Pentecost 13 – St. Luke 12:49-53
This year, probably more so than most others, the issue of politics is causing divisions. The media daily highlights the divisions within the political parties over the philosophical principles of governing. The mail is full of fliers from different organizations highlighting the differences over issues such as abortion, or marriage, or defense. And then there are the commercials posing questions of taxes, and healthcare, and the debt; all of which divide people further and further a part.
And we have not even begun to discuss the division that the candidates themselves cause just by entering a room, let alone hearing their names.
The internet is abuzz with arguments on each and every one of these issues. A picture perhaps sums up the feelings of many, it often circulates on social media every week or so, saying that I wish I could hide all the political posts until after the election, just so that I might still be able to speak to my friends and family afterwards.
There is far more truth to that particular message than we care to admit. How many friends do you no longer speak to, because of their strongly held position that is contrary to your own strongly held position? I can think of at least one for myself, probably a few more too.
Of course, it never starts out that way. You never hear someone say that they support abortion or same sex marriage, and immediately walk away from them forever. It just comes up in conversation again and again. At first you try to gloss it over, saying you can agree to disagree; or that you are not like those who shut off debate at the first sign of dissent.
But slowly but surely, the topic keeps coming up, whether in passing or because there is a story about it on the news, and the conversations become more and more heated, the attacks more personal, the scars a little deeper.
Until one day, you swear that you will never speak to that person again.
It sounds silly when you think about it, after all, how can you lose a friendship over a disagreement about the tax code? But it does happen, and will continue to happen, all the way to November.
Shocking as it may sound though, there is actually an issue that causes even more division than politics and who you are or are not voting for in the next election.
It is Jesus.
Of course, the media reports on this division a lot as well; except the one they focus on is the division between Christians and Muslims. Now do not get me wrong, that is a very serious division, but it is not necessarily the division that Jesus speaks of in our Gospel text where He speaks of households being divided against each other; three against two and two against three.
The division is over the question of which Jesus.
Is He a prophet? Is He God? Does He matter? Was He present at creation? What about His role in the world today? Does Baptism save? What do we receive in Lord’s Supper?
These questions don’t come up around your dinner table?
I bet they do, but unlike the question of border security, we tend to hide the question of which Jesus.
How is it handled when you arrive home after church and see the family member who did not attend? What do you do when it is time to go out to eat after church and not everyone is present when service ends? How is communion handled when you know someone is not in good standing? What happens when you are the visitor, and Sunday morning rolls around and you need a ride to church?
Are these awkward conversations? Or do you even have them?
Don’t lie to yourself, there is division whether you have these conversations or not. Your efforts at keeping peace are the equivalent of you agreeing to disagree over the question of marriage. Your desire not to rock the boat, is the equivalent of deleting a Facebook thread discussing foreign policy that is about to turn into its own war.
Who are the three and who are the two? Or is it one against four? How are teams divided in your home?
You see what happens on a regular basis on Facebook and at coffee shops; people getting mad and walking away; never speaking to each other again. It has even happened to you with friends that you have known for years. The last thing anyone wants, is to have that happen to family. We keep our friends close and our family closer. Friends can be replaced; family can’t.
But this sermon is not about encouraging you to go home and start wars in your family.
But do not think there is peace when there is not.
The question of who Jesus is and what does He do for you and for me is not answered the same way by everyone. And today, Jesus stands before us and tells us that what you see the unbelievers and the terrorists doing to Christians in other parts of the world, you may one day see your own family do to you.
That is the last thing that any of us want to think about; but it is the truth. The name of Jesus is a name that saves; it is a name that gives life to the dead; it is a name that is above all other names that the whole creation bows down to and worships. But it is also a name that causes division; a name that causes great strife and rage among those who do not believe. A name that is constantly under attack by Satan and his hordes.
What are you to do?
Well, what Satan would tell you is the old adage that everyone loves to practice at holidays: do not discuss politics or religion at the dinner table, or in the living room, or in the backyard, or anywhere else on the property.
Sounds like good advice right? Keeps the peace, and everyone is happy, right?
Sure. Except for the fact that it allows everyone to continue in their sin unchecked and unheeded. You may not be fighting, but neither are those who reject the name of Jesus being called to repent.
And so we must swallow hard, and do what must be done. How can they hear, unless someone speaks to them? How can those who reject the name of Jesus hear the Gospel, unless we speak it to them? How can those who hate the Lord of Life come to have life, unless they hear the message of life spoken in their ears?
How can they know that they too can receive the promise of forgiveness for their sin of rejecting Jesus, unless they first hear that your sin and my sin of refusing to speak up has been forgiven by the same Jesus?
How is this accomplished? Clubbing them over the head and dragging them to church is popular, but there are other ways. Other carrots can be used. But the simple words can be spoken again and again that Jesus Christ, who existed from before the foundations of the world, came into the world, in order that He might redeem poor wretched sinners like you and I not with gold or silver, but with His holy and precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.
There will most certainly continue to be divisions, both in the world and in the home; but those divisions should not and cannot stop us from speaking the name of Jesus boldly and clearly each and every day.
Which Jesus do you follow? The one who offers forgiveness, life and salvation; the one who called you in the waters of Baptism to be His own; the one who comes to you each and every Lord’s Day and offers you His very body and blood; the one who stands before you and announces to you that your sins are forgiven; the one who has promised you a place in His eternal kingdom, where you will live and reign without end.
Which Jesus do you follow? The one who announces to you that even though the sound of His name brings division and strife in the world, He has overcome the world.