Luke 12:49-56

Decide!

August 14, 2016

Our Lord was a Lord who turned things upside down and inside out

A man who dined with sinners

A man who befriended prostitutes and tax collectors

A man who was called a heretic

A man who broke the Sabbath rules

A man who changed water into wine.

And He bids us to follow Him

To turn things upside down and inside out

To go where the hurting is

To change water into wine

To change who we are into the kingdom of God.

Weems Searching For Shalom p. 66

            So writes the Presbyterian minister and poet Ann Weems. These may seem to be be strange words, but not nearly as strange as the words in our Scripture lesson for today from Luke 12:49-56.  We look at Jesus’ words: “I came to bring fire” and “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” and we want to say: “Did Jesus really say that?” “Are you sure?” But there it is. 

Fire. Stress. Division. It is certainly not at all what we expect from Jesus.

Maybe you are thinking: Wait! Hasn’t Jesus come to bring peace, personal peace as well as peace with others? What happened to the Jesus who said in our passage for last week that we do not need to be afraid and that we are His “little flock”? We prefer to hear the reassuring words from Jesus than those we have in our passage for today.  We are used to talking about Christ the peace maker, not Christ the home breaker, but as we look at these words before us today we see things like families being divided. When we look at this passage we might wonder: Did Jesus really say that? Are you sure?

            Well, Jesus indeed really did say these words, so we are left to decide two things:  First of all, what did He mean by these words? And secondly, how are we going to respond to these words?   

            So what did Jesus mean when He said: “I came to bring fire” and “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

            Fire, stress, division.  What do these things have to do with the ministry of Jesus? Maybe the words of Ann Weems’s poem make more sense now. Indeed, as Weems writes, Jesus’ ministry did not leave things as they were. Jesus had a way of turning things upside down and inside out. Dining with sinners, befriending tax collectors and prostitutes, doing and saying things that seemed heretical, breaking the Sabbath rules, and showing God’s gracious, forgiving love to all people. He certainly did things differently from anyone else, and not only did He do things differently than anyone else, He called on those who followed Him to do things differently, also.  He called on them to do the different things that He did.  He even said that these new and different things were God’s will for His followers, and for the world. 

Those who saw and heard Jesus do and say all these different things had a decision to make.  Were they going to follow Jesus and do things His way, or were they going to follow the status quo and do the things everyone else was doing? Instead of leaving things the way they were or blessing the status quo Jesus’ ministry had a way of, as Weems writes, “turning things upside down and inside out.”

            In Jesus Christ something new was happening.  God’s love, grace, and power were being shown in a new way.  The Kingdom of God was breaking into the world.  God’s will to change people’s lives was breaking into the world. God’s will for justice, healing, and peace was being proclaimed and fulfilled in new ways, and those who saw and heard of all this were forced to decide if they were going to follow Christ in these new and different ways or not. Maybe it was going to mean leaving their family, maybe it was going to mean being cast out of the Synagogue, maybe it was even going to mean being killed, but they had seen and heard marvelous new things and they had to decide what they were going to do about it and how they were going to respond to it. 

            Jesus’ ministry indeed brought fire, stress, and division.  There was indeed a fire. It was a fire that completely changed people’s lives. There was indeed stress. It was the stress of having to decide whether to let Jesus really make a difference in their lives and have their lives turned upside down by Him or not. There was indeed division.  It was the division that occurred as some decided to let Jesus change their lives and have their lives turned upside down by Him and some decided not to follow or have their lives changed by Jesus.

Can you imagine how it must have been for a family when a son or daughter burst into the house one day and announced they were going to follow a wandering teacher named Jesus?  It may have not been a peaceful conversation.

            Ok, but that was then. This is now. But do you think that following Jesus is any easier today? No it is not.  The fire, the stress, and the division that Jesus’ ministry brought into the world is still just as destructive, still just as stress-filled, and still just as divisive today as it ever was.  The ministry of Christ still turns things upside down. It still goes against what we might expect, but He still calls us to be a part of His ministry and be His people in the world and so you still have to decide.

            You have to decide if you are going to let Jesus make a difference in your life or if you are not.  You have to decide if you are going to let Christ change who you are and how you live, what you think, what you do, and what you say or if you are  not. You have to decide if you are going to follow Jesus with wholehearted commitment, or if you are not.  You have to decide if the things of Christ are going to be important to you or if they are not. You have to decide if you are going to follow Christ instead of the things of the world or if you are not. You have to decide if you are going to be the loving, caring, forgiving person God calls you to be or if you are not. You have to decide if peace and security are more important to you than taking risks for the Kingdom of God or not. You have to decide if you are willing to reach out to those that others may not want to have anything to do with or if you are not.

            Deciding to let Jesus make a real difference in your life , to let Christ change who you are and how you live,  what you think, what you do, and what you say is not an easy decision.  Deciding to follow Jesus with wholehearted commitment and deciding to let the things of Christ be important to you is not an easy decision to make.  Deciding that you are going to commit yourself to doing what God wants you to do regardless of what others may want you to do, and that you are going to follow Christ instead of the things of the world, is not an easy decision to make.  Deciding to be the loving and forgiving person God calls you to be and deciding to show God’s love to all people are not easy decisions. Deciding to get involved in ways to show God’s love to others and that you are going to get involved in the Church and use the gifts God has given you for His glory are not easy decisions.  Deciding that you are going to tell others about Christ and show Christ to others is not an easy decision to make.

Deciding to do all these things is not easy, and it may not make you very popular. People may not be able to understand why you let Christ change you,  or  why you are making such a wholehearted commitment,  or why the things of Christ are more important to you than anything else, or why you follow Christ instead of the things of the world, or why you are so loving and forgiving, or why you go out of your way to reach out to folks that they don’t want to have anything to do with, or why you step up and get involved in Church or do what Jesus calls you to do in school or at work or in the community when no one else will.  Some may condemn you or laugh at you or take advantage of you or even ostracize you. Even your family may not understand. But here’s the thing, you will be following God’s will,  and that is more important than anything else or anyone else’s opinion of you or their approval or disapproval.

            So here is a question you have to answer:

Can you decide?  

            Can you decide that God’s will is more important to you than anything else? Can you decide to let Jesus make a real difference in your life and to let Christ change who you are, how you live, what you think, what you do, and what you say? Can you decide to follow Jesus with wholehearted commitment? Can you decide to let the things of Christ be important to you?  Can you decide that you are going to follow Christ instead of the things of the world? Can you decide to be the loving and forgiving person God calls you to be? Can you decide to show God’s love to all people? Can you decide to get active in doing God’s work in the Church, using the gifts and abilities God gave you for His glory? Can you decide to live differently than others and show Christ to others instead of letting them dictate how you are going to live and what you are going to do?

            Can you decide?

            I heard a story of a Law School student in the 1960’s who began to feel the call into the ministry.  Before he could begin Seminary, however, he was drafted into the army and had to do a years stint in Viet Nam.  Before he left he announced to his family that he felt the call to go into the ministry when he returned from Viet Nam.  His family could not accept this.  They had dreams of his being a successful and influential lawyer and possibly a politician.  His father wrote him and told him he never wanted to see him again.  His mother persuaded all her friends that he was Missing in Action in Viet Nam.  He, however, remained faithful to his commitment.  When he returned from Viet Nam he enrolled in Seminary and became a minister. His family never accepted him again. He had made a decision. He had decided to follow Christ,   even though his family disowned him.

            Can you decide?

            Friends, it’s time to decide! It’s time to decide that God’s will is more important to you than anything else! It’s time to decide to let Jesus make a real difference in your life. It’s time to decide to follow Jesus with wholehearted commitment!

            Yes, following Jesus can sometimes bring with it fire, stress, and division,  but it also brings God’s will. It means taking Jesus’ call to be His disciple seriously  and following  Jesus with wholehearted commitment!

As Ann Weems writes:

He bids us to follow Him

To turn things upside down and inside out

To go where the hurting is

To change water into wine

To change who we are into the kingdom of God.

Weems Searching For Shalom p. 66

 

            Amen.