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Division is what we make if it

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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.

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1 Sara Di Diego = "23 “Am I only a God nearby,”declares the Lord,    “and not a God far away?24 Who can hide in secret places    so that I cannot see them?”declares the Lord.    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”declares the Lord.25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"
2 Sara Di Diego = "29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon,Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
3 Sara Di Diego = "49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”Interpreting the Times54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?"
4 norma p = ""Perhaps the Olympics are an attempt by our divided world to bring us all together"Wholesome thought.  I kind of- sort of - like to believe this. Certainly seeing our Olympic teams parade at the beginning of each Olympic spectacle sets our nations apart, but yet together. It's inspiring and also educational.Yet, when the races begin...the team sports play out their best .... it's then that competition stirs within us and likely brings the BEST or the WORST out of us: spectator as well as entrepreneur.  Yet, the only thing that these Olympics seem to promote are selfish commercial dealings that have the ability to bring out the BEaST in many and not the BEST. Moderation is the key to it all; but do we ever really learn this ?"