Last week I went to mass at my kid’s school. (Yes, I am a liberal Presbyterian pastor and daughter of two public school teachers sending my kid to Catholic school, but that’s a story for another day.) The priest preached on Luke 12:49-53. He was funny, talking to a bunch of middle school girls about how Jesus was all about math, division to be exact. Ha!
But from where I stand each week in the pulpit, from where I sit in committee meetings and denominational meetings and community organizing meetings, I needed this message, too. The debate in my new hometown over justice and violence and racism and police use of force and peaceful protests and rioting and looting and systematic oppression and organized civil disobedience and outside agitators and christian hospitality has absolutely not been peaceful. The conversations are emotional and heated and painful. Church folks are divided on how to respond. The calls for justice and the calls for peace once went hand in hand, but now seem quite at odds. So we need this reminder. I needed it so much right now. “I have come to bring fire on the earth!” Yes. Fire! Bring it, Jesus. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”
We forget that Jesus’ message is radical. We forget it is bold. We forget it was and STILL is completely counter-cultural. We forget that not everyone is going to hear it and want in. Especially the we of us who are preaching it each week, extra especially the we who are brand spanking new and worried about rejection and offending people and having our brand new-to-us churches not like us.
We love to talk about the Prince of Peace. And we think the story of him tossing the tables is fun. But we killed this guy for what he said. And lots and lots more people were killed over what he said in the centuries that have followed. This Jesus stuff isn’t always going to be peaceful. He’s bringing fire!
Let us be so lucky as to feel the heat, and not get scared and run towards peace.