Introduction and Call to Worship
Our Lord offers us fullness of life as we respond to God’s call to faith and fruitfulness. So let us use the grace of this day to come to God, eager to worship and ready to serve.
First Reading Jeremiah 23:23-29
The Lord calls to account prophets who proclaim dreamt-up lies in God’s name. God affirms the ministry of faithful prophets who proclaim the true word.
Second Reading Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2
Faith sustained God’s people through triumphs and trials, before they knew God’s promises fulfilled in Christ. We follow their example in the light of Christ’s coming.
Gospel Luke 12:49-56
Jesus warns that his mission entails a judgement that will divide even families. He urges his hearers to recognise and heed the signs of impending crisis.
HOMILY “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12:51)
In today’s Gospel the writer, Luke, continues Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom and the need for the values of the kingdom to be made known on earth, just as they are in heaven. That requires peace and our Lord has come to secure the most fundamental peace that the world could ever want and which it desperately needs – the healing of the breach between humankind and God. But making such peace is costly.
Jesus’ words are impassioned. They foreshadow the growing closeness of the cross, when he will be crucified, sacrificing his life for the sins that separate us from our Maker. Jesus longs for his mission to be completed, yet he also longs for people respond to him and repent while he is still among them.
His message is challenging – for Jesus is no mere peace-keeper. He is the peace-maker between heaven and earth. His baptism through death into resurrection will open the way for his followers to receive the life of his Spirit within. This baptism of sin judged and lives purified is as radical as setting the world alight. It is a peace that divides, even as it unites.
We are invited to accept Jesus’ saving work of reconciliation, but also free to reject it. The new covenant family of faith is united through receiving Jesus as Saviour and Lord, not held together by blood ties. Where those within households make different choices, they become unavoidably divided from each other. These are not superficial choices of lifestyle. The stakes are far higher. These are issues of spiritual life or death.
Such issues can be hard to face. Perhaps that is why Jesus makes an urgent appeal to his hearers to respond to the signs of the times. They are, he says, attentive to the weather around them, yet ignoring the spiritual climate change. God’s people need to heed his words, to seek life by giving their hearts to Jesus, rather than through religious ritual or armed uprising against the powers that oppress them.
The crisis is near. There is no time to lose. God’s people will not always be have the opportunity to set things right with God and change direction. Ignoring the signs of the times will have disastrous consequences.
Jesus’ words carry a prophetic edge. In AD70 – within a generation – Jerusalem itself would be ransacked, its Temple destroyed, as Judea’s Roman occupiers crushed violent rebellion with fire and sword. This was a dreadful time and Jesus had foretold these events. We lived today in challenging times also – just look at Syria and the continuing battle for peace.
The call for us, the Church today, God’s people here in Thorpe to seek God’s kingdom is more urgent than we perhaps realise. Likewise, those people who heard Jesus’ words seemed to miss the urgency. Just as settling out of court can mitigate the damage and avoid the pronouncements of the judge, so Jesus warns his listeners to respond to what God is doing and avert a greater catastrophe. We are being called to action – today!
Friends, we are often tempted to keep the peace rather than make it. We may gloss over issues or close our eyes to what needs to be faced. But however we distract ourselves with superficial matters, underlying issues do not go away. They must eventually be addressed and they include matters pertinent to today’s world: injustice, intolerance, bigotry, envy, pride, falsehood, slander and so much more (St Paul identifies many of these in a long list!)
Where we are conscious of putting something on hold, or refusing to change direction, we take a great risk. Much may be at stake if we are determined to continue on as we have been and refuse to see the signs around our lives – others’ words, circumstances, frustrations – that are calling us to respond. Preoccupation with the trivial must not blind us to the essential – God is always doing a new thing and longs to engage with us and use us here in Thorpe to change his world and bring his kingdom in!
What hold us back from being involved? Well, we often fear upsetting those around us and loyalty to Christ and his kingdom values can and does often set us at odds with those who reject his lordship. We need to discern where true peace lies and choose accordingly. We may not seek to be at odds with our nearest and dearest, but putting Christ first may sometimes cause challenge. It can help to know that we will not be the first to find ourselves there – and that Jesus saw it coming, as he promised his kingdom would come.
Jesus has not come to keep peace, but to make it, and this may be divisive.
He appeals to his listeners to repent of their sins while they have the opportunity.
We may be called to make a choice for Christ that distances us from our families.
The division may be unavoidable, but Jesus told us that such things could happen.