If your image of Jesus is of Mr Nice Guy, always meek and mild, then the Gospel today will come as a massive shock. In the Gospel, from Luke chapter 12, verses 49-53, there doesn’t seem to be a hint of gentle Jesus, or even nice Jesus, but instead a wholesale picture of family feuding and fighting. Maybe we always imagine Jesus as the gentle prince of peace. But in this passage it seems Jesus is more the prince of division than prince of peace.
Maybe we are like the contemporaries of the prophet Micah, who reminds us in chapter 7 at the end of his book, that family dysfunction is a sure indication that everything is not the way that God originally intended. Micah laments about the many things that are going wrong in the world, and that there is only one way forward – which is to trust in the Lord and wait for the God of salvation.
Many years ago, I was in the habit of falling asleep while listening to music on my headphones, and mostly it was pretty quiet and gentle kind of music. One of my mates, knowing that this was my habit, decided it would be rather funny to add some extra music to the end of the tape. So just as the music was doing its trick, and I was calmly and gently falling asleep, it was all rudely interrupted by loud heavy metal music – which immediately jerked me wide awake.
Perhaps my friend’s trick was a bit cruel, but the shock of the crash of those notes interrupting the gentle melody is a great image of the warning that Jesus gives us in our Gospel today. Jesus sees a crisis coming. He says ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!
The crisis that is coming will centre on him – the baptism of his own suffering and death – and he can’t believe that the people around him can’t see the massive storm that is brewing. Perhaps we are being invited today to really wake up and take a long and hard look at all that surrounds us in the world. We have to read the signs of the times and act accordingly.
We pray in the Our Father for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it in heaven. Surely the church is called to ponder the events on earth and address them with the truth of heaven. Maybe we need to wake up with a crash so that we don’t remain asleep on the job.
Journey Radio Program recording
Sunday 20, Year C. Luke 12:49-53