Posted on Wed, Aug 18, 2010
Rev. Jim Merritt's Sermon for August 15, 2010
What Does THAT Mean?!?
Rev. Jim Merritt
August 15, 2010
Imagine with me: You have a beloved son or daughter. This child has been the light of your life from the moment of conception. You’ve watched your baby grow through infancy, to latency, to adolescence and finally into adulthood. Your baby did well at everything; straight A’s from pre-K all the way through high school, the star of athletic competitions and that child can sing like an angel. Your kid goes to the best university available and graduates with high honors. And as we would expect from your child, lands the best job available at a very high salary. Your baby is charmed. During the first year of career development your baby meets Mr. or Ms. Right. You are thrilled. Pictures arrive daily in your email. This new person is gorgeous, talented, smart, well-educated, forward thinking, the perfect spouse for your beloved. They come to visit and you even let them share a bedroom. You’re in love as much as your kid is, and then on the last day this probable spouse of your child comes into your kitchen for a quiet chat while your child is getting ready to leave. You chat freely, comfortably, and then suddenly you hear these words, “Mom, Dad, I love your child with all my heart and I want her/him all to myself. Remember this day, because I’m going to make sure you never see your child again.”
Would you pray with me? God, sometimes you present us with lessons very difficult for us to understand. Guide us together now in our thinking, in our preaching and in our attempt to hear the true word you have for us this day. AMEN.
Gospel: I open with that story for two reasons, because it is based on the true story of an event that happened in my own family, and second because as I thought about this gospel lesson, it is the best way I could find to bring the impact of this gospel home to us. Imagine the words of this beloved Son of God, Son of Humankind, for whom so many had given up all that they had; homes, family, careers. “I came to throw fire on the earth. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. Jesus yells at his followers in the crowd, “YOU HYPOCRITES!” What in the world is he talking about? What does THIS mean?
What about this fire? Luke Timothy Johnson suggests three possibilities. First Jesus could be reminding the crowd of the scene we discussed not too long ago where the prophet Elijah is pitted in contest against the prophets of Baal. You remember the prophets of Baal unsuccessfully tried to call down fire on their altar. Elijah then called down fire from Yahweh and the entire area blew UP, showing the true power of Yahweh and proving that Yahweh was the most powerful of all Gods.
Another possibility is that Jesus is reminding the crowd of another time when God made God’s presence known through fire, on the day of Pentecost, when the spirit came down in fire and filled the room and the disciples began to speak in tongues.
Johnson’s final suggestion is that the fire might represent the later coming of the Son of Humankind in judgment. No matter which one we choose, it is clear that Jesus is imbedding a sense of urgency, he is showing “prophetic passion” as he speaks to the crowd.
Now, what about this business of dividing up families? I can assure you the experience I described for you at the beginning of this sermon was life-changing and very traumatic for my own family. And imagine Jesus, this so-called Prince of Peace telling his followers he was going to destroy their families? What does THAT mean? Here it is.
Jesus is calling his followers to follow him fully. He is saying to them, okay now you’ve learned to interpret the seasons, you’ve learned to interpret changes in the weather, you’ve learned so many things and even mastered them. And then, in an unusual way, he asks this same question that we’ve heard many times before. “When will you truly follow me?”
Even if it separates you from your friends; when will you follow me? Even if it separates you from your co-workers, when will you really follow me? And yes, sisters and brothers, even if it divides you from your families, WHEN will you FOLLOW ME? Follow me for all you’re worth. Follow me when it’s easy. Follow me when it’s hard. Follow me when it’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life.
Now, buckle your seatbelts for today’s Gospel. Jesus is saying to us right here and right now on this Anniversary Sunday, “Trinity Metropolitan Community Church of Gainesville – FOLLOW ME. Follow me when it’s easy. Follow me when it’s hard. Follow me when it separates you from your friends. Follow me when it separates you from your co-workers. Follow me, yes, even when it separates you from your family. And remember that “prophetic urgency,” follow me now. Be my instruments in this community to bring about the kin-dom of God in the here and how, RIGHT NOW. Stand with the oppressed, stand with those experiencing discrimination, stand with your Muslim sisters and brothers when some so-called religious organization threatens to burn their holy literature. Stand, and having done all to stand just stand. Follow Jesus and follow Jesus now. Stand up, stand up for Jesus and do it now!
Oh God, we want to follow Jesus and we want to do it now. Grant us courage and grant us wisdom for the facing of this hour. We have heard your voice and we will follow. In the name of Jesus. AMEN.
Luke Timothy Johnson