13 Pentecost Proper C15
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:49-53 Sermon
August 14, 2016
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
409 "Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus"
518 "If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee"
651 "Be Still, My Soul"
535 "Rejoice, My Heart, Be Glad & Sing"
DIVISIONS, DIVISIONS EVERYWHERE!
TEXT (vs. 51-52): [Jesus said] ďDo you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.Ē
Divisions are hardly ever nice or pleasant. We live in a world where people are continually being divided and splintered. And I don't think it's more obvious than what we've been experiencing this year.
The political pundits have speculated that we have never experienced a presidential election quite like this one. And the media people are eating it up.
I don't care about your political affiliation, and I don't intend to make this pulpit a political platform. But if you look at both the Democrats and Republicans, their respective parties are anything but unified. There is a sharp division between those supporting Hillary Clinton and those supporting Bernie Sanders. Even though the Democratic Party has the outward appearance of being unified, it's only superficial. The divisiveness is still there, boiling away under the surface.
The division amongst the Republicans is way more out in the open, and a lot more pronounced. It's more pro or anti Trump in nature; the lines are being drawn, and sides are being taken.
Certainly there are others in the race too, and it isn't just a Republican or Democrat thing. People are talking about Libertarian Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico. Then there are others that are even less well known in the race for president. There's a lot more going on than what most people realize. There are more and more lines are being drawn and more sides are being taken, resulting in an ever increasing number of divisions.
We might not like it, and we're all probably tired of hearing about it, yet the differences are very real and prevalent in society. Itís as true today as it was back in Jesusí day.
Verse 52 of our text for today from the 12th chapter of Lukeís Gospel records Jesus speaking what we might think are some out-of-character words for him. He says, ďDo you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.Ē
Why do those words seem so unlikely? Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6 records the following prophecy: ďAnd he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Ē And then, if we page back about ten chapters from our text in Lukeís Gospel, to Luke chapter 2 verse 14, we read the words of the song of the angels and the heavenly chorus at Christís birth: ďGlory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.Ē
Here are two direct references to Jesus, one from the pen of the prophet Isaiah, and the other from the heavenly choir, both of which refer to the peace which comes from Christ. And now we have the words of Jesus saying he didnít come to bring peace?
Letís add another reference here as well. In Jesusí high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, where he is talking directly with his heavenly Father, Jesus says in verses 20 and 21: ďI pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.Ē This is a prayer for unity, and not division!
So why does the Prince of Peace tell us that he didnít come to bring peace, and why does he pray for unity when he says he came to bring division? Donít these seem a little like oxymorons, or blatant contradictions? Ironic, huh?
Not really, especially when you see that what Jesus desires often sharply differs from the way things are. Jesus came to bring peace to the people on earth; but because of sin, that peace seems so far out of reach. The peace that comes from Jesus is the peace where sinful mankind is reconciled to God.
In reference to the latter days on the earth, Jesus also says in Matthew 24 verses 6 and 7: ďYou will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.Ē
Certainly Jesus, our Prince of Peace, does not want people at war with each other. But that doesnít necessarily change what will happen, and he is giving us fair warning about that.
You can be certain of one thing, and that is where Jesus is involved, there will be division. Can you fathom that? There WILL be division! As long as sin exists in this world, there will be a division between those who follow Christ, and those who donít.
We have that reminder set before us in graphic detail today. ISIS and Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist Muslims stand in direct opposition to Christianity and everything it stands for. Even if you take the road of pacifism and peace, these folks still want you dead. The difference between the fundamentalist Muslims and the Christians is a clear example of the division that happens because of Jesus.
A little closer to home, there is a pastor by the name of Ron Luce, who was one of the more outspoken militant Christians. He was the founder of Teen Mania Ministries that began in 1986 and went bankrupt last year. He would organize youth rallies in rather large venues that attracted tens of thousands of teenagers and youth workers. Luce is quoted saying, "The devil hates us, and we gotta be ready to fight and not be these passive little lukewarm, namby-pamby, kum-ba-yah, thumb-sucking babies that call themselves Christians. Jesus? He got mad! ... I want an attacking church!" I don't really like his tone, but you can see how he could stir up the people.
One girl that was part of this group said in an interview that they were trying to promote a virtuous lifestyle and a strong moral fiber amongst the youth. With Godís help and guidance, they were tackling the problems of todayís culture and the affect on the young people in our society. When asked specifically about the nature of the problems, she replied with things like: teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, alcohol, promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion, and so forth.
One of their rallies took place in San Francisco, California, one of the most liberal and promiscuous cities in the world. And as you can imagine, there was a large group of people protesting this Battle Cry/Teen Mania organization and what they were promoting.
The event was held, I believe in Candlestick Park, and they filled the place. It was certainly impressive. But out in front, where you had the protesters on one side of the street and the Battle Cry/Teen Mania people on the other side, you could clearly see that division Jesus is talking about. And for some reason, the protesters felt threatened by the Christians; otherwise they wouldnít have been there. And for a lot of the adversaries of the faith, freedom of speech applies only to them. For many, they believe that the freedom of speech ends where Christ begins. One good example of this would be the ACLU, and what they try to do in our society.
Today Iíve used the example of what is happening in the political parties to illustrate some very sharp divisions. On the Christian front, we can look at the protesters of Battle Cry inSan Francisco, all the way to the Jihadist ISIS Al Qaeda Muslims. The division Jesus brings can clearly be seen today, and will ultimately be seen on the Last Day, when Jesus as the great judge will judge the living and the dead, and will separate the sheep from the goats.
This particular division is one caused by sin. Sin is actually the great separator here. When we look at the sin in our own lives and the effects we suffer because of it, we can see how we have been separated from God. The ways of the world have had a great influence on our lives, to the point where it seems like the way of Jesus is foolish.
Sometimes when we feel separation because of Christ, it seems so much easier to us to just go with the flow, and forget about it. We donít want to fight the battle of sin, so we just give in.
Itís here where we need to look once again at the Gospel, and what that means for us. We look to Jesus in faith, and through faith we accept him as our Saviour. Through our faith in Christ, we are no longer separated from God. The division is gone, and we are a member of his family of faith. Jesus has healed the breach in the relationship with our heavenly Father. Just before our Gospel Lesson for today, in Luke chapter 11 verse 17 Jesus says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls." We are therefore joined to Jesus through faith; and when we are, then his purpose becomes our cause.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus uses the example of a family relationship to illustrate the divisions that can happen. And since we all have families of some description, then we can expect a religious division to occur at some level. I donít think that thereís a family on this earth that is exempt from religious division to some extent.
Maybe that division wonít be to the degree of the divisions amongst the Democrats and Republicans of today, but we can expect divisions to occur. And when they do, then we have to deal with it. Sometimes those divisions can pit even the closest relatives against each other.
So where do we stand? I have at times posed this question to you: Do you want a religion or a relationship? Do we see our faith as something rooted in a name or system, or is it rooted in our personal relationship with our Saviour? Do we give lip service to Jesus because itís the thing to do, or do we profess our relationship with every fiber of our being?
Being a Christian in our society and in our family requires us to live the faith we profess, and to show evidence of our relationship with Jesus. We might not find ourselves in the middle of a protest like what happened in San Francisco, but we still have to stand up for Christ wherever we are.
Even though there will still be divisions because of him, we still strive for a God-pleasing unity of faith. We pray that we will be instruments of the Holy Spirit; so that through us, as many people as possible will come to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and will thus be saved and have the knowledge of the truth.