The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 12:49-56

THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY IS ONE OF THOSE PASSAGES THAT WE WOULD RATHER JUST PASS OVER AND GO ON TO SOMETHING ELSE, BECAUSE IT IS DISTURBING. SUDDENLY, THE GENTLE JESUS WE THOUGHT WE KNEW PROCLAIMS THAT HE HAS NOT COME TO BRING PEACE, BUT DIVISION, AND BECAUSE OF HIM FAMILIES WILL BE DIVIDED, FATHERS AGAINST SONS AND MOTHERS AGAINST DAUGHTERS. HE CAME TO CAST A FIRE UPON THE EARTH, AND WISHES IT WERE ALREADY BURNING. WHERE DID THE LITTLE BABY IN THE MANGER GO? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COMPASSIONATE HEALER, AND THE ONE WHO FORGIVES THE SINNER? DIVISION AND STRIFE IS NOT WHAT WE WANT TO HEAR FROM JESUS, BECAUSE WE CERTAINLY HAVE ENOUGH DIVISION AND STRIFE IN OUR LIVES THAT WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS THAT DIVIDE US FROM EACH OTHER, THAT WE WANT TO COVER OUR EARS AND NOT LISTEN TO WHAT JESUS SAYS HERE, BUT WE CAN’T DO THAT, BECAUSE WHAT HE SAYS IS CRUCIAL TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. WE MUST LISTEN, EVEN IF WHAT WE HEAR IS NOT WHAT WE WANT TO HEAR.

IN THE HEAT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, WE HAVE AMPLE EXAMPLES OF THE CONSCIOUS ATTEMPTS TO DIVIDE US ONE FROM ANOTHER. THE FACT THAT MOST PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY MADE UP THEIR MINDS ABOUT WHICH CANDIDATE THEY WILL VOTE FOR DOES NOT STOP EITHER CAMPAIGN FROM CLAIMING IT IS US AGAINST THEM; AND WE ARE GOOD AND THEY ARE BAD. WITH SO FEW INDEPENDENT VOTERS LEFT IN THIS COUNTRY, I AM HALF WAY CONVINCED THAT FUTURE ELECTIONS WILL BE DECIDED BY A GRANDMOTHER FROM LINCOLN NEBRASKA WHO CHANGES HER MIND ON ELECTION DAY. WE ALL STRUGGLE WITH CONFIRMATION BIAS, BECAUSE WE TEND TO ONLY HEAR WHAT CONFIRMS OUR PRECONCEIVED OPINIONS, AND WE DISMISS WHAT DOESN’T FIT. THAT IS WHAT ALL POLITICAL ADS DO; THEY ARE MEANT TO CONFIRM OUR BIAS.

WE HAVE ALL SORTS OF OTHER WAYS IN WHICH WE DIVIDE OURSELVES AS US AND THEM. EVEN IN SOMETHING WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE A NOBLE VENTURE, LIKE THE OLYMPIC GAMES, IT IS US AGAINST THEM. AREN’T WE SO PROUD OF HOW MANY MORE GOLD MEDALS WE HAVE THAN KAZACKSTAN? THERE ARE, OF COURSE, LESS NOBLE, EVEN EVIL, WAYS IN WHICH WE DIVIDE OURSELVES FROM ONE ANOTHER; BY RACE, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND ECONOMIC STATUS. EVEN IN THE CHURCH WE ARE DIVIDED BY DENOMINATIONS, AND SOME TAKE THESE DIVISIONS TO EXTREME LEVELS LIKE THOSE WHO THINK EVERYONE IS GOING TO HELL EXCEPT THEM, BECAUSE THEY ARE RIGHT AND EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG. THERE IS NO END TO THE WAYS IN WHICH WE DIVIDE OURSELVES INTO US AND THEM. DO WE REALLY NEED TO HEAR JESUS TELL US ABOUT DIVISION?

JESUS HAS SET HIS FACE TOWARD JERUSALEM, AND HE KNOWS WHAT AWAITS HIM WHEN HE GETS THERE. THE BAPTISM OF WHICH HE SPEAKS IS HIS COMING DEATH ON THE CROSS, AND HIS IMPENDING DEATH IS A GREAT BURDEN TO CARRY AS HE TRIES TO CAST HIS PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD AS WIDE AS POSSIBLE. TIME IS SHORT FOR HIM, AND SO HE IS IMPATIENT BOTH WITH HIS DISCIPLES, WHO STILL DO NOT GRASP THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP AND ARE HOPING FOR GOOD JOBS WHEN JESUS TAKES THE THRONE OF DAVID; AND WITH THE CROWDS WHO COME TO SEE HIM WORK THE WONDERS OF HEALING, YET WHO CAN NOT, OR WILL NOT, SEE WHAT THOSE WONDERS SIGNIFY. THEY CAN TELL WHEN IT IS GOING TO RAIN, OR WHEN IT WILL BE HOT WEATHER, BUT THEY CAN NOT SEE WHAT THE VERY PRESENCE OF JESUS MEANS. THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS BROKEN INTO THE WORLD RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM, YET THEY SEE ONLY WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE.

WHAT JESUS IS DOING IS A WAKE UP CALL, BOTH FOR HIS DISCIPLES AND THE CROWDS THAT ARE FOLLOWING HIM. THERE IS A COST TO BEING HIS DISCIPLE, AND THAT COST IS A DIVISION FROM EVERYTHING ELSE, INCLUDING ALL THE RELATIONSHIPS THAT ARE THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF SOCIETY; EVEN THAT OF FAMILY. REMEMBER THAT JESUS’ OWN MOTHER AND BROTHERS THOUGHT HE HAD GONE OFF THE DEEP END, AND THEY TRIED TO GET HIM TO STOP HIS PREACHING AND RETURN HOME WITH THEM. HIS LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS HEAVENLY FATHER TOOK PRECEDENCE OVER ALL OTHER RELATIONSHIPS IN HIS LIFE, AND SO HE SAID THAT THOSE WHO LISTEN TO HIS WORDS ARE HIS REAL FAMILY. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT HE WELCOMES SEPARATION FROM HIS FAMILY, BUT THAT WAS THE COST TO HIM IN FOLLOWING THE WILL OF GOD, AND THAT MAY BE THE COST TO HIS DISCIPLES TO FOLLOW WHERE HE LEADS.

IT IS TRUE THAT WHEN WE PUT GOD FIRST IN OUT LIVES, IT DOES SET US APART AND SEPARATES US FROM ALL THAT WAS BEFORE, AND THAT CAN BE COSTLY INDEED. NOT MANY IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE SUFFERED GREATLY BY BECOMING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS, BUT THERE IS ALWAYS A COST TO DISCIPLESHIP. IN MY OWN LIFE, WHEN I DECIDED TO BE A DISCIPLE OF THE LORD, I HAD TO SET ASIDE A PROMISING CAREER, ECONOMIC SECURITY, AND EVEN THE RELATIONSHIP WITH MY FATHER, WHOSE REACTION WAS TO DISOWN ME AS HIS SON. THE YEARS REPAIRED THAT DIVISION, BUT, AT THE TIME, I HAD TO ACCEPT IT AS THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP. I DID NOT KNOW WHAT THE FUTURE WOULD BRING, I KNEW ONLY THAT I HAD TO TRUST IN THE PROMISE OF GOD DESPITE THE PAIN AND LOSS.

IN OTHER PLACES IN THIS WORLD TODAY, BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS BRINGS GREAT SUFFERING, OPPRESSION, AND IN SOME PLACES A DEATH SENTENCE. THE FIRST HEARERS OF LUKE’S GOSPEL WERE WELL AWARE OF THIS HARSH REALITY, AS THE EARLY PEOPLE OF THE WAY WERE CAST OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUES, AND THEIR OWN FAMILIES, BECAUSE THEY PLACED THEIR FAITH IN THEIR LORD JESUS ABOVE ALL ELSE. AS THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS REMINDS US, THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP WAS OFTEN VERY GREAT INDEED, YET THEIR TRUST IN THE PROMISE OF GOD SUSTAINED THEM TO THE END, EVEN THOUGH THAT PROMISE WAS NOT FULFILLED BEFORE THEIR DEATH.

SO THEN, THIS WAKE UP CALL FROM JESUS IS NOT DISTURBING AT ALL, BUT IS THE SOURCE OF GOOD NEWS INDEED. THE PROMISE OF GOD HAS BEEN MADE FLESH IN JESUS, AND THE BAPTISM HE WILL UNDERGO WILL BE THE MEANS OF SALVATION FOR ALL WHO WAKE UP AND SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD ENTER THIS WORLD IN HIS PERSON. THE COSTS OF DISCIPLESHIP, WHILE PAINFUL, ARE TO BE BOURNE WITH JOYFUL HEARTS, AS DID ALL THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE US; THAT GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES. WE CAN RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US BECAUSE OF THE ONE WHO WE PLACE BEFORE ALL OTHERS AND ALL THINGS IN THIS LIFE; OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS. HE ENDURED THE CROSS FOR OUR SAKE, DISREGARDING ITS SHAME, IN ORDER TO TAKE HIS PLACE AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD. IN HIM ALONE IS OUR HOPE AND TRUST, BECAUSE IN HIM IS THE PROMISE OF GOD TO US FOR STRENGTH IN THIS LIFE, AND THE PROMISE OF JOY FOREVER IN THE FULLNESS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. AMEN

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