christ. The time is now. The Kingdom of God is at hand. And for Jesus Peace was his desire, his gift to all his followers. Peace, I leave you: my peace I give you. Lord, we ask for a deeper sense of peace within our own lives, with each other and with you.
Let us Pray: Keep your Church, O Lord, by your perpetual mercy; and because without you the frailty of our nature causes us to fall, keep us from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.