Pentecost 10, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter 3, Year A April 26, 2020 Easter 3, Year A Psalm 116; I Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
Easter 2, Year A April 19, 2020 Easter 2, Year A John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday, Year A April 12, 2020 Easter Sunday, Year A Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday, 2020 April 10, 2020 Meditation on the Cross, Good Friday, 2020 John 18:1-19:42
Palm Sunday, Year A April 5, 2020 Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday Matthew 26:18
Lent 5, Year A March 29, 2020 Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020 John 11:1-45
Lent 4, Year A March 22, 2020 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C Psalm 23
Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral March 15, 2020 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A John 4:5-42
Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors March 8, 2020 Lent 2, Year A John 3:1-17
Lent 1, Year A March 1, 2020 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020 February 25, 2020 Ash Wednesday, Year A Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 23, 2020 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 17:1-9
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 16, 2020 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 9, 2020 Epiphany 5, Year A Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20
The Presentation February 2, 2020 Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Luke 2:22-40

 

Pentecost 10, Year C

Sermon Date:August 18, 2019

Scripture: Luke 12:49-56

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 15, Year C 2019


“Fire Window” – National Cathedral


Today we hear impatient, downright exasperated words from Jesus. 

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled…Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”

And Matthew reports in his gospel that Jesus said “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.” 

Today I want to talk about why Jesus would feel so impatient that he had a need to say these words, and how these impatient words of Jesus can help us to shape our lives in our own time.

Jesus was born into a world that lived under the great Pax Romana of the Roman emperors, a “peace” that lasted approximately 207 years and had begun about thirty years before the birth of Jesus.    

But this time of “peace” was not peace at all.  The Romans had subjugated the countries around them through military conquest and forced the people to live in relentless poverty and subjugation while the Roman empire and those who worked for and with the empire grew richer.   Any revolt was immediately put down by the superior power of the Roman military.   The Caesars were worshipped as gods. 

Jesus came to bring God’s kingdom to this earth, which put him and his followers in direct conflict with those currently in power.    

In God’s kingdom, strength comes from God, not from military might.  The proud are scattered in the thoughts of their hearts.  The powerful are brought down from their thrones and the lowly are lifted up.  The hungry are filled with good things, and the rich are sent away empty—this is how Mary, the mother of Jesus, described God’s work in the world, the words that we know as the Magnificat. 

So Jesus, sent by God to dwell in the world with us, preached, taught, cast out demons, healed, fed the hungry and loved the lowly.  Crowds followed him.

But Jesus makes the radical demand of those who follow him as disciples, and not just as ones in the crowd, that our allegiance is to be only to the almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, who forgets not even the sparrows and who knows every intimate detail of our lives. 

Those listening must decide where their allegiance lies, with God, or with the powers and principalities of this earth. 

And Jesus is impatiently hoping that his followers will go ahead and decide to be disciples with a radical allegiance to God.   

If we decide that our allegiance is with God because of Jesus and our desire to be his disciples, then much will be required of us, and God will demand even more of us, because God has given and entrusted us with God’s own Son, and God’s own purifying and righteous love.

God’s gift of Jesus is not meant to be put up on a shelf as some religious relic and admired and periodically dusted, or to be kept neatly as only words on the pages of a book that can be closed and forgotten. 

Our allegiance to God can’t be just spelled out on some certificate that we tuck away in a scrapbook. 

Our allegiance to God becomes real when we live by constantly turning to Jesus to show us how to put all that God has given us to work in order to make way for God’s kingdom to come here on earth. 

So if we choose God’s love and what that love means for the kingdom of God here on earth that Jesus intended to bring, then we must separate ourselves from the things on this earth that divide us from our complete allegiance to God. 

And we also must avoid the choice that many Christians make which is to be lukewarm by having a sort of half-hearted allegiance to God. 

In the book of Revelation, the Spirit says these impatient words to the church in Laodicea, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot, but I wish that you were either cold or hot.  But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing….but I reprove and discipline those I love.  Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  Listen!  I am standing at the door knocking.”

In other words, to those of us who find ourselves lukewarm, Jesus wants us to get off the fence and give our unwavering allegiance to God.

And when we finally start living with an unwavering allegiance to God, we will get impatient, and when we get impatient, we will experience division even among our Christian brothers and sisters. 

I commend the letter to you that Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in the Birmingham Jail in 1963 to eight clergy members who had written a letter to the Birmingham paper objecting to the campaign for civil rights going on in their town.  In their letter they appealed  to ‘both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.’”  https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/letter-birmingham-jail  

What King had to say in response is directly applicable to the words that we have heard from Jesus today–  “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.”

King was on fire, King was impatient. As King said of the times in which he lived, “Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

In his letter, https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html King says that “there comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws…One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

King goes on to explain the difference between a just and an unjust law.   “A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust…. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.”

At last, segregation in this nation ended legally, thanks to God’s grace, but also thanks to the impatience of Christians who worked together and who acted on their unwavering allegiance to God and to God’s kingdom being realized in some small way here on this earth in their own time.

Now what about us? 

Allegiance to God’s kingdom and to God’s kingdom here on earth means that we Christians must still do the hard work of examining the realities of our world through the eyes of Jesus, remembering that Jesus came to dwell among us so that even now, we can dwell with God, in God’s kingdom, even in this life. 

Along with Jesus, let’s get impatient for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.   

Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the following question in his letter to those patient, lukewarm clergy fence sitters, who claimed, of course, that their allegiance was to God.

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism.  Two were extremists for immorality…the other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness…”

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

Jesus invites us, his disciples, to be flames in his purifying fire, helping to burn away the injustices that keep God’s kingdom from becoming a reality here on this earth. 

So my prayer for us here at St Peter’s today is “Lord, make us impatient, and set us on fire with desire for you, and for your kingdom to come here on earth.  Amen.