This passage from Luke's Gospel gives us a very different picture of the Lord Christ from the sweet and gentle shepherd we so often imagine him to be.
retold by Deborah
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing! I have a massive project ahead of me, and I’m really under the gun to complete it.
“Do you think I’m a fairy godfather who’s come to wave my magic wand and make everything peaceful and perfect? No way! No, I am going to stir things up royally.
“From now on there will be no more of this ‘go along to get along’ — saying nothing when evil deeds are done. No more silence in the face of injustice, hatred, and violence.
“There will be conflict and disagreement within families and between friends — some will be frightened, some will be weary, some will prefer what is safe and familiar rather than what is right.”
He also told the people, “When you see the sky filled with dark clouds, you immediately think, ‘It’s going to rain’; and it does. And when you hear the crickets chirping like crazy, you say, ‘Today is going to be a hot one!’ — and it is. What hypocrisy! If you know how to interpret the signs in the sky and on the earth, how can you say you can’t see what’s happening right before your eyes?"
In this passage we hear the voice of the “other Jesus” — not the one who blesses and heals and cuddles babies. This is the impassioned, angry, troublemaker Jesus, who speaks a frightening, painful truth: the work of the kingdom isn’t easy and won’t always be pleasant.
This Jesus tells us right out that if we follow Him, we will be in conflict with others, so if we want warm and cozy and comfortable, we’re out of luck. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. He’s come to challenge The System; to bring a complete change to the status quo.
Change is hard. And it can be scary. People don’t like change, even when it is for the best. When things are bad we make do, we adapt, we accommodate.
All of us have, in one way or another, learned to live with “things as they are.”
We’ve been trained to accept as facts — or inevitable outcomes — such raging sins against humankind as poverty, starvation, homelessness, war, hatred, and division. But Jesus calls all of this — every last lie of “conventional wisdom” — into question.
This Jesus insists that “the way of the world” — the greed, the grasping, the vicious system based on survival of the richest — is wrong. According to our Lord, the golden rule isn’t “the ones with the gold make the rules.”
Christ’s Gospel presents a value system based on heavenly treasures that do not rust or rot or decay. We are called to give our attention to the things that truly matter: love of God and love of neighbor; compassion, kindness, generosity, charity. In all things we are “to bless and not to curse.” That notion is a challenge to the current completely accepted and actively embraced system of curses and condemnation!
Instead of “looking out for number one,” Jesus tells us that we are to look to the One God; to be guided by the Source of life and love and understanding. The Gospel is not a path to self-fulfillment, but a summons to self-sharing: a call to live with open-hearted caring.
And that is risky. And scary. And utterly counter-cultural.
If we follow the Way our Lord Christ taught us, our lives and our prayers will be active and impassioned. We will fight against the status quo that willingly accepts every evil as a given. We will speak up for the abused, the neglected, and the forgotten. We will call out those who use their wealth, position, or power to “work the system” for their own ends.
If we follow him, we will, like our Lord before us, shake things up.
And that’s going to cause trouble.
Jesus rightly warned us of conflicts within families and between friends in the pursuit of the kingdom. We are going to upset people. We’re going to make some people angry, and frighten others. We’ll be threatened and scolded and told to keep quiet; we’ll be reminded, over and over: “this is the way the world works.”
But there is another way: the Way that nurtures and nourishes, that heals and blesses, that confronts what is evil, and seeks after what is good. And it is our task as Christians to remember it, to speak about it, and to live it.
May we always be given the faith and the courage to shake things up.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
How does your life of faith challenge “the world as it is”?