Luke 12: 49-56
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
TEXT: "I have come to bring fire to the earth"
A pastor was standing at the Church doorway, shaking hands with the parishioners as they filed out. The pastor spotted a man who, prior to that Sunday morning, hadn't seen the inside of a Church in ten years. He pulled the man aside and said, "Glad to see you again. Are you ready for service in the Army of the Lord?" The man looked all around, then whispered in the pastor's ear, "I'm in the Secret Service."
"I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled," Jesus says to His disciples. Jesus came to light up the world with the fire of God's Love. And we who have enlisted for service in the "Army of the Lord" have been commissioned to carry the torch. Each of us is duty-bound to make the Love of God burn brightly in the world in which we live our daily lives...
THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE
I'M GONNA LET IT SHINE!
Jesus didn't recruit us for His "Secret Service." That's a role more suited to the angels. Let it shine!...Let it shine!...Let it shine! Those are our marching orders. To allow the merciful, forgiving, understanding, caring, compassionate love of God shine through in all we say and all we do -- that's what our lives are all about; that's what being here today is all about.
"Do you think that I am here to bring peace on earth?" Jesus asks in today's Lesson. "No, I tell you, but rather division... father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Lk. 12:51-53).
This is one of those texts that many people prefer to gloss over. The words are there in Luke's Gospel, spoken by Jesus, and yet they are puzzling -- even perplexing -- to many Christians. "Father against son? Son against father? Mother against daughter? Daughter against mother?" Does it mean that Jesus wants to break up our families?
The answer, of course, is a resounding "No!" Jesus is not a destroyer of families. Jesus is the "Man For All Families." He wants to heal broken family relationships. He wants to reconcile mothers and fathers with their estranged sons and daughters. He wants wives and husbands to love one another. His Gospel of Love is the cement which binds spouses and child together in society's basic, life-enriching unit: the family.
When Jesus speaks of divisions among family members in today's Gospel Lesson, He is telling us in very forceful language to keep our priorities in order. Jesus is saying that His Gospel is like a "sword" that separates the "eager" from the "contented." When God is at the center of your life, you live in a condition of eagerness -- eager to hear His Word; eager to learn more about who you are in God's eyes and what to do in God's service; eager to fulfill a burning desire to let it all spill over into the lives of others; eager to change whatever it is in your life that keeps the Love of God from burning brightly in your heart.
On the other hand, the "contented" are those who do not have God at the center of their lives. They are not eager to change. They prefer the status quo. Their number one priority might be money, or career, or security, or just plain "having a good time." Whatever it is, it nurtures a spirit of contentment with things-as-they-are: "Stay away from my money, God! Stay out of my work life, God! Don't threaten my security, God! Don't interfere with my good times, God! I'm just not going to change any of that."
Jesus has not come to settle us down in the false peace of the status quo. Jesus has come to raise our hopes to a level higher than anything we could have dreamed of on our own. Jesus has come to change our attitude.
Attitude is more important than the past...more important than education...more important than money...more important than circumstances...more important than appearances...more important than skill. Attitude will make or break a company... make or break a Church...make or break a home. The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
"I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already," says the Lord.
If your attitude is one of eagerness to be in harmony with Jesus' heart's desire, then here is some fuel for the fire:
ON THIS DAY...
Mend a quarrel. Search out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in a word or deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Avoid envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate... be kind...be gentle...laugh a little more. Listen a little more. Express your gratitude. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still again. Speak it still once again.
Anthony de Mello, whose inspirational stories have been read by millions, has written this incisive first-person story:
On the street I saw a small girl, cold and shivering in a thin dress, with little hope for a decent meal.
I became angry and said to God, "Why did you permit this?"
For a while, God said nothing. That night, he replied quite suddenly, "I certainly did something about it. I made you!"
A woman dreamed she walked into a brand-new shop in a brand-new mall. She was more than a little surprised to discover Christ Himself behind the counter. "What kind of merchandise is for sale here?" she asked. "Everything to fulfill all your burning desires," Christ answered. The woman couldn't believe her ears: Everything to fulfill all her burning desires? After thinking it over, she decided to ask for only the very best things that any human being could passionately desire. "I would like to have peace of mind, and love, and freedom from fear, and genuine happiness, she said. Then, she added, "And not just for me, but for the whole world -- for everyone on the face of the earth." The Lord smiled. "Perhaps you are misunderstanding," He said. "We don't sell fruits here. We only sell seeds."
In so many ways we have fallen tragically short of our ideals, of what life could be -- should be. But, at times, we have displayed in our work and in our deeds, our capacity for compassion -- for love. And in this we hold the key to well-being. The choice is ours. We take part in this choice in the life we decide to live. Choose wisely! Be a sower of seeds that bears good fruit. Be a bearer of the fruit of God's Love!