The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
In this week’s gospel lesson, we hear Jesus at his most alarming, spouting some of the most inflammatory language he uses anywhere in Scripture - literally! “I came to bring fire to the earth,” he declares. He then proceeds to pile on other language that is equally difficult for us to process, announcing that he didn’t come to the earth to bring peace but to create division. This from the Prince of Peace, The King of Love! What are we supposed to make of such threatening language?
This language was unsettling to Jesus’ audience - as it was intended to be - because it served to shake things up. It awoke people from their complacency or passive acceptance of the status quo. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to this world, no, he came to challenge us to change the world; and this call would cause division, for it would threaten the status of those who profited from a world that had turned its face away from God.
Jesus’ message made many people uncomfortable, then as now. It outraged many and provoked such hatred and hostility to both the message and its messenger that some sought to silence both it and him. And today the message and its messenger still have that power to inflame the passions of those whose hearts are hardened to this Good News; because the Good News isn’t always easy to hear, not if one is rooted in the past.
The Good News promises a New Creation, one in which the old world is turned upside down. So, Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, because there is no peace when our brothers and sisters are suffering, there is no peace when we are so focused on ourselves and our own glory that we fail to see Christ looking at us through the eyes of those we despise or ignore.
In this Gospel lesson, Christ is calling us to action, to arise from our complacency and risk controversy, discord, even unpopularity in order to advance God’s truth. This is not peaceful, it is dynamic - there is work to be done, serious work that requires our urgent attention. So, Jesus seems to say, stop worrying about the future and start recognizing the obvious that is in our present. He pleads with his disciples to stop looking skyward to predict the weather all the time ignoring that which is under their very noses. Focus on the present, he tells them, on the task that is set before them. This message is for us as well. Peace will come when the work is done!