Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80: 1-2, 8-19; Luke 12: 49-56
Pearl: The urgency to our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Function: Picking up from last week our calling in Christ is to decisive action and representation of the kingdom of God no matter the ripples in the most intimate relationships and/or associations.
I put the most weight on the words of Jesus from the pages of the Bible. So, these words today which are attributed to Jesus don’t seem to fit in with what we would expect from Jesus. They seem quite awkward and even uncomfortable. I don’t believe in all my years of preaching that I have taken on these particular words in a sermon…likely because of my discomfort with them.
of awkward, the other day I was talking to a friend about the weddings in our
family (both sons are getting married within three months) and she began to
tell me about this amazing wedding she attended some years back. It was such a
production because she said the host spent his entire retirement savings on it.
Can you imagine!
she began to tell me about this couple Joe and Sue Paterno who sat at her table
with her. My friend grew up in Clearfield County, PA, and she told the Paternos
that their name sounded familiar. She did not know that he was the celebrated
head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lion Football Team. She was not and is not
a football fan. (Heaven forbid!).
- She felt quite awkward when he finally revealed to her why his name sounded somewhat familiar to her.
- Then she began to tell me about this couple Joe and Sue Paterno who sat at her table with her. My friend grew up in Clearfield County, PA, and she told the Paternos that their name sounded familiar. She did not know that he was the celebrated head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lion Football Team. She was not and is not a football fan. (Heaven forbid!).
it is an awkward feeling to read the words of Jesus: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already
kindled!… Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell
you, but rather division!”
- Well, that is just plain awkward!
- So, what was Jesus was up to in this particular moment?
In short, those who follow Jesus maintain a “holy discomfort” with things that don’t measure up to the kingdom of God and those followers will stand with Christ and his Way, no matter the tension that it brings to their life and chief relationships.
There is no way to minimize or tone down the urgency in these strange words from Jesus.
Jesus is not an easy calling.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazi regime because he was dedicated to the Way of Jesus which was the Way of the kingdom of God and which was the opposite of what was going on in Germany.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down on the balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, because he followed Jesus Christ who demands civil rights and abundant life for every single human being.
- Some of my favorite author/pastors like Carol Howard Merritt and John Pavlovitz and Diana Butler Bass and Barbara Brown Taylor and the late Rachel Held Evans write blogs on social media and receive a lot of hate and criticism (many from Christian brothers and sisters) as they champion the gospel of Christ for the various issues of our day.
- I believe most all of you today can identify with times in which your faith and your allegiance to Jesus got you in hot water with some of your closest kin.
Jesus means that you will take stands for the sake of the gospel which will put
you in disagreement and possibly put you at odds with your closest family and
is partly the “holy discomfort” which Jesus described as “fire.”
- When Jesus talked about bringing fire to the earth, he was talking about the fire of judgment which purifies as a refining fire.
- Jesus was even eager to bring that refining to the earth because God is eager to make things right. God is eager to abolish unjust systems and to establish righteousness for all. God is eager to make all things new—the new earth and the new heaven referred to in the last book of the Bible, chapter 21.
- Christ-followers look forward to this as well and you seek it now.
- This is partly the “holy discomfort” which Jesus described as “fire.”
God’s intent for his people is to be faithful to his realm and to his Way. Isaiah describes this in the “Song of the Vineyard.”
took great care to establish a beautiful and fertile vineyard. He had high
hopes for this vineyard to be productive and a vision of perfection for all to
- Sadly, this vineyard did not yield the grapes expected but yielded wild grapes.
God did what any sensible vintner would do and tore down that vineyard and
removed it from the earth to make room for a new and productive vineyard.
- Then the chilling words from Isaiah read:
“The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the
house of Israel, and the people of Judah.”
- God expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry of distress!
- Then the chilling words from Isaiah read: “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah.”
- These same sentiments are distinguishable in the words of Jesus who came preaching the Kingdom of God, which would apply a purifying fire to change things for good.
Ways of righteousness called for by Christ and the parameters of God’s
righteous realm of justice, equity, and wholeness for all are there for the
taking and there for the building, for those who can see the signs.
went on to say that people can recognize meteorological signs but they miss the
signs of the kingdom and what it demands which are just as evident as any signs
in the weather.
- People can predict the movements of planets and stars, and can split atoms, and even put people on the moon, but can be blind to what God is doing in the world.
- He went on to say that people can recognize meteorological signs but they miss the signs of the kingdom and what it demands which are just as evident as any signs in the weather.
is why Jesus brought heat that day.
it is why he had to take matters into his own hands.
- And finally, he let the world drive nails through those hands to the point of draining all of his life from him.
- By doing so, he redeemed the world with
his life. He showed, God showed, that perfect justice and perfect righteousness
and perfect love cannot be snuffed out.
- That which is truly good and right will live again, even if it is rubbed out.
- And it is why he had to take matters into his own hands.
The big question of the day, of life, is: “Will you follow Jesus? Will you follow Jesus, even if it means taking a different or opposite tract from those closest to you? Will you follow Jesus no matter the heat?”
you follow Jesus even if it means changing some of the assumptions you have
held for most of your life?
open to this kind of change.
- The fact is that weeds spring up in your garden every day. You have to be zealous in maintaining the vineyard of God within your heart and mind.
- There is the constant need to keep your vineyard pure and pleasing to God.
- Erroneous ideas and philosophies infiltrate your vineyard and look like the real thing but they are weeds which God will destroy one fine, final Day.
- Be open to this kind of change.
- Jesus Christ came to bring God’s realm, God’s reign which is a truly good thing. But this truly good thing will clash with all that does not fit with its goodness and righteousness.
- The clash of these diametrically opposed forces will cause a reaction and generate a heat the likes of which are yet to be seen.
And so, we have Jesus’ words about division and fire and judgment.
God expects a lot from his people. He expects a full and abundant harvest of his righteousness.
of Christ, you can read the signs. You can recognize when the weather is
changing. You know what is coming. You can read economic signs. You can
understand all kinds of complicated things.
can also read the signs of the kingdom of God and you know what Christ intends
for his world.
- As Isaiah prophesied, God expects justice and righteousness.
- You can also read the signs of the kingdom of God and you know what Christ intends for his world.
of Jesus Christ, your call is to constantly weigh and balance what you see in
the world and what you see in your life against what you know of God’s
righteous and just intent.
- Because God is at the same time weighing and balancing us all and weighing and balancing all things to make sure that they fit within his realm of justice and love.