By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
August 19, 2007
Read: Luke 12:49-56
This is not one of the comforting stories in the gospel. Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!….Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, rather division.”
Unlike most of his teaching, this peacemaker talks about division, bringing the sword, causing division in the household, breaking down. It is uncomfortable and intriguing because we know Jesus as the Prince of Peace. We know him as the great reconciler. And these are harsh words: breaking down, bringing division, causing disruption.
There is a book titled “If it Ain’t Broken, Break It”, written by two corporate executives. What they do in the book is to try to challenge the corporate leaders of our nation to think beyond the typical traditional modes and attitudes to look at that which probably should be broken and not remain.
It is a challenge to us. What needs to be broken? What needs to be changed? What needs to have a new perspective? Break it! It is a different message. Jesus sends a different message.
Jesus continues talking to the crowd by calling us hypocrites. “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
How can we tell when it’s going to rain? And how do we know how far along the plants are? How do we know what we know?
Barbara Crafton shares, “From experience mostly. We spend time working with the things we care about, and we learn to recognize their ways pretty well. We invest in them, make it our business to learn about them. We seek them out.
That’s how we prepare for our careers. We go to school to learn about them, seek the advice of experts, hoping to become experts ourselves. We start out small and hope to advance, and put in hours and years at it. We wind up knowing a lot about our chosen field.
We know a lot about our hobbies. We choose something that feels like play to us, something we do just for the delight of it, and the hours we spend doing it fly by. We work hard at this play, striving to become a better swimmer or cyclist, a better cook or painter, to master something new.
And we know a lot about our families. It doesn’t take long for a new parent to crack the code of a baby’s cries: which one means hunger, which a wet diaper, which means honest-to-God pain. Let us live together long enough and we can read each other like a book.
How do we get to know the things we know? By caring enough about them to spend the time it takes to learn them.
And, perhaps that is just what Jesus means! He’s not contrasting worldly knowledge with spiritual knowledge to its disadvantage; he’s merely pointing out that we will learn those things we consider important, and we will remain ignorant of the ones we don’t much care about.
So where is the spiritual meaning of our days, in our hierarchy of important things? Is the conversation with God in your life a thing you’ve made it your business to learn about by spending time at it? It’s a relationship, after all, and any relationship requires frequent checking in. People who love each other need to talk to each other. We who want to learn the love of God won’t do so if we never show up. We won’t be punished for it; it’s not that kind of relationship. We’ll just learn about other things instead.”
So maybe we need to break a few things in our life. The one who is known as a peacemaker suddenly says, “I’ve come to break and challenge the status quo. I’ve come to bring new life and new ways of doing and thinking.” What in our life needs to be broken, what in our life needs to be changed? Is there some attitude, some behavior, some mode of thinking, some pattern of being that needs to be broken or changed?
One of those email stories recently came around about a ship that was wrecked during a storm at sea. Only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.
The first thing the first man prayed for was food. The next morning he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat of its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.
After a week, the first man was lonely and decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.
Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.
Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that his wife and he could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered. As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming. “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?” “My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them” the first man answered. “His prayers were all unanswered, and so he does not deserve anything.”
“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”
“Tell me”, the first man asked the voice, “what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”
“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”
Jesus challenges us to interpret the present time. Break open the usual ways of being and search for a new and different way to be in relationship with God and with each other. To spend our time learning about God’s ways, seeking God.
When Jesus died on the cross he was thinking of us…you and me! Amen.
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