DIVISION – Tenth Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 15, Year C; Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (RC)

August 14, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 5:1-7 or Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 or Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalm 40:2, 3, 4, 18 (14b)
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Lk 12:51)

Wait a minute. Isn’t Jesus supposed to be the Prince of peace? At his birth, didn’t the angels proclaim, “on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Lk 2:14)? When he sent out the disciples to nearby towns, didn’t he instruct them to say, “Peace to this house” (10:5)? After he rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples in the upper room, did he not greet them by saying, “Peace be with you” (24:36)?

Many of us cringe at the harsh words that we hear from Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. Division is not Jesus’ goal, of course, but his teachings have often sparked opposition and set people against one another. At the very beginning of his ministry, the hometown congregation in Nazareth turned on him when he suggested that God might often look more favorably on foreigners than on God’s own chosen people (see 4:23-30). Ultimately the message he preached set him on a collision course with both the religious leaders and the Roman occupiers who put him to death.

The teachings of Jesus are deeply threatening to those who want to hold on to the status quo and to those who thirst for power, wealth, and comfort. The reign of God that Jesus proclaimed involves a whole new order in which the mighty are cast down and the lowly are lifted up. The message of Jesus ignites a purifying fire to bring about radical transformation of those who would follow him and of the entire cosmos.

Those who proclaim this message today—who advocate for the poor, for immigrants, or for trans youth—often face conflict and opposition, even in their own families and communities. Following Jesus entails setting out on a difficult path that may well lead to rejection and suffering.

Others have walked that path before us. The author of Hebrews lists many heroes whose faith and trust in God allowed them to accept great personal cost as they heeded God’s call. Jesus himself is the supreme exemplar of that kind of faith. Indeed, he is “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). If we choose the way that leads to conflict, we have the assurance that Christ has gone before us and will be with us at every step.

A Hymn for Today: “God, Whose Purpose Is to Kindle”

The writer of this hymn, David Elton Trueblood, a Quaker, titled this hymn “Baptism by Fire” and included it in his book The Incendiary Fellowship (1966), stating that it provided a summary of the entire book. During most of his career, Trueblood worked as a professor of philosophy and wrote more than thirty books. This hymn is based in part on Luke 12:49, the very first verse in today’s Gospel reading.

God, whose purpose is to kindle
Now ignite us with your fire.
While the earth awaits your burning,
With your passion us inspire.
Overcome our sinful calmness,
Stir us with your saving name.
Baptize with your fiery Spirit,
Crown our lives with tongues of flame.

God, who still a sword delivers
Rather than a placid peace,
With your sharpened Word disturb us,
From complacency release!
Save us now from satisfaction,
When we privately are free,
Yet are undisturbed in spirit
By our neighbor’s misery.

God, who in your holy gospel
Wills that all should truly live,
Make us sense our share of failure,
Our tranquility forgive.
Teach us courage as we struggle
In all liberating strife.
Lift the smallness of our vision
By your own abundant life.

Text: David Elton Trueblood, 1900-1994, alt. © Estate of D. Elton Trueblood. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857

Image Credit: Fire, Robert Pinart and Dieter Goldruhle, stained glass, Washington National Cathedral

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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