Sermon, Pentecost 10
Oh, oh. Looks like somebody is cranky! We have some dark readings today! In our Isaiah reading, God is making a waste of his vineyard. In our reading from Hebrews, we learn just how horribly people of faith were treated, getting sawn in two, or stoned to death. Jesus is really cranky; on his way to Jerusalem and just so annoyed that nobody is getting his message.
Jesus says he came to bring fire. At Pentecost, his followers will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will show up as cute little flames dancing on their heads. I don’t think that is the nice little fire Jesus is talking about there. His plan is to set the world on fire to purify and refine it. And he wants that fire kindled NOW.
He says he has a baptism coming and is under so much stress to complete it. Now, we know that he was baptized by John in the river some time ago and nothing seemed too stressful about that. No, this isn’t the same baptism. This stressful baptism is his upcoming suffering and death on the cross and he just wants to be done with it.
Now for my favorite part: Jesus asks: ‘Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I come to bring division!’ Excuse me Jesus, also known as ‘Prince of Peace’. How about all those carols we sing about bringing peace on earth? Were we confused?
Nope, this cranky Jesus comes to bring division. Try to imagine that you’re following Jesus, 2000 years ago. You’ve chosen to leave your home, family, and work to follow a poor, homeless rabbi who hung out with people who were reviled by their communities, who embraced sinners, and preached that the poor and meek were the blessed ones.
Think about this. For these people, following Jesus meant not just to change what you believe but actually change HOW you live. To follow Jesus meant that you also need to honor the outcasts in your community, not judging them but inviting them into your life. If you followed the one who preached love and forgiveness you had to do the same, especially loving those who were most different from you.
Luke writes this gospel about forty years after Jesus died and he is addressing the early followers of Christ. The have actually experienced the division Jesus speaks of; they have lived their faith at tremendous cost to their lives. Now, we live in a country and time when being a Christian is comfortable and not threatening or divisive. But perhaps if we truly worked to bring about the kingdom of God, where the poor are privileged, where the wealthy share their wealth (maybe by actually paying their fair share of taxes), where the needy are cared for, where the hungry are fed, perhaps actively working toward these changes in the world could bring about quite a bit of division. These very issues are already at the core of some of our political divisions in America.
What would happen if we, as followers of Christ, decided to push our politicians and community leaders to care for the poor or build homes for the homeless? The most I do toward these ends is make a comment on Facebook or do some cooking once a month for the Chaplains dinner. But if we genuinely worked toward bringing about the kingdom, we might just experience a bit more of the division Jesus forecast.
We’ve seen it with Chaplains on the Harbor as they’ve been threatened with guns for offering shelter in Westport, or standing up for human rights in Aberdeen. They have received death threats for working toward God’s kingdom on earth.
So, back to our gospel: Jesus yells at the crowds about how good they are at seeing threatening weather and anticipating it, but they can’t see the threats all around them at present.
When I first moved up here from California, I was going out to walk my dog, Rachel. Kevin, in his quiet, calm way, pointed out a very dark cloud in the west. I look at it and shrugged. Then I went out with Rachel and got caught in a huge rain squall. So, I came home, dripping wet and asked him to please use more words when warning me of upcoming storms!
Like last week, our gospel is again warning us to be READY. That’s been quite the theme lately. Jesus knows that the upcoming time for him will bring suffering and death and he just doesn’t know why his followers aren’t more alarmed.
We know that each of our lives will end with death and that all we can do is prepare ourselves. But how do you prepare? I believe that the best preparation I can do is try to live my life every day in the best way that I can. I’m deeply grateful for this church and the invitation to try to live into this faith that so enriches my life. Coming to St. Marks has changed me at my core.
After church today we’ll work together on identifying places we can send money to help the poor and needy in our communities. So perhaps, in our little way, we are indeed working to bring the kingdom of God home. I hope that makes Jesus a little less cranky!