Monday, August 16, 2010

I Came to Bring Division

“Do you think that I came to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
Jesus bringing division is not the usual way we think of Jesus.
For many of us Jesus brings comfort into our uncertain lives.
Jesus is the rock that centers our lives, the one who calms stormy waters.
Certainly this is partly true of our lives of faith.
But what Jesus talks about this morning is the other side.
It is the Jesus who challenges us.
Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship and that brings division and struggle.
This whole summer and into the fall we are hearing Jesus teaching about what it means to be a disciple on his way to Jerusalem and the cross.
Some of these teaching are challenging for us.
They are not always words of comfort to us.
Jesus comes to bring divine divisions as he challenges us to be burned in the fire and have our lives refined.

What I thought I might do this morning is call out a series of divisive issues that we are facing in our day and have people stand up for what side of the issue they are on.
Have all the people who are pro-choice stand up, and then all the people who are pro-life stand up….
Have all the people for gay marriage stand up, and all the people against it stand up.
After thinking about it I decided against it.
But the point I wanted to make is this we don’t all agree in this congregation.
We might have love for one another, but there are divisions.
In fact, as your pastor for this last year what I have experienced sometime is divisions.
There have been times when people did not like my approach to certain topics or issues.
There have been other times when there were disagreements over the best way to do ministry.
And that is ok because part of being church together is working through our differences to find what God is calling us to do together.
I don’t know any pastor who walks into a church and thinks, “I am here to bring division.”
All the pastors I know want to work with a congregation and have a passion for the Gospel.
What we all discover is that it is impossible not to create some divisions because the Gospel is always challenging us.
The Gospel is always calling us to some new and difficult place.
That is the just the nature of Church.
It is not something we often talk about.
We like to pretend that everything is fine.
But perhaps the problem is not that we have divisions, but that we keep them secret.
The problem is that we don’t talk about what divides us enough.
We do it in the name of peace, but in the long run we really don’t create true peace we create resentment and mistrust.
I have found in my short time on this earth that when we talk about our divisions something happens to us we grow, we change, we evolve.
I can guarantee you that when my call is up at this congregation I will be a different person because of all of you, and you will be different because of me.
Changing is good because it refines us as human beings.
This is why Jesus wished the fire was already here.
Jesus wishes that we were already being refined and changed into who God has called us to be.

The Gospel is about refining us as we are called deeper into our baptismal life.
The Gospel is a call to a radical love and self giving that I don’t think sits well with most people.
And therefore it does create division.
We might not like the idea that Jesus calls us to forgive all sins as many as 7 time 70 times.
It is hard to forgive someone one time forget doing that many times.
We might not like the idea that we are called to radically giving of our possessions for others.
You are supposed to with joy give away at least ten percent of whatever you own.
Lots of people don’t like that idea.
You might not like the idea that the Gospel is best heard from the vantage point of the poor.
The Gospel of Luke has a preferential option for the poor.
Jesus very mission is to bring Good News to the poor.
Not the middle class, not the rich, not the good Christian folks like you and me.
Sometimes that idea is uncomfortable and controversial.
I was once at a wedding one of the guest was telling me that it was the religious folks who were messing up this country because we were too easy on the poor.
Not everyone likes the Gospel message.
Jesus calls us to love even our enemies, and tells us true discipleship is not found merely loving those people that love us back.
Perhaps we want there to be more rules for following Christ.
We would appreciate it if God was not so generous to people who sinned, unlike ourselves who do everything right.
We can see that the Gospel has lots of demands on us.
It brings division in our lives and sets us against the world that tells us that poor people are poor because they deserve it, or that this or that that person is not as good as you are.
The world tells us that what we earn we deserve and we should be out there to get ours.
It is the world that tells us that some people are more worthy then others.
The world tells us that we get three strikes and then we are out.
The Gospel brings division because it is so challenging to our way of thinking and doing things.

Remember it is in the Gospel of Luke that the people from his hometown want to throw Jesus off a cliff, because he suggested that God’s love was for Gentiles as well as Jews.
It is in Luke’s Gospel that the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The religious establishment starts plotting Jesus death since the start of his ministry when he would heal people on the Sabbath.
Jesus ministry is not about peace, and it does bring division because the Gospel is about refining us and making us into the image of God.

Learning to love your enemies takes time and lots of refining.
Learning to give away ten percent of your income takes lots of internal struggle and sacrifice.
Learning to care for the poor takes us out of our normal comfort zone.
Learning to forgive those who sin against us takes lots of broken relationships.
The thing about fires is that when we step into it we get hurt, but it is in the burning that we are refined.

What are the ways that you need to be refined this morning?
What are the ways Jesus is challenging you in your faith journey?
What are the ways that we as Concordia Lutheran Church are being refined and burned with fire?

These are questions that are good to ask ourselves.
They are questions that we might not like what Jesus has to say.
But perhaps the problem in the Lutheran Church in the year 2010 is that we are not on fire.
For too long we have been too complacent in our ministry.
In an effort to keep peace we have forgotten that the Gospel does bring divisions and difficult conversations.

You know there has never been a time in the history of the Church where everyone got along, and everything went really well.
From the time of Jesus resurrection and ascension we have been arguing about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
There have always been divisions and there probably always will be.
Because what Jesus brought into our lives was a radical love and self giving that often brings division.
Through these divisions Jesus challenges us each and every day to grow and change to be refined in the fire.

So let us not hide our divisions, but rather use them as ways to be refined.
When necessary let us stand up for the Gospel even when it is uncomfortable.
Let us stand up for the poor, the sinners, and the lost.
So that we might burn with fire and be refined into God’s people.

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