Sermons 2007
"Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Proper 15C 2007 Luke 12:49-56

In the summer of 1978 I was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. It had been a long dry summer, worse than this summer in Virginia. In the summer in Kansas the wind blows from the South out of Mexico and Texas across Oklahoma and Kansas. Here was a scorching heat.

We were out on maneuvers in this scorching south wind when a spark from an engine exhaust set the prairie grass underneath on fire. Now, for a half century the post fire department and engineers had done everything they could to prevent a prairie fire. The dry tinder was deep. The wind fanned fire was immediately out of control, raging 50 to 100 feet high, and pushed by the high plains wind at better than 60 miles per hour, leaping across dry creek bottoms and even paved roads. We were barely able to move people and equipment out of the way.

The maneuver area was now a true burnt barren waste, a huge grim black scar on the landscape for the rest of the summer and autumn until the snows of the harsh Kansas winter covered it up. Then, as the snow melted in the spring, the scar disappeared and the prairie grass, no longer hindered by the thick dead tinder, sent forth more fresh shoots than ever. Prairie flowers burst forth in fresh abundance. The fire had healed the dying plains. In fact, the next summer the post engineer fire department set out with controlled burning to cleanse the rest of the maneuver area as well.

Jesus said,” I have come to bring fire to the earth.” Quite a jump shift from the “Do not be afraid, little flock,” of last Sunday’s passage. It seems at first glance to be a passage of the most severe judgment, a threat of hot hell fire and damnation. But we must consider the context in which the Gospel of Saint Luke was written.
In general, most biblical scholars think that Luke’s Gospel was written between 80 and 85 AD, half a century after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and 10 to 15 years after the Roman destruction of the Temple and the forced mass dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire beginning in 70 AD.

With the destruction of the Temple cult and the final establishment of rabbinical Judaism in this period, families and communities found themselves divided between those who became Jewish Christians and those who remained solely observant Jews. In fact, not until the Second Century AD did the Romans stop thinking of Christians as only a minor sect of Judaism.

In this ancient world, conversion to Christianity was divisive in families as well as communities. It still is. A sociology professor every year begins his course on "The Family" by reading to his class a letter, from a parent, written to a government official. In the letter the parent complains that his son, once obedient and well motivated, has become involved with some weird new religious cult. The father complains that the cult has taken over the boy's life, has forced him to forsake all of his old friends, and has turned him against his family.

After reading the letter, the professor asks the class to speculate what the father is talking about. Almost without exception, the class immediately assumes that the subject of the letter is a child mixed up with the "Moonies," or Hare Krishna, or some other controversial group. After the class puts out all of the possible conclusions they can think of, the professor surprises them by revealing that the letter, was written by a third century father in Rome, the governor of his province, complaining about this weird religious group called "The Christians." (1)

The trouble in the current Century is that we Christians, at least in America, aren’t controversial enough, at least not in the ways that Christ wanted us to be. We seem to find our current divisions over fine and basically irrelevant points of theology. Irrelevant in the face of crushing poverty in this most powerful country in the world, of increasing numbers of teenage unwed pregnancies, lack of education, still too spotty health care – the list goes on and on. That’s just here. Abroad the situation in Africa and parts of Asia is too difficult to contemplate.

Jesus said, “I come to bring fire to the earth.” May he set our hearts on fire.


1. Dr. William H. Beljean, Jr., Sermon: “An Interesting Letter", as quoted in eSermons Illustrations for Proper 15C.