Message based on Luke 12:49-56 by Pastor Asher

You can find reading from the Gospel of Luke 12:49-56 here:  NIV  //  The Message // Slovo Zhizny

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Today’ Gospel reading is about allowing God to guide our conscience (and therefore ALL aspects of our lives). It is also about what happens when we refuse to open our hearts, minds and doors to that guidance.

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It all began with a fairly innocent sounding question that a certain man asked of Jesus: “Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25) All of us want to live productive lives in relative peace and tranquility, and when we die and go to Heaven we hope to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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What are we to do with today’s Gospel reading? “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled… You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky, but you refuse to interpret the present time because you are scared to give up your creature comforts and refuse to explore the possibilities that God has in store for you.”

 

This is my interpretation of today’s Gospel reading and these words seem to be so out of place and so NOT-Jesus. The uncomfortable truth is that these words were spoken by Jesus and these words were told to convict our very hearts and souls. In order to understand today’s reading, we need to see where it falls within the larger story that Luke is telling us.

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A few weeks ago we read the story of the Good Samaritan, and the point of that story was that God loves us so much that God will not let us pass by a sister or a brother in need without pulling on the strings of our hearts to encourage us, to judge us, to hold us to a higher standard than the standard to which we hold ourselves. The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that we have learned how to squelch God’s tugs and hide behind self-righteous posturing and talk. But when we do that, when we hide behind self-righteous posturing and talk, we experience feelings of guilt, we feel unfulfilled and we flutter through life seemingly without direction (Luke 10:25-37).

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By telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus expressed God’s hope for us that we choose to live lives full of grace, love and spirit, and that we make a conscious choice to get involved in God’s mission in the world.

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And then we talked about Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha where Mary recognized the presence of God next to her, and Martha was preoccupied with the dishes and cooking. The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is about allowing Jesus to break the preoccupations of our lives so that we are free for the vocations of our lives, so that we have a chance to breathe in the Spirit of God that renews and powers our lives, so that we allow God to be the wind beneath our wings as we make choices and decisions in our lives.

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And then we talked about our lives of prayer and what a privilege it is to be in CONVERSATION with God. We saw that prayer is not a series of discrete events but a continuous lifestyle and an ongoing relationship and conversation with God. We are invited to LIVE our prayers, not just say our prayers. Through prayer we are invited to see the world as Jesus sees the word. We are invited to experience the wounds of the world as invitations to being instruments of healing and reconciliation {what do we do about those who are hungry? What do we do about those who are sick? What do we do about those who are thirsty?}. We are called to experience God’s generosity by tithing and giving to others, and by being willing to accept gifts of love, hospitality and trust from others when we are in need (Luke 11:1-13).

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And then we talked about a rich man who was diligent and fortunate enough to fund his retirement account and retire so that he could enjoy the fruits of his labors. And we recognized that we live in a material world and we are called to be practical with the gifts that God blessed us with (It is important to be responsible with money and physical possessions in the present, it is important to plan for our retirements and our needs for the future.) We also discovered that stewardship of our lives has another dimension; we call this dimension spirituality and spirituality has to do with our being a part of something bigger than ourselves, it means being a part of a community of persons who want to glorify God by helping each other to take care of our physical needs and by helping each other to take care of each other’s spiritual needs through sharing of our tithes, talents, presence, love and other resources WHILE we are still alive (Luke 12:13-21).

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Last week we talked about “bucket lists.” God calls us to live our lives in such a way that when the end of our journey is in sight, we don’t need to worry about unfinished business. Jesus modeled for us a way to live our lives in such a way that when the end of our life’s journey is in sight, we have lived genuine and productive lives, open to God’s leading, and there is a sense of completeness and wholeness about who we are… To accomplish this we must open our hearts, minds and doors to God’s leading. The Holy Spirit of our God and the examples set by Jesus are there for us as we journey towards perfection (Luke 12:32-48).

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And then we come to today’s reading which says something like, “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled… You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky, but you refuse to interpret the present time because you are scared to give up your creature comforts and refuse to explore the possibilities that God has in store for you.”

 

What are we supposed to do with that? Some of Jesus’ sayings are really difficult to understand and even more difficult to make them part of who and what we are. However, that does not mean that we should sweep these “difficult” sayings under the rug and ignore them.

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Today’s reading is about allowing God to guide our conscience. Today’s reading is about what happens when we cut the lines of communication with God hoping to come back to God sometime in the future.

 

We have examples of this all around us. Do you know someone who only comes to worship only if there are no other activities on Sunday or if they are not too tired from whatever they did on Saturday? Do you know someone who only gives to the church out of what is left over AFTER they have bought everything they want? Most of us are not all that worried about sin and how we live our lives. Somehow as a Church, as a connection of communities, we have lost the courage to confront sin and to seek the truth.

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It has been said that history is written backwards and sermons are written and preached forward. It is historical truth that Jesus of Nazareth came to this Earth and brought fire to the planet that we call home. He brought the fire of God’s love, compassion and understanding. It is historical truth that men and women (like you and I) did not want to accept that fire, that gift of God, and they crucified love, compassion and understanding of God (John 1:1-15). That is history that is written. It is signed, sealed and delivered… It is a done deal…

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That fire — [that light] — of God’s love, compassion and understanding is still burning. We can pick it up and become the bearers of God’s presence in the world. We can pick it up and become instruments and mechanism of how God is accomplishing God’s mission in the world today. That is how the fire of God’s love, compassion and understanding can spread and ignite the whole world. [Luke 12:49I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”]

 

On the other hand we can ignore that fire and refuse to be the church bringing the message of love and reconciliation outside the walls of our buildings.

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There are already metal detectors in some schools and getting through an airport is a major ordeal. There is anger on the streets and around the world – just turn on CNN or FOX-NEWS. There are wars, there is suffering, there is misery… That is another fire, the fire of destruction. [Luke12: 56 “… You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”]

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Which fire will ignite the world? The one that we stock and feed, the one that we will adapt and make our own.

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Being a community of Jesus’ followers means being led by the Spirit and it means making conscious decisions about what we do and what we don’t do.

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Being a community of Jesus’ followers means that we have a certain vision of how we want to live our lives and what our community will look like in the future. We must be really serious about knowing our history because our history is how we got here, it is about who we are today. We must be really serious about knowing what we want our community to be like in the next five, twenty-five and fifty years.

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We must be really serious about opening our hearts, minds and doors to the guidance of the Holy Spirit because if we don’t we will not be able “to interpret this present time” (Luke 12:56) and what God is doing in the world that we live in, and where we fit into His plan.

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Are we making a conscious decision to join our efforts in what God is doing in his world? Are we allowing Jesus to break the preoccupations of our lives so that we are free for the vocations of our lives? Do we say our prayers or do we live our prayers? Do we live our lives in such a way that God’s LOVE abiding in us is evident in everything that we are and everything that we do? Is there sense of completeness and wholeness in our community? The answers to these questions will determine in a large part how today’s Gospel reading will be lived in our community in the future.

 

May God bless our community and our journey towards perfection!

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