Jesus Brings Fire

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Fourth Sunday in Lent April 3, 2011 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A John 9:1-41; Psalm 23
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A March 20, 2011 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12: 1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17, Psalm 121
First Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2011 March 13, 2011 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19, Romans 8:18-25
Ash Wednesday Sermon March 9, 2011 Ash Wednesday Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday After Epiphany March 6, 2011 Last Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 17:1-9
Don’t Worry About Tomorrow February 27, 2011 Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 49:8-16a; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
Choose Life February 13, 2011 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
We are the Salt of the Earth February 6, 2011 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:13-20, Isaiah 58:1-12
Shalom January 30, 2011 Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:1-12
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 23, 2011 Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A Matthew 4:12-23, John 21
Second Sunday After Epiphany January 16, 2011 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A John 1:29-42
The Baptism of our Lord January 9, 2011

The Baptism of our Lord, Year A

Matthew 3:13-17

Epiphany Service January 6, 2011

Epiphany, Year A

Matthew 2:1-12

Traveling Back On A Different Road January 2, 2011

Second Sunday after Christmas, 2010

Matthew 2:1-12; Jeremiah 31:7-14

The Dance of the Trinity December 26, 2010

First Sunday after Christmas, Year A

John 1:1-18


Jesus Brings Fire

Sermon Date:August 15, 2010

Scripture: Luke 12:49-56

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 15

Jesus is the light of the world.  At the beginning of the gospel according to John, we hear that “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Jesus came to bring light, not only into the darkness of a sinful world, but also to bring light into the darkness of our own sinful hearts. 

For the past few weeks, we have heard about Jesus as one who comforts us, who reminds us not to be anxious, or to worry, because it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

This is the sort of comfort I sometimes experience get when I go to Jesus in prayer. I settle into his loving presence, his warmth, his comfort, as if I am sitting in front of a warm cozy fire. 

But our gospel passage today reminds us that Jesus is not a warm, cozy fire in our fireplace, a fire that we build for our own pleasure, one that is under our control.  

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”

This fire is not one that we keep safely contained in our fireplaces. 

No, this fire is a raging fire!  A forest fire that burns away everything in its path!  The sort of fire that every human effort

in the world could never control, a fire that no human being could ever put out.  And we are reminded—

Jesus not only comforts us, but he also confronts us.

Jesus confronts us with the fact that he is here to purify us, to subject each one of us to this raging, purifying fire of his, to burn away our sins, because each and every one of us here today is a sinner.  Every one of us.    

I don’t know about you, but it’s much easier for me to be very aware of someone else’s shortcomings and faults than it is to be of my own.  And when I think of those other sinners, especially if I feel they have sinned against me, I’m all for Jesus as a raging fire!  Purify them!  They need it!  I want to watch from a distance, cheering Jesus on as everyone else gets purified.

So when Jesus says, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division!”  I want to  say,  “Of course there’s no peace!  This world needs to be purified, of course it’s divided, but fortunately, I’m on the right side!”

But ARE we on the right side of the devastating divisions that Jesus describes?  And do we even have to choose sides at all?  Can’t we just roll with the punches?  Go with the flow? 

Jesus doesn’t comfort us here.  He confronts us, confronts us with the fact that we DO have to choose.

We can no longer go along as if we’re fine the way we are. 

And because the worst, most destructive division of all  is within each of our self-centered hearts, the choice comes down to this.

Am I on MY side, or am I on the side of Jesus? 

Jesus asks us to open ourselves to this raging, purifying fire that he brings to earth, because Jesus knows that we are victims and prisoners of our own sins.

Let me give you an example of what I mean about this division within each of our hearts and the purifying fire that Jesus brings with him. 

Many of you have probably read the writings of C. S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century. 

Lewis wrote a series of children’s books about the imaginary world of Narnia, and the most famous of these seven books is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

In this story, Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy, who are brothers and sisters, have been sent away from London during the air raids of WW II to the safety of the  house of an old professor who lives in the country.

And in that house is a wardrobe which hides the entrance into the land of Narnia, a land that is under the rule of the White Witch.  And in Narnia, it is always winter, but never Christmas.

And then Edmund accidentally finds his way into this cold and snowy land.  And as he stands in this strange world, lost, scared, and shivering with cold, the White Witch passes by on her sledge and stops.   She is on the lookout for human beings because legend says that they will be part of the destruction of her reign. 

Now Edmund is scared by the White Witch at first, but she beguiles him by taking him into her sledge, wrapping him in her mantle, giving him a drink that warms him right down to his toes.

And then she gives him Turkish Delight, Edmund’s favorite candy.  What Edmund doesn’t know is that this candy is enchanted Turkish Delight, and anyone who eats it will want more and more of it, and will do anything to get it. 

So the White Witch convinces Edmund that in order to get more Turkish Delight, he must bring his brother and sisters to her, and then he can have all the Turkish Delight he wants. 

Fast forward—all four of the children end up in Narnia, and they are taken in by the Beavers.  The Beavers fix them dinner, and as they’re eating, the Beavers tell them about all of the horrible things that have happened in Narnia since the White Witch has been in power. 

No one is safe.

And as this conversation goes on, suddenly the others notice that Edmund has disappeared!

They all know that he has gone to find the White Witch, and that they must flee for their lives, because the witch will come to get them. 

In spite of his initial suspicions of the White Witch, all Edmund could think about was himself and what he wanted.  His heart was divided.  So he made a choice based on his own self-centeredness.  All he could think of was that delicious Turkish Delight, and so he divided himself from the others, and left to find the castle of the White Witch.  In doing so, he betrayed his brother and sisters, and he put all of the creatures of Narnia into even greater danger. 

Edmund’s self-centered actions divide this family– brother against his brother and his sisters.

And all because Edmund is divided in his own heart. 

When the White Witch realizes that the other three children have escaped from her clutches, she decides to kill Edmund.  Just as she is getting ready to slit his throat, Edmund is rescued. His rescuers take him to Aslan, the great lion who has returned to Narnia after having been gone a very long time.  Aslan has brought warmth and springtime to Narnia with him.

And  Aslan has a long conversation with Edmund. 

Now I imagine that the conversation that Aslan  had with Edmund was like a purifying fire, burning away all of the bad

things that Edmund had done since he had taken that first bite of Turkish Delight. 

After the conversation with Aslan, Edmund apologized to his brother and sisters, and they could tell that he was truly sorry for what he had done—because Edmund had made the choice to let Aslan’s purifying fire sweep through him and burn all of those bad deeds away.

The winter in Edmund’s heart melted away.

And so, as Aslan came to Narnia, so Jesus comes among us, bringing not only warmth and comfort, but also bringing fire to the earth—a fire to which he himself submitted. 

 — his own baptism of fire, his baptism of death on a cross.  Luke tells us that Jesus died as he had lived.

 As he was crucified, Luke tells us that Jesus cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

And Jesus comforts the criminal being crucified with him, who begs him, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,”

Jesus comforts this sinful man, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

Jesus can offer forgiveness to his enemies, and comfort to a dying criminal, because Jesus has opened himself to his own baptism of fire, and so God’s love burns passionately in him and through him, even through the very darkness of his death on a cross.   

So this day, I pray that each of us can go away from here and open our hearts in prayer.

I pray that each of us will ask Jesus to confront us. 

And I pray that each of us will find the strength to step  into this purifying fire.

I pray that we will let that fire rage, like a forest fire, through that wilderness in of self-centeredness that keeps us divided within ourselves and divided from others,

that we will  let that fire burn all of our sinfulness away. 

And I pray that at last, after that purifying fire has burned our self-centeredness to ashes, that we too, will rise into new lives with Jesus and with one another,

To live as if we ourselves are on fire, our hearts burning within us,  not with a self centered love,  but with a burning love for Jesus,  for one another, and for all of God’s creation. 


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