Sermon for Pentecost 10, August 14, 2022 – Dcn. Helen Harris, guest preacher

Luke 12: 49-56 August 14, 2022

Rev. Helen I. Harris

He Comes with Fire and Division

Jesus knew that arrest lay ahead for him, rejection by His own people, beatings by Roman guards, the climb up the hill of Calvary, suffering and death on a cross. That’s what he was referring to when he said: “I have a baptism to endure, and what pressure I am under until it is completed!”

The baptism he spoke about was baptism by fire, leading to resurrection, life and peace. Division and fire are for a season, not for eternity. The fire of baptism leads to a new life. Jesus was troubled, because He had a job to do, to bring the message of God’s Kingdom to the people and the people to God’s love.

Jesus calls all of us to love each other as he loves us. If we cannot love our neighbor, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen. Choosing to love and follow Jesus can create division and conflict.

Jesus used harsh words to the crowd, as a wake-up call for those who had gathered to see the man from Nazareth, but they were not seeing that He was the long-awaited Messiah.

He wanted them to see what was important, that Christ offers hope, forgiveness for everyone and all people the promise that His Spirit will roam this earth until Christ himself comes again.

God is with us regardless of what the future brings, but we have to regain our connection with Him. We need to focus less on our earthly, material belongings for security and more on the Rock of Ages.

God shapes us to be with Him forever. He fills us with good things; making us to love, care, learn and grow; and molds us into what he was and is. We can do God’s work with confidence, but we have to let go of our sinful nature.

The disciples needed God’s spiritual fire or else they would die. They needed the fire of God’s word to keep their hearts from freezing over and to keep the passion of their souls from cooling down. We are the same way. We have moments when our faith cools down. It is in our nature to have a burning need for the word of God. We all need the fire of God’s words in our lives, or else we will grow cold.

Our identity as persons is given by our various relationships which include our family, environment, our work, our beliefs and the items we own.

The many relationships we each have, whether they are good, bad or unhealthy, together make up the persons we are.

Jesus’ relationship with the Father is what ultimately determined His identity and being. His choice brought about division with the religious leaders, the world and all who would choose differently.

God knows we already have more than enough division on the earth and don’t need more. There are divisions in marriages and families, the workplace and in our schools, this wasn’t the division that Jesus brought.

Truth does not unite people, it divides people. Truth unites people who desire truth, but it stirs violence in the hearts of those who don’t. No earthly relationship, regardless of how close, can survive the crisis of truth. Peace comes to the hearts of those when they are right with God.

Jesus doesn’t desire hatred for family members; he makes it very clear that all relationships must be secondary to follow him. Even parents, wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters, none of these shall be first in their lives. Every loyalty and every love – even of a disciple’s own life – must be less than love for Him. Jesus said: “Whoever does not carry their cross” – whoever will not die to every other loyalty – “cannot be my disciple”

Jesus’ message was that we must put God first, love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul. When he speaks of bringing division, he knows that for many, family ties may come before him.

Division can be very painful especially inside of a family. Division hurts. But division or separation can also be part of a cycle of renewal and growth, something that strengthens the love and indeed the ties that bind in a family.

Division offers physical and emotional growth and also spiritual growth. Jesus is calling us to grow bringing the division that makes that growth possible. We must reexamine our relationship and our priorities, choosing our relationship with the Father.

God wants us to have the fullest, richest and deepest life we can have because he loves us

+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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