By Rev. Heather Blais, Rector
During the month of July our family signed offline. No email or social media. No morning newspaper or nightly news. Yet there was no missing the horrific violence in Nice, Louisiana, Minnesota, or Texas. Nor was their any way to avoid the hateful rhetoric that continues to surround the upcoming presidential election. Not to even mention the abhorrent mistreatment of two Greenfield city councilors and the employees and owners of Pierce Brothers Coffee by a bully who hides behinds their computer screen.
At times I find it difficult to distinguish whether all of this hatred, violence, and division is the same everyday minertia that has been happening since the beginning of time and the media is simply blowing it out of proportion or whether there has been a cataclysmic shift in our nation and world. The same kind of cataclysmic shift that allowed the Holocaust to happen in Germany or McCarthyism to happen in the United States. Wherever the true answer may lie on that spectrum, I suspect one of the biggest temptations is to duck our heads down, and pray that things will settle down in good time. I wonder, how are you feeling about all of this hatred, violence, and division?
Interestingly enough, Jesus had a thing or two to say about division in today’s gospel: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12:51 NRSV).
Why would the Prince of Peace bring division? A contemporary translation offers some insight. Jesus says to his disciples and the unwieldy crowd: “I’ve come to start a fire on this earth—how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything rightside up—how I long for it to be finished! Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront! (Luke 12:49-51 The Message).
It probably shouldn’t be such a surprise to us that the Prince of Peace would also bring division. After all Jesus came to turn everything rightside up with his revolutionary message of radical, unconditional love, reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope. Jesus set the world on fire with his revolutionary message, and broke countless social norms and laws of his forebearers in doing so.
That ticked off more than a few people. It brought division within the Jewish community and their relationship with both the Romans and other Gentiles. It pitted father against son, son against father; mother against daughter, daughter against mother. Families were torn apart, communities were torn apart, nations were torn apart. And we know that Jesus paid the ultimate price for sharing his revolutionary message.
I believe we find ourselves today in a world that is in dire need of Jesus’ revolutionary message of radical, unconditional love, reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope. In our baptism, we commit to doing that work. Yet we all know how tempting it is to duck our heads down, and hope for the most recent storm to pass.
But what if the storm isn’t going to pass this time? What if instead it’s going to linger and grow? What if the only way the storm will pass is if the Jesus Movement sets the world on fire again with Christ’s revolutionary message of love and hope? What if we turned this world rightside up by refusing to accept violence as normal? What if we refused to tolerate the racism, sexism, homophobia, and the islamophobia that some leaders would have taught in schools and celebrated in town halls if but given the chance.
The divisions in our world are not themselves the problem. The problem lies in how we choose to respond to the divisions that happen in our lives. When we choose to be a follower of Jesus, we are choosing to respond to division with a fire and passion to spread Christ’s revolutionary message of radical, unconditional love, reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope. A message that we live and breath in our thoughts, words and deeds. A message that is nourished and flamed in our hearts through our daily and corporate prayer lives.
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, had a thing or two to say about this at his installation. I think they are worth remembering now:
“We are God's’ children, all of us. We are God’s baptized children. We are here to change the world with the power of love. God really does love us. The Spirit has done evangelism and reconciliation work through us before. And the Spirit of God can do it again, in new ways, now beyond the doors of our church buildings, out in the world, in the sanctuary of the streets, in our 21st-century Galilee where the Risen Christ has already gone ahead of us. Yes, the way of God’s love turns our world upside down. But that’s really right side up. And in that way, the nightmare of this world will be transfigured into the very dream of God for humanity and all creation. My brothers and sisters, God has not given up on God’s world. And God is not finished with The Episcopal Church yet. God has work for us to do. Jesus has work for us to do and it’s the Jesus Movement. So don’t worry. Be happy!” Amen.
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