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Luke 12.49-53 (NRSV)
Jesus the Cause of Division
‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Today’s reading shows the dangers of taking things out of context. It comes at the end of Chapter 12 when Luke has been recounting Jesus telling parables to both the crowd and his disciples. He seems to be getting quite irritated and tetchy with the disciples, doubting their faith and understanding. Has he really come with the mission of splitting up families, causing divisions and setting everyone at odds with each other? Goodness knows we are getting plenty of that at the moment. Brexit, climate, lockdowns, politicians, government and councils. Some many different views and everyone wants their say. When I was studying Economics at University John Maynard Keynes was one of the prominent figures. It was said that if you put five economists in a room you would hear six different theories and two of them would be from Keynes – sounds a little like our Prime Minister.
But Jesus did not come deliberately to promote division; he is telling his disciples what they are likely to encounter. Jesus preaches a new way of life and some will listen, others will oppose. That may happen within families and ultimately there will be a judgement. The disciples were being made aware that divisions would arise and the thing was – how to deal with them? What do we do today? Is it the loudest, strongest, voice that holds sway? Or is there another way? The division that Jesus forecasts stems from rejection; rejection of his way of truth. If we reject him and his kingdom, then we too lead ourselves into division. The chaos and turmoil among non-believers in a secular world and the tension between those of faith and those of none.
The message to the disciples and to us is pretty clear; heal the divisions by bringing everyone on board to the new way of life that is promised by the kingdom of God.
The Collect for Trinity 19 (alternative version)
whose steadfast love never ceases
and whose mercies never come to an end:
grant us the grace to trust you
and to receive the tokens of your love
new every morning
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.