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08.18.19 Eyes of Faith Hebrews 11 Luke 12 Sermon Summary

by on August 19, 2019

You know the opening verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, the one about “peace on earth” and “God and sinners reconciled.” So began the Gospel of Luke. But now Jesus says he doesn’t come to bring peace; instead he comes to bring “fire and division.”

This passage falls in a larger teaching about what it means to be a faithful disciple, and more specifically how we are to be watchful for Jesus’ return. What kind of division is Jesus referring to? Is it the church’s debate about whether he is divine or human? Whether he is Jewish or the bringer of a new religion? Whether he is the redeemer of all creation or the savior of only a tiny minority of humans? Whether he is present with the Spirit or seated with God in heaven?

These are the ways the church has divided over Jesus, but is this what he means? Should the church have divided over whether to admit people of African descent? Or over recognizing the gifts of women in ordination? Or blessing the life-long, loving, mutual commitment of same-sex partners?

What kind of division is Jesus talking about? And how does it help us to be more faithful disciples? And how does it guide us in being more watchful for his return?

I think this has less to do with doctrinal disputes like those above and more to do with behavior. Though Jesus revealed God to us, he also revealed what it looks like to be a faithful human to God. When he fed the 5000+ men and women, he showed us that faithful humans provide for the needy. When he related to sinners, he showed us that it is faithful to forgive. To the outcast, the faithful offer welcome. Regarding the lost, faithful people seek them. To those on the margins of society, Jesus was an advocate.

This way of faithfulness is opposite of the way of the world. Think about what the world says about the needy: They have made bad decisions, or are lazy, or just unlucky. Sinners deserve the judgment upon them. The outcast are outcast because we’ve cast them out. The lost should have stayed with the flock. Do we really want to make room in the middle of our lives for those who are on the margins?

Because Jesus’ faithfulness is opposite to the world, when we follow Jesus it eventually leads to division. There will be conflict. There will be protests. There will be arrests. There will be persecutions. There will be crucifixions. Just ask Jesus.

He refers to this dynamic as bringing fire to the earth. This is the purging fire of God’s redeeming work in the world. But before those fires burn, dividing people who follow faithfulness from those who do not, the purifying fire burns first in us.

Because while Jesus reveals God and faithful humanity, he also reveals that we are already divided. We possess the remnant of the divine image with which we are created. And the power of sin also resides in us. It’s a close but uneven division. Using the metaphor of the household, Jesus says among the five residents, we are divided three against two today, and two against three tomorrow.

We are closely divided within ourselves. We desire to be faithful, but we are weak when it comes to carrying it out. It is for this reason that Jesus urges us to watch for him, the pioneer and perfector of faith. We’re not to avoid the divisions or the fires. Instead we are to watch for Jesus to come and help. This is what it means to be a faithful disciple.

We don’t settle for a peace that is not also just. Or a peace that is not also loving. Or a peace that is not also inclusive. For such peace is not peace, but compromise. It is compromise with the power of sin within us and in the world.

Disciples of Jesus pursue faithfulness as he did, and watch for him when the divisions come and the fires burn, as they inevitably will. To help us, Jesus gave us the Table where we remember his death and resurrection, what he calls the “completion of his baptism.” His baptism is complete, and until our baptism is also complete in death and resurrection, we remember Jesus and watch for his coming, receiving him again and again at the Lord’s Table.

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