Biblical Text: Luke 12:49-53 (Hebrews 11:17-31, 12:1-3, Jeremiah 23:16-29)
The text is an apocalyptic saying of Jesus. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” On the face of it, it contradicts the message of the angles of Christmas. This sermon attempts to keep them together. How do we have both divisions and peace?
This is really part two from last week. Jesus is teaching about covetousness and how to avoid it. Last week we under the parable of the Rich Fool we elaborated on two parts: 1) have faith in the providence of the Father and 2) be busy putting what is given to you to work for the kingdom. The third part rests on the character of the Father. And that is what Jesus bids us to ponder – just who The Father is and how he acts. There are potential God’s where covetousness would be justified. But that is not The Father who for a day clothes the lilies in such riotous beauty to make Solomon blush. You think he’s going to do that and not clothe you with the resurrection body? C’mon. He wants to give you all the treasures of the Kingdom. And he does this because he is our Good Father.
The actual text for the day is v13-21, but part of the set up is in v1-12. Jesus teaches the disciples what I’ll call kingdom priorities. And immediately a man stands up to test those. Jesus jumps right on him and the simplest besetting sin – covetousness. The quickest way to be knocked off of Kingdom Priorities is by desire, even desire for something that might be good. Instead of aligning one’s life around the priorities of the Kingdom, one is consumed with and aligns life around those desires, or worse fear of losing them or never achieving them.
That is the aim of the parable. The Rich Fool already has a lot – his barns are full, but he has acquired more. And his only concern is how he might keep it safe for his own good. Jesus calls this attitude foolish. Foolish for some poignant reasons. Reasons that I think resonate with some current events. (Note: two items addressed here are immigration and the most recent mass shooting as it seems to relate to that. You might not agree. It might make you uncomfortable, but I could not ignore it.)
The conclusion (if not a complete solution) is to hear how the Church Father’s used this. I’d invite you to give it a listen.
Getting last week off from having to polish a sermon because our Seminarian Tim did a great job gave me a lot of time just to meditate on Luke 12. On first read Luke 12 is all over the place veering from the harshest warning and condemnations to the sweetest promises. I think in our modern American Christian imagination we are all Jeffersonians of a kind. Jefferson famously cut out of his gospels all the “fantastical” accounts (i.e. the miracles and the resurrection) leaving nothing but a moralistic great teacher Jesus. We don’t cut out the miracles, at least not most of us, but what we cut out in the prophet. We string together nice Jesus, and come up with some way to tune out fiery Jesus. But if we refuse to listen to Jesus the prophet, we end up in situations like the OT lesson from Jeremiah, where our “prophets” blow us sweet nothings and we are shocked at division from both man and God.
Attempting to boil the chapter down into a single paragraph, it is more coherent that that first read. It is Jesus’ correction our natural views of the intersection of division/peace and temporal/eternal with the messiah or the work of God. Our natural view is that we want peace expressed temporally. Peace within families. Peace between religions. Peace on earth. Or at least we want those things assuming that they come with the correct division. Our temporal physical tribe get the peace while the out group is safely divided from us. And all of that peace coming with a healthy serving of temporal prosperity for our group. We want a sugar-daddy messiah, and we don’t give a second thought to the eternal. Or just assume like the rich fool that the good times will roll forever. But Jesus corrects us in our temporal thoughts. Now is not the time of peace, but the time of division. It is the time of division because this messiahs, and this God’s concerns, are not temporal, but eternal. Jesus has come to give eternal peace which you have right now. But this peace is by grace, through faith. And those that believe align their lives with the divine purpose. They know the will of the householder for whom they have been left as stewards. But, not everyone believes. Many might know, but they are unwilling to live with that knowledge. And that is the division in this life. That is also the cause of the temporal strife. A strife that is not yet resolved in peace. Not yet resolved in the hope that the full number will come in.
We had a special treat in worship this morning. Our preacher was Tim Bayer, our seminarian. So, I don’t have the full text of the sermon. The word cloud in not the sermon but the text of the day. But, the voice you will hear delivering a great sermon is Tim’s. The Parson still read texts of the day.
I’ve left in a couple of hymns. If the text and the sermon are the proclamation to us not to worry. The hymns are our emotional responses. LSB 741, Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense, understands both that we can be compared to the lilies, but that we are also so much more when in simple faith we cling to Christ. It is a wonderful 2nd generation Lutheran hymn with a Catherine Winkworth english translation. The closing hymn is a prayer that this faith and its Lord would accompany us as all hours of the day. You’ll recognize the hymn tune – Slane – with its probably better known lyrics of Be Thou Our Vision, but for me Jan Struther’s simple plea and structure is as deeply moving as that one’s more soaring spiritual emotion. LSB 738, Lord of All Hopefulness.
The parable at the core of today’s gospel can be highly moralistic. It is something we need to hear, but the parable itself gains it gospel grounding in the life of Jesus. The man at the start gives Jesus the opportunity to talk about life. What the life of Jesus, his questioner’s life and the parable invite us to do is correctly order things perishable and things imperishable in our lives.
When we have those thing properly ordered, then many situations and stations in life become much easier to judge the moral response.
Musical Note: I left in the hymn of the day Lutheran Service Book #732, All Depends on Our Possessing. I think it is one of the sweetest hymn tunes in the hymnal. Nothing flashy, but I’m still humming it. Not an earworm, but it strikes that right blend of melancholy and hope that is perfectly paired with the text. The text comes from the 17th Century Nurnberg church. The attribution is haus-kirche which would be house church, so it probably originated as a pietistic folk song shared among the various meetings much like campfire songs in the 1970s. But this text was caught by Catherine Winkworth, translator extraordinaire. What makes her translations so compelling is that unlike most American German to English translations which are more concerned about an exact translation, Winkworth cares first about the English. It doesn’t hurt that she has some evident skill at poetry. Technically she’s the translator, but most of her hymn translations are relatively free creations that manage to bring German hymns into a pleasant English expression.