August 16, 2013

Jesus Came To Bring Fire (Proper 20)

It is tempting to skip over this passage (Luke 12.49-56) with it’s dark warning about family divisions and check the other Readings for something happier. The problem is the Good News often seems to come out of the bad news. The verses before our Isaiah (5.1-7) Reading mention a “Spirit of judgement” and a “Spirit of fire”. It is important to understand what Jesus means by ‘bringing fire’. Fire brings with it light, destruction and purification.

1. Jesus is often described as the light of the world
Light helps us see what is hidden in darkness. The darkness Jesus talks about is often spiritual darkness.
Jesus quotes the Isaiah mission of opening the eyes of the blind:
·         His ministry included miraculous healings of physical blindness
·         It focussed particularly on spiritual blindness
·         Spiritual blindness has always been our greatest challenge
·         People understand that there is an invisible spiritual dimension  – and that things that happen there affect what happens here
·         Beyond that we have very little understanding – Book of Job, Elijah
·         By shining the light of His teaching and experience on the world, Jesus opened human eyes to the spiritual dimension
·         This light freed humanity form the prison of spiritual ignorance
·         This light freed people deception and  spiritual oppression

2. Jesus fire destroyed the power of evil to deceive us

·         Satan’s power was dependent on his ability to deceive people into separating themselves from God through rebellion and sin. The Adam and Eve story explains how this works – Satan twists the truth and creates doubt which tests our faith and our love of God. The story of the temptations of Jesus teaches us how to respond to the temptations of life:
o    Bread (Materialism) – we need depend more on the Word of God than bread
o    Kingdoms of the world – God is the king and not mocked
o    Miracles (religious stunting) – do not test God
3. Jesus fire can purify our souls
·         The Cross was the centrepiece of Jesus ministry and mission. This was the sacrificial death of an innocent man for the sins of the whole world. This is hard for us to grasp as it transcends our understanding of justice.
  •            Supernatural justice is different as God values love and mercy over fairness and reason – Biblical example of paying the workers who stared late equally
  •          Bottom line is that God is God and has authority to change rules and judge
  •         God decided that the powerful love and obedience of His son – God himself in a sense; could absorb and pay for all human sin
  •          We are not god so we do not really understand how it works
  •          Seems to depend on our repentance and faith in asking for forgiveness
  •          The penalty for a sin is death
  •          Repentance and confession is the fire that burns up our love for a particular sin - confession makes it public so it looses it's power of secret guilt - self-confession can be powerless in comparison
  •       We die emotionally and spiritually to our love for that particular sin
  •          We take it to the Cross and ask Jesus to forgive us – and go back in time to weep as we see how much it costs Jesus
  •          We see our sin guilt burned up in the love of Jesus
  •          We accept this forgiveness , thank Jesus and are free

The challenge is to be ready!
We know all of this but sometimes fail to apply it to our daily lives. Jesus is calling on us in these Readings to be people growing in our faith and spiritual lives. Every day we make choices to either assume:
·         Like the Hebrews that we are resting behind a hedge of spiritual protection, walled off from the world and watered by the Spirit, or,

·         We are as Jesus warns, in a spiritual battle, under constant attack and dependent for our survival on:
o    The light of Jesus to see the deceptive lies hidden in the dark
o    The wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide us in choices

o    The fire of Jesus purifying love and mercy to forgive us

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