Jesus said, “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”! If you recall John the Baptist said that he baptizes in water, but the one coming after him is greater than me, and he will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. (Luke 3:16) Jesus emphasis on his baptism is not about water. The water is symbolic. Jesus is talking about the baptism into death. When we are baptized in water, we are baptized into his death, before we are raised to newness of life in Christ’s resurrection.
Our identity with Christ is mirrored in this passage, as reflected in our baptismal covenant. We are baptized into his death, and we are raised out of the water in newness of life. We recognize both his death and resurrection.
Jesus continues: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, rather division!” Division is inevitable because Jesus teaches Kingdom of God principles and precepts that are antithetical of the teachings of the Kingdom of the Roman Empire and religious authorities. In our previous reading from two weeks ago we know that Jesus has his heart set on Jerusalem. He knows his time as a man on this earth is coming to a close. (Luke 13:31) His teachings have already caused a maelstrom, a fast and dangerous movement afoot to bring about Jesus death.
Jesus continues: “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.”
Remember when Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees questioned his parents to see whether this was their son, was he born blind, and how can he see? The replied: “He is our son, and he was born blind, but how he can see, we do not know. Ask him. He is of age”. They knew that if they answered that Jesus healed their son, they would be banned from the synagogue. (John 9) In that way they chose between following Jesus or paying the price for making a different choice.
In seminary, I had a Jewish classmate, and I know this is not true in progressive Jewish faith traditions, but when she chose to follow the teachings of Jesus and be baptized as a Christian, her family disowned her. They considered her dead to them. This was not an easy choice for Candace to make. It was a decision that brought division in the household. It was mother and father against daughter and daughter against father and mother.
In the setting of this passage, Jesus is headed for Jerusalem, and so are his followers. Even his followers were unknowingly headed for trouble. They too, if they continue choosing to follow Jesus can be tried for treason. Jesus and his disciples will later continue with this message “There is no deity structure in Rome. The Deity is from a different source, and that source is connected with Jesus and His Father, whom his disciples choose to follow”.
For the disciples of Jesus, Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus in the holy one…not the emperor of Rome or his family. Anyone who challenged this was guilty of treason. Jesus knew what was ahead of him, and he knew there would be division for the families’ and friends of his followers. Jesus sees problems ahead for his disciples, and when they choose to follow him, others will choose not to, and will turn their backs on them, for their own safety. People will be cut off from their religious communities.
Jesus declares earlier in Luke that whoever wishes to be his disciple, must choose to deny themselves of possibly loved ones, family members and friends, and pick up their cross and follow him. (Luke 9:23) This choice and all the implications that come from that choice, social, legal and religious, is true then and it is true today. We may not be facing the stress of life and death as Jesus did, and not too long after his disciples faced, but it is a choice that is applicable in all of our decision making.
In this congregation and in San Diego County we have refugees that chose to follow Jesus, and in that choosing have lost home and country. Most of the rest of us have faced this dilemma, but that is not to say we do not have to count the costs =when we make decisions in our life, both small and large. When we make decisions about what is right and what is wrong in our spiritual journey, those decisions may cause divisions. Sometimes we have to make choices that are not popular. We may have to walk away from choices that go against our conscious. Decisions you make may bring division among friends, among co-workers.
Jesus closes this passage by talking about the weather. Everybody talks about the weather. It’s something we all do every day, right? “Nice weather we’ve been having”. “Sure is, but I hear it’s going to get hot”. “That’s pretty common around here in August, but today is a beautiful day and this is a nice breeze”. “Yet, it’s another beautiful day in paradise”.
Jesus says: “”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?” This is the theme of Jesus message. You can read the weather and the seasons, but you obviously cannot read the spiritual time we are entering into. Jesus know his time on earth is short. He is heading toward Jerusalem and his death. He knows that many of these follower will also be counted as martyrs in the future, and some will choose not to follow him. Every one of the 12 apostles will be executed along with many others that choose to pick up their cross and follow Jesus teachings and example.
We too are called to make choices that are difficult. Some are not so hard, but some are really hard. We have all been there, and sometimes we make the wrong choices, but the great thing about this spiritual journey, even though we make mistakes, we are in a faith tradition that is grounded and immersed in mercy and love. There is always room for improvement, but the message of love is this: “God loves you all the time, not just when your being good.;” Again, “God loves you all the time, not just when you’re being good”. Amen.
We have been talking about treasures and stewardship the last few Sunday’s. Jesus says where your treasure is, there is your heart also (Luke 12:31) And a passage from the Gospel for 12th (Sunday after Pentecost. Jesus says: “And, take for yourselves purses that will never wear out”. (Luke 12:33) What is a purse that will never wear out?
When we moved to New York City I noticed that everybody carried bags, even the men. We call them ‘man bags’. Women had purses and bags, and almost all the men carried bags or ‘man-purses’. It wasn’t long before I had a man-bag too. Very few people drove cars that lived in Manhattan, at least not in Manhattan. For one thing, storing a car was like renting a second apartment, and even if you did drive you had to find a place to park and that was not easy. And, if you did find a place to park, it costs a fortune to park, and then you still have to walk sometimes blocks to get to your destination. It was a lot cheaper and easier to ride the subways and busses.
I got used to going out of our home with a ‘man-bag’ over my shoulder, and in this bag I carried important papers I needed for the day, spare change, a headphone with earplugs, a book and anything else I needed for the day, because where else you going to keep that stuff? Guys carry wallets usually in their back pockets, or they have clips or belt pouches, and most women carry purses. I don’t know why that is, but I’m sure it had s to do with pragmatism and tradition. There are even Radio Frequency Identification Blocking wallets that prevent electronic scanning of wallets for credit cards and other sensitive information.
The purse in Jesus day would probably look like a shoulder bag or satchel, or there were other purses that looked more like leather sling with a rope to tie it up. Purses, or wallets, were sometimes kept in a pocket of clothing, like a girdle pocket. Purses sometimes had enough money, food or whatever would be necessary for a full day or sometimes for traveling for overnight necessities. The literal teaching about the purse that people identify with points to the spiritual purse, and the decisions that come with that purse. It all has to do with choices we make.
“Never let your purse wear out”. Look after the needy. Put your perspectives in order. Care for those less fortunate than you. Share the gospel, share the good news. We can share the good news by funding the ministries of this church and or other ministries and other ministries that promote the teachings of Jesus. Our purse is symbolic of how we use our time, resources and talents. It has to do with choosing every day how our purse will never wear out. Continue to share the valuables of your purse. The literal teaching about the purse that people identify with points to the spiritual purse, and the decisions that come with that purse. It all has to do with choices we make.
As the song from Blood, Sweat and Tears frames these words: “And, when I die, and when I’m dead and gone, there will be one child born and this world to carry on, to carry on”. We can make sure our wallets don’t wear out by tithing a portion of our estates to the Lord, so that even after we are dead and gone, our purse remains active and does not wear out. From our purse will come the fruit of our labor in the Lord.
The Apostle Paul tells us that some are called to start new ministry, to start new things, but others are called to take their purse and to add to that purse by carrying on and building on what has already been started. Paul tells us to be careful about how we build. In other words, make choices that will ensure that the purse never wears out. Only keep in your purse what is good and edifying for the present and the future. Contribute to the needs of the church and world with the treasures that God has provided for you. Lives will be changed, and God will be glorified. Carry purses that never will wear out. Choose you this day whom you shall serve
Carry purses that will never wear out!
The Reverend Dr David Madsen