Jeremiah 23:23 – 29 Psalm 82 Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2 Luke 12:49 – 56 As a student of history, I am always fascinated to see and hear how different families reacted to different historical events. During the Revolutionary War, for instance, we often assume that most people living in the colonies were for the war against England. In fact, scholars estimate that between 15% to 20% of the 2.5 million people living in America at that time were Loyalists. Many of them for the simple reason that they feared the “madness of the multitude,” the violence and anarchy of rebellion and the possible despotism of an American Caesar. “Almost all of the loyalists were, in one way or another, more afraid of America than they were of Britain,” said William H. Nelson in the 1961 “The American Tory. The same divisions were found in the North and South during the Civil War. In the South, many people feared the unknown and refused to fight for an institution that they could not and would not support. In the North, many feared a strong central government and were willing to let states decide, even if they disagreed on the issues. Families divided on these political lines and many were torn apart by the war. It was easier to choose one side or another than it was to live as one who disagreed in the midst of those you disagreed with. We could continue to recount division after division over the years, not just about war, but also over major social issues and reforms. In the early part of the last century, many church folks fought for the prohibition of alcohol. During the Great depression many people complained about the New Deal and the jobs it brought. Throughout World War II many citizens had a difficult time waring against their native homeland while black Americans fought for a nation that segregated them even in War. During the 1960’s cultural revolution, families were divided on issues of race, civil rights, freedom and many struggled with what was proper dress, music and freedom for young people. In the ‘80’s social issues continued to cause division as issues that were important to one generation were not seen as important to the next. All of these point to the realities of today when we, as a nation, seemingly face a time of division. As we allow politicians to divide us over issues we really aren’t that far off from each other on, it becomes more and more difficult to carry on meaningful conversations and find common ground to move forward together on. It amazes me what both parties pretend to promise us knowing full well they can never deliver on many of these promises. It seems, so they argue, that we need a politician to save us from ourselves; when in reality we need to save ourselves from our politicians. It has become so sad that most millennials consider this election a joke and may not participate in it. I wonder then this morning, is it comforting or scary to seemingly hear Jesus say to us: there will be division and in fact, I have come to inspire some of it. There is power in the gospel to divide. There is power in the gospel to not build up as we often focus on and claim. There is power in the gospel to pit father against son, mother against daughter, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. What happened to father-in-law and son-in-law? There is power in the gospel to divide us along lines of faith and tradition and along the lines of law and gospel. The law seems and feels easier to follow. The gospel allows us the freedom of living into the good news we are called to share together. Yet, despite the good news and the gospel we share, we often find it easier to divide rather than unite. We see churches divide over issues that do not affect them and we often find disunity more comforting than unity. We allow our feelings to be hurt, our personalities get in the way and we tear down rather than build up the body of Christ. Jesus began with a word of fire and baptism. Fire can be damaging and painful, it can also be used as a purifying force – a way to separate impurities from the pure metals, as a way to renew the land and as a way for the ancient believers to offer gifts of sacrifice to the gods in the form of smoke that arose to the heavens. For Jesus then the fire may hopefully burn down our human need for security and those human institutions and politicians who seek to provide us with human security instead of the security we find in our faith in God. The baptism Jesus mentions here is his own baptism into death on the cross. This is why he is under stress until it is complete. This is why he continually journeys towards Jerusalem and the cross. This is why our human understanding of baptism lifts up both the promise that comes from it and the death and new birth that comes through the symbolism of drowning and rising from the depths. It is both a happy occasion as we seek to continually find the power of god in our live and perhaps a sad occasion when we realize the power that God has now over our lives. I read a great poem the other day that mentioned a young person trying to get the priest to unbaptized them. After listening to the priest’s sermon, they no longer wanted to be beholden to this God who world demand that they act as Christ would act towards family, friends and enemies. I wonder sometimes, if we all think about that enough… Our baptisms invite us into the spiritual journey we call faith. Our baptisms invite us to live in a new kind of way where we think of others and not ourselves and the reward we may receive. Our baptisms invite us to look and interpret these times and consider all that Jesus has done, is doing and will continue to do for the poor, the outcast. The stranger, the foreigner, and hungry child, the poorly educated child, the hungry, the homeless, and anyone else who is among the lost, least, and overlooked in our society. Our baptisms may even lead us to Seminary or who knows, perhaps even Australia. There is the division Jesus seeks among families as we are called and sent into the world, even if it means sending our own into the world. Isn’t that ultimately what church is all about? Sure we want to get together with family and friends, share the peace and a meal, catch up on the gossip or welcome the newcomer among us. But mostly what we are seeking is encouragement, tools and the spiritual strength to make it through another week or two in this crazy mixed up world. In the midst of the unknown, in the midst of senseless and painful deaths, in the midst of the downright scary places and the crazy people around us, the church offers a sanctuary of peace, hope and security. This perhaps makes it all the more difficult to hear Jesus words today.In light of the possible division, let us commit ourselves to try these things. Let us try reaching out in love and faith to someone who is hurting. Try lifting up someone who is down and out. Try visiting with someone who is lonely or afraid. Let us try sitting with those whose lives are broken in the midst of loss and illness. Try sharing from our abundance with those who are less fortunate. Try to not judge and interpret everything others do in the best possible light. Let’s try to do these things knowing that we may not always be received, but in the process of trying, we are attempting to bring unity in the midst of division; peace in the midst of violence, and hope for a better future in the shadow of the cross of Christ. In this midst of the great War and division found in the waning aftermath of the Civil war, Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, attempted to bridge the gap of human decency and build a way forward for a united nation. "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." Perhaps the Olympics are an attempt by our divided world to bring us all together. Sure, there will be problems and issues when you get that many different people together in one place. However, for the most part, it has been about different people from different cultures, nations, and various skills at certain events coming together to play, compete and unite. The walls that divide in Rio De Janeiro can quickly come down, not just because they were hastily and shoddily built, but also because they are there for the same reason. For the love of their nation and for the love of the games they play. May we, in our journeys with Christ to the cross, see not some far off finish line that needs to be crossed, but may we instead see friend, foe, competitor and bystander alike. For the destination is assured, it is the journey to that place, the relationships we build, and the people whose lives we touch along the way that really and truly matter.