There is a problem that I know many of you have.
I have had conversations with you about this problem.
It is talking politics with your family when you disagree.
You know you go to your relatives house for a BBQ and all of sudden uncle Fred and Lucy are fighting over tax policy, or immigration, or guns.
Suddenly everyone is uncomfortable.
I have a friend who would fight with his family over politics at almost every family event.
Eventually his mother had to make a rule that there would be no more political talk at family functions.
I actually gave him the advice that whatever someone said he should say, "Pass the ketchup."
This would be a great way to avoid talking politics.
I have been thinking about this for awhile.
And last Sunday I was thinking about it.
So on Monday I started to read articles about it so that I could give you some advice today about keeping the peace with your families.
The articles all offered some good advice.
Things like listen more than you talk.
Try to get to why people feel a certain way.
Try not to judge.
So that is what I wanted to talk about this morning.
It was my plan.
On Tuesday my plan went off the rails for two reasons.
The first was that I realized I have no good advice for you.
Just saying, "pass the ketchup" is really bad advice.
Because if we can't talk about hard issues in our families, with people who love us unconditionally, then how are we going to have those conversations in our country.
I want you to talk to your families about everything.
But even more I don't know how to have these conversations with people I love and care about.
I am bad at it.
I usually avoid it too, because I don't want to say something I will regret.
I don't want to spend my life mad at people who I count on to be my support in this life.
Life is hard enough.
There are lots of really hard things to deal with, I don't need that kind of strife.
I am assuming that is why we are all avoiding these conversations.
Even in our congregation.
I would love nothing more than to not talk about these things here.
I would love to avoid the unpleasantness that comes with learning that we don't all agree.
Church is the place that we come together.
It is the place where we love each other unconditionally, it is a place of peace.
But the second thing that stopped me from giving you advice from the articles I read was Jesus.
I couldn't avoid the text for today.
How can I get up here and say, avoid talking about politics, or controversial issues, and then have Jesus tells us that he comes to divide us.
Jesus comes not to bring peace, but fire to the earth!?
Jesus this week tore apart the sermon I wanted to give.
I couldn't tell you something that I read in a article online as good advice we should follow, and then have Jesus directly contradict it in the Gospel we read.
So, is Jesus telling us to go into our family BBQ and mix it up.
Start a fight with uncle Fred.
So what if your family meal time together devolves into a yelling match.
This is what Jesus would want.
I don't think this is the message either.
Let me ask a question.
Is it possible to say that you are Christian and have it not mean anything to your life?
This is often the misunderstanding of many Lutherans.
That being saved by grace doesn't really mean anything for our lives.
It only matters when we die so we can go to heaven.
I think the opposite is true.
It means more.
If I am going to believe that I am saved by grace, it means I have to believe that we all are.
It means that the way I see the world, the way I understand other people is through the lens of grace.
It means that there are no points for doing good, or being good.
It means that the person I hate is loved by God just as much as me.
It also means nothing I can do, or say, will ever be perfect.
Because we don't believe in perfect.
We believe in grace.
And this is controversial.
Jesus offers peace to people all the time.
It is the peace of knowing grace.
It is offered to marginalized people who have been told that they are not good enough, that they haven't worked hard enough, or done enough.
It is offered to the rich and powerful who think that it is their money and power that have saved them.
It is what the world cannot see and does not accept.
And yes it is political.
It is political to believe in a world of equality under God.
That is the view that Jesus gives us.
It is the view that we heard about last week from the prophet Micah.
Here is what I know.
Some people cannot, and will not accept it.
They don't want to believe that the world is not what they thought.
They don't want to believe that God's grace is free.
But Jesus knows the cost of his message.
He knows that as much as God wants it to be peace it will not bring peace, but rather division.
Think of all the historical figures who talked of peace, but who were killed.
Dreamers who told us to imagine a world without the divisions we humans make.
People who told us that race didn't matter, nations didn't matter, economics didn't matter, sexuality didn't matter.
That the only way to peace was through acceptance of our similarities, not through what makes us different.
And those people were killed for it.
This is what Jesus is trying to tell us this morning.
No message, however good or well crafted will be accepted by the status qou in our world.
The only way to get there is through fire.
Is through the hard conversations we have around the dinner table, by the coffee pot in church, at the water cooler at work.
We can't avoid conflict.
We can't avoid people misunderstanding our intentions.
We can't avoid being called names.
But what we know is that through these things God's grace is at work.
I want to end this morning with a personel story.
I was in City Year.
Doing my year of community service.
I was talking to one of my friends in the core.
And I said something that was racist.
I don't remember exactly what it was.
I didn't know what I said was racist.
It was something I had heard a million times by other white people.
My friend called me out on it.
At first I was defenses.
We had a heated conversation.
I left mad.
But I thought about it, and in the end I realized that she was right.
Only through the fire is grace understood.
I don't know if you should argue with Uncle Fred at your family BBQ.
I don't know if you should avoid all uncomfortable conversations just to keep the peace.
What I know is that real peace comes from the fire.
It comes from God's grace that is shown to us through our failures, our misunderstandings, through our asking for forgiveness.
Jesus this morning reminds us that we can't run from that, because there in the fire we really experience the grace of God that binds us all together.