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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Focus: Jesus Christ: Troublemaker

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!  Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!  From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens.  You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? 
Luke 12: 49-56

Jesus promises a happy ending. Getting there is another story. In this week’s gospel, Jesus tells us that he’s here to shake things up: Do you think I came to give peace to the earth. No, I tell you, I came to divide it. Sadly, these few lines from Luke have been cited to justify centuries of religious strife, intolerance and holy war. But Christ is not preaching jihad, he’s predicting the impact his message of love will have on our self-centered human nature. There’s no hidden agenda here. He has come to turn the value system of the world on end. And he knows the process will not always be pretty. As nature’s arch-predator, the human race will not effortlessly be transformed into the Body of Christ. Jesus warns us that the world, the flesh and the devil will not go quietly. Expect plenty of pushback… from strangers, from neighbors, from friends, even from family.

Jesus goes on to tell us: I came to set fire to the world. But that doesn’t mean he wants us to build his kingdom by fire and sword. The pitfall of reading snippets of the gospel is that we lose context. Jesus was, is and always will be the embodiment of divine love. As he tells us over and over, his kingdom is not of this world. His call to arms is a call to unconditional love. The conflict he predicts is not a territorial struggle or even a philosophical spat. The conflict will come between those who accept and follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior and those who reject him… sometimes casually, sometimes contemptuously, often violently.

At best, we Christians have had a very spotty record of settling our differences with love, to say nothing of the genocidal zeal with which we have often tried to foist our faith on native peoples across the world. To this day zealots lampoon tolerance as the last virtue of a corrupt society. Perhaps this is all in answer to some primal “us and them” reflex. Perhaps, like Adam, we are tempted to usurp the powers of God by passing judgment and dishing out punishment. All of which flies in the face of Christ’s very specific charge to us… we are to build the kingdom by loving God and neighbor. We are not to coerce the kingdom into existence. We are not to con the kingdom into being by sugar coating God’s word. With humble and honest witness, through the grace of God, we are called to help love his kingdom into being. And let the chips fall where they may. 

Christians are to be courageous, not bellicose. We are not latter day scribes and Pharisees spoiling for a fight over doctrine. Christ does not keep score by territory conquered, theological arguments won or even by the size of the congregation. We are not responsible for results. We are only responsible for serving him and proclaiming him. That means we love and forgive, and then love and forgive some more. To most it’s not easy. To many it’s just crazy. To those of us who aspire to live in Christ, it is a joy… a preview of the serenity of being one with God.

In this gospel, Jesus is a self-proclaimed troublemaker. But as he shows us over and over, eternal life in the love of Christ is certainly well worth the trouble. 


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