Lectionary Text for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost:
Jeremiah 23:23-29: “Am I a God nearby, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
Luke 12:49-56: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
54 He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: I must confess that I feel a bit disconcerted by the passionate language of both texts. I remember being told as a child that God is watching me when I do wrong. Again, as a child, I was told that if my father did not convert to the faith of my mother, when he died, he would go to hell.
As I have grown in relationship with God, made known in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, I find comfort knowing God is near. Even when I stray from what I know is right in God’s sight, I know God’s love is greater than my guilt or shame. I also know that God’s grace and mercy is readily available, freely offered by God, in prayer, to restore our intimate relationship.
I also want to admit that I “get it,” as Jeremiah conveys God’s righteous indignation over the messages of false prophets. Many well-intentioned “prophets” of our day think they bring messages of hope, when they end up giving discouragement through misinformation. Perhaps, even those persons who warned me of my father’s plight thought I would be prompted to pray for his conversion. I don’t think they knew that it only produced fear and grief in the heart of a child.
Jesus makes this statement, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” What feelings stir within when we read, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” How does one understand God’s love emanating from these verses? Job through his misfortune saw God’s love as a devouring fire that refines the impurities from gold. The prophets of our day tell us that genuine love makes us “feel good.” They also proclaim that pleasure is the barometer of love. These opposing beliefs about love will cause division.
Isaiah, the prophet foretold that the Messiah, fulfilled in Jesus, would be called the Prince of Peace. Isaiah also wrote about the nature of the Messiah’s mission. He declared in prophetic ecstasy, “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” He (the one) who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil-this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.” Isaiah 33: 10-1, Peterson’s The Message
O Lord, shape us daily to be one of those who understands your love as fire. Energize us and empower us to defend the helpless and to walk the extra mile with the disenfranchised. Give us that consuming love that leaps over walls of discrimination that separates so many from experiencing your unifying grace. Amen
Blessings during Ordinary Times,
©August 13, 2010
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