Jesus Wants To Break Up Your Family

This is my sermon from Sunday August 18th. The Gospel reading is Luke 12: 49-56 in which Jesus tackles division. You can hear the sermon here:

Here is the word file if you’d like to follow along that way. As usual, disregard the weird punctuation and indications to pause. I gotta remember them somehow.

Once I had answered my colleague, he responded to me…preach on this (pause) Jesus just wants to break up your family. (pause) I laughed at first…and was still laughing about it when I got off the phone with him…until I thought about it for a moment and realized that he was serious.
Fast forward a few minutes, and I was sitting behind my desk, thinking about how in the world I could possibly turn that into a sermon. I had a music app called Pandora playing in the office, piping songs into the background, when all of the sudden, this theme song broke through.
(Play the Mission Impossible Theme song on the piano)
Do any of you recognize that theme? Mission Impossible. A popular spy themed tv show from the 60’s and 80’s and now a series of popular movies starring none other than Tom Cruise.
Mission Impossible…the very premise of the show indicated the task that I was facing. Find some good news in the idea…that Jesus is going to break up your family…division, in the ranks.
Well, it happens doesn’t it? Division in families. Division in general. It’s nothing new is it? There’s this funny thing built into our DNA…individuality. Just like your fingerprints, you are unique to you. There is no one else on the planet, and there never has been, and there never will be…another person just like you…and with that wondrous variety in the world…with that amazing individuality that defines each and every member of the human race…with that amazing gift given to us by God in creation…we have the ability…and tendency…for opinion.
(pause) And those opinions vary don’t they?  Parents…you have kids?  Then you know what I’m talking about. Kids, you have siblings? You know what I’m talking about.  Everyone else out there…got a coworker? Chances are…you know what I’m talking about.
The ability to formulate an opinion is a marvelous gift…but by its very nature, it creates the dilemma of choice…and by forming an opinion, by forming an interpretation of a situation…by making a choice, we are dividing ourselves from the opposite side of the situation.
Each and every time we make a definitive decision, regardless of the question…regardless of the issue…we are alienating those that are on the other side. Sometimes this alienation is friendly. It could be as simply as “do you like winter or summer better.” If I put that question to a poll right now and each of you raised your hands to answer…I seriously doubt that anyone would start arguing in the aisle about who was right and who was wrong. (pause)
But not every question is as simple and innocent as winter vs summer…and as we look back through history…we can see example after example of situations that didn’t turn out quite so friendly.  All too many examples turned out bloody. Jacob and Esau…remember those guys…offspring of Adam and Eve…they quarreled over the best way to honor God…and in the 2nd generation of humanity…murder was invented. As society grew and developed, there were disputes over territory…and resources…and war became a scary reality.
In the last 100 years alone there have been countless wars around the world…and several of you in this room have been directly affected by that reality…WW1 and 2…Korea…Vietnam…Desert Storm…Iraq…Afghanistan…the War on Terror…and those are just the ones that we’ve been in on directly. Disputes…battles…over ideals…over opinions…and the differences that individuals make of those opinions.  How many lives lost? How many families torn up and destroyed…and not just of our soldiers…but all of the lives affected and torn apart around the world….because we have different ideals.
It’s a sobering thought isn’t it…and the church isn’t immune to it either. When we look back through the last 2000 years…we find that our own history is dotted with just as many “family squabbles” as the rest of history.  The book of Acts alone is full of disputes. Paul speaks of more in his various letters…and they were all written within the first 50-100 years of Christ.
As time marches on, we see more disputes. Constant councils and opinions over doctrine…constant fights centered on the notion that “we’re right and you’re wrong.” A big one happened about the year 1000, when eastern orthodoxy split off from the Roman Catholic church because they couldn’t decide where the center of church power was.
Then 500 years later…the Roman Catholic church experienced another family squabble that perhaps we’re a little more aware off…It centered around this guy named Martin…seems like they named a denomination after him or something…but even the reformers couldn’t get their act together…and their differing opinions led to countless denominational splits. Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Christian Reformed…
Even when we start to narrow the microscope, we find it doesn’t get any better…Look at Lutheran history…our family tree can be best described as a weeping willow…countless divisions centered around doctrine, or nationality, or practices, or whatever have led to more splits than you can shake a stick at…and if we look at the Lutheran landscape today…especially here in America we find countless variations…each with their own opinions about what’s right and what’s not…and we can go farther than that.
Something tells me, that if we chose a subject, and sat down to debate it…we’d quickly find ourselves at odds with each other…because we all interpret things differently. We all make our own judgment calls about what’s right and what’s not…and in the end…we fail to agree. As I said before, it can happen with pleasant conversation…or it can happen with heated debate…or sometimes in an extreme case someone picks up a gun…or they set off a bomb…or they hijack a plane and knock down a building.
It’s true my friends…we live in a world where different opinions can be a matter of life or death…and for many individuals out there…it is exactly that dire…and in today’s scripture lesson Jesus himself tells us that he didn’t come to bring peace…He came to bring this very division that we’ve been talking about.
But how can that be? We hear in so many places that God is a God of Love…that Jesus came to bring peace and not the sword so what’s up with this passage?  Just what is it about Jesus that offends? What is it about Jesus that is so decisive that we find ourselves split from person to person, even within families?
What is it about his message that is so hot button? Well, it’s amazingly simple…yet devastating at the same time. Forgiveness of sins…(pause). It is that simple…but simple as it is…its not easy…it comes at a cost and Jesus hints at it in today’s story. I have a baptism with which to be baptized…and what stress I am under until it is completed…does that sound a little familiar?
Can you think of another time when Jesus talks about being stressed…maybe to the point of sweating…maybe to the point of sweating blood?  In a bit of foreshadowing Jesus is telling us here how much stress is upon him to complete the work that God has given him.
Jesus came to Earth for the sole purpose of sacrificing his own life as a ransom for many. God himself came to Earth to accomplish that which we could not do…atonement for sin…that sin that separates us from God…a reality of separation that God himself could not bear for his beloved creation…and so God chose to do something about it…we couldn’t get up there so he came down here.
We hear the famous words in John’s Gospel that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  And that right there…reassuring as it may be for some of us…is a huge tripping point for others…because there are those out there that don’t believe…there are those out there than simply cannot wrap their heads around this reality.  There are those out there than want to believe…but doubt creeps in…questions come in and sometimes there just aren’t good answers to those questions.  There are bad things that happen in the world…like all those wars that I mentioned earlier…and acts of terrorism…and natural disasters…things happen that make us question how a God who supposedly loves us so much can allow stuff like this to happen.
And you know what…there are no good answers to those questions and because of that, there are individuals out there that chose to turn their backs on all things spiritual…and it’s not a small group of people.
The single biggest group of religious affiliation in the US today is the nones…as in “no affiliation” or more specifically…religion…I’ll have NONE of it.
And they chose…not to believe….or perhaps we can say that their hearts are hardened…or that the Holy Spirit hasn’t acted in their understanding…or countless other reasons or opinions…but whatever the cause…there are those that do not believe…and I believe that this is what Jesus was talking about…if you believe in Christ as savior, then the Bible says that you will be saved…period…end of story…but not everyone believes it. And this is the reality that we face. (pause)
But you know what…we don’t face it alone…There is one that also faces this reality with us…one that understands our reality so much better than we do…one that created it…and one that I believe mourns the divided, messy, opinionated state that the world currently experiences. And that is God himself and I believe that God mourns this present reality so much that he got into it.
That’s why Christ came down…not only to point out this division…but to fix it. I don’t know how it all works…all I know is that I trust that it will. I trust it when I hear someone say that one day EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord….but until that day…I worry…and I pray…I worry and I pray about those people in my life that fall on the other side of the line. I pray for those people that do not understand…that do not believe….and I think we all do…I think we all have those people in our lives that we just don’t know about…and if you don’t have a person like that in your life then chances are you are that person for someone else.
I don’t bring this up to be antagonistic…only to point out the reality that we face in the world today…a reality that seems insurmountable for us…but it’s not up to us…and I believe it when I stand up here in front of you and proclaim with the authority of Christ that you are forgiven of your sins…and I believe that Christ is big enough to forgive the sins of each and every person in all of history…even if I don’t understand how.
So yes, it’s true. Christ came to bring division…but he also came to overcome it. May we all pray for the day when it is finished. Amen

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Teri on August 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Great sermon. I enjoyed it.


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