12 Pentecost Proper C15
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:49-53 Sermon
August 15, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
136 "Come Thou Almighty King"
155 "Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word"
250 "O God Of Light, Thy Word A Lamp Unfailing"
191 "Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing"
THE IDEAL VS. THE REAL
TEXT (vs. 51-52): [Jesus said] "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three."
One of the most disturbing stories I've heard, is one told to me by a lady I know, about the early days of her relationship with her husband. This lady is most definitely not a Christian by her own admission. She told me that she was raised in the Lutheran church, and that her mother still belongs to the same church and faithfully goes every Sunday. When she visits her mother, they go to church together, but she is definitely a hypocrite sitting there. She even laughs and jokes about being a heathen, and yet she takes communion in church with her mother.
When she became involved with the man who would be her husband, he was also a very faithful church member. However she was bound and determined to change that; so after she worked on him for a while, he completely gave up the church and his faith.
The last I heard, neither one ever goes to church, they raised their only son to also be an unbeliever, and they hold the Christian faith in total disregard. Apart from her occasional attendance in church with her mother, and her disrespectful participation in the Lord's Supper, they have completely separated themselves from Jesus.
It's a sad story, isn't it? But it is a classic example of divisions existing in a household, and how that can destroy everybody's faith. Unfortunately Satan won out in their household, and Jesus got kicked to the curb.
I'm no stranger to religious divisions. In my early years, I can remember the relationship between the Lutherans and the Catholics. Even though everybody seemed to peacefully coexist, yet there was a real sense of division.
The Catholic Church in Emerson is Sacred Heart. It is a rather large congregation that operates their own school. In my day, their school ran from grade one all the way through high school, but they had no kindergarten. So the Catholic children came to the public school for kindergarten, and then continued on at Sacred Heart. I know that as a young child, all of this was very confusing to me. Why did these kids have to go to their own school? I had trouble understanding why some of the kids I had gotten to know in kindergarten were no longer in school with me when I went to grade one.
The real rub however came when somebody who was a member of the Lutheran Church got married to somebody from the Catholic Church. You could hear people cry in despair, "Oh, she went and turned Catholic for him." That was the biggest division of all, and the one that gave people the most trouble. Parents and relatives would openly grieve about it. They would plead and try to talk them out of it. When people talked about those poor children this couple would have, who would have to be raised Catholic, it was almost like they were joining a cult and being steered down the road to eternal damnation.
I'm not going to belabor the differences between Catholics and Lutherans, other than the fact that there are deep theological problems in some major areas. That is a different topic for a different day.
The thing that I'm addressing today deals more with the divisions that are created, and why they are created in the first place. And when we look at those various things in detail, we should be able to more readily understand what drives people and what they're thinking about.
Before we get into our text for today, I'd like for us to take a look at several Bible verses. Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6 records the following words describing Jesus: "And he will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." And then, if we page back about ten chapters from our text in Luke's Gospel, to Luke chapter 2 verse 14, we read the words of the song of the angels and the heavenly chorus at Christ's birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests."
Then we can go to the words of Jesus himself in John chapter 17, where we read Jesus' high priestly prayer. Jesus is talking directly with his heavenly Father in verses 20 and 21: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you."
Finally we can go to the words of the Apostle Paul recorded in I Corinthians chapter 1 verse 10: "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."
The Bible has a very strong sense of unity and peace expressed throughout. But then we read the words of Jesus in our Gospel lesson for today. In verse 51 we read: "Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." Doesn't this seem to be in direct contradiction with the other verses we just read?
The thing we have to remember is that the Bible presents peace and unity as an ideal situation. That's the way God wants things to be. However in our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus is telling things the way they really are. What we are seeing is the difference between the ideal and the real. Even though the ideal situation is for people to be united and at peace, yet the reality of it all is that people will be divided. And Jesus also knows that he would be the one person over which many would be divided. Lines would be drawn and sides would be taken. That's the reality of it all.
I don't think anybody likes division. I know that I don't, and I don't think you do either. The petty and foolish divisions that exist are ridiculous at times. But sometimes divisions are an unfortunate necessity as well.
Divisions exist primarily because people create them. That's right! People are responsible for creating the things that divide them. People have removed themselves from the very thing that is there to unite them, and that is Jesus Christ himself. If we look at John chapter 8 verse 31, Jesus says: "If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciples indeed."
Our Lutheran confessions direct us first and foremost to the pure Word of God. Based upon this, we say that the pure marks of the Church is where the Word of God is preached and taught in its truth and purity, and where the Sacraments, viz. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are administered in accordance with the Word of God. The bottom line to the whole thing is how people regard God's Word in the Bible.
This is the point where people separate themselves from Jesus. It's becoming more and more in vogue to get rid of any confessional statements that use the words "inerrant," "verbally inspired," "infallible," and any other adjectives used to describe the truth and reliability of the Bible. People will often say the Bible is "inspired" in a very loose and ambiguous sense to placate those who might have differing ideas as to the Bible's infallibility.
Unfortunately when people adopt such radical notions against Christ's directive that his people "continue in his word," this in effect separates them from the unity Jesus so earnestly desires for his people. And as is so often the case, those who complain the loudest about a lack of unity in the church, are the very same ones who have demonstrated a shameful lack of regard for the truth of the Bible.
One good example of this is shown in the homosexuality issue that is being debated in the churches of today. The Bible clearly states in both the Old and New Testaments that God considers homosexuality a sin of adultery. Let's see just how clearly God states his will regarding this subject:
In 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9-10 Paul writes: "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
In Romans chapter 1 verses 24-27 Paul also writes: "24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another....26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
Going now to the Old Testament, God says in Leviticus chapter 20 verse 13: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable."
I honestly don't think you can get much clearer than that. So how in the world can anybody think that homosexuality in the church is in any way tolerable? How can unrepentant, openly practicing homosexuals have a church "wedding" (to use the term loosely), or be ordained as clergy with those words hanging over their head?
The only way this can happen is if the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible is completely discarded. And when that happens, people are basically able to make up their own rules and establish their own version of truth according to their sinful will. Truth is no longer an objective fact, but rather a subjective idea that will differ from individual to individual. There is absolutely no way that there can be true unity if people refuse to continue in the Word as one of Jesus' true disciples.
Considering the true marks of the church consisting of Word and Sacrament, the Word is the foundational thing. When the Word is compromised and false doctrine creeps in, there's no stopping it. That's why a firm commitment to Biblical inerrancy is so important for Christ's true disciples. Even if false doctrine is eliminated, but Biblical inerrancy is not upheld, then all you do is trade one leaky boat with another. There's nothing in place to refute error and create true unity in Christ. So when people deny the inerrancy of the Bible, they have created the division that separates.
The most important part of unity as Christians is Christ Jesus himself. Biblical inerrancy keeps the path of faith to him open. Biblical inerrancy is also important when it comes to understanding the key Christian concepts of sin and grace.
The Bible shows us our sin. If we don't understand what is and isn't sin, then we have nothing for which we need to be forgiven. If God's law is relative, then the Gospel of Jesus Christ is meaningless. In Romans chapter 7 verse 7 Paul writes, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law." In order to know what God's law is, we need to trust the source. Therefore, we can trust the Bible with confidence.
The unity of everything comes through faith in Christ Jesus. When we see our sin for what it truly is, then Christ's forgiveness restores our relationship with God. Through faith in Jesus, we are brought into complete unity with God in heaven. The Gospel is the good news of this forgiveness and reconciliation we experience through faith alone. The object of our faith is Jesus, where we can build a relationship of love and trust.
Division is something that nobody wants; however we have to be realistic. People will continually pull themselves away from Jesus and his Word, and lose the unity that Christ has established. Even though people will be divided because of their faith in Christ, we continually pray for healing and reconciliation.
There are many reasons people have for placing greater importance upon things other than Jesus. A marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian seems to completely upset people's priorities, as is evidenced by the couple I talked about in the beginning. They celebrated a division with Christ instead of a unity with him. I always pray of course that somehow the Holy Spirit will work in their lives and bring them all to faith.
Nobody wants division, but Jesus gives us a lesson in reality. Division will be present as long as Satan is active in our world. Satan's goal is to divide, and not to unify. He will work hard to introduce false doctrine into the church so those who wish to remain faithful have no choice but to depart from those who have traded in God's truth for human reason and logic.
The words Jesus speaks in our Gospel lesson are strong and troubling. He says: "I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!...Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three."
Even though we might not like to think of Jesus exhibiting a form of righteous wrath, he doesn't hesitate to do so when the situation warrants it. He turns over the tables of the money changers in the Temple, he calls Herod a fox, he calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers, and that they are nothing but whitewashed tombs filled with dead men's bones. Jesus the tender Shepherd is also the voice of righteousness in an evil world.
As Christians who are gathered together under Word and Sacrament, as Disciples of Christ who faithfully continue in his Word, we know we will experience division in our lives because of our faith. This is reality.
That's why we need to be all the more faithful in the ministry of the Gospel. There's a world out there that is divided from Christ. There's a world out there that won't know the unity Jesus brings if we don't bring it to them.
Therefore may we remain united in Christ Jesus as we go forward together, faithfully bearing the truth of his holy, verbally inspired, and inerrant Word.