Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 12:49-56
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 15–Sunday Between August 14 and 20 Inclusive)
analysis by Michael Hoy

49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

DIAGNOSIS: Piecing Divisions

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Burned Out
This text, especially in light of its preceding parable and explanation about preparedness (vs. 35-48), indicates that the people whom Jesus encountered were unprepared for him and his mission. The sharpness of Jesus’ rhetoric, however, indicates that the problem is more than being unprepared. The people really did not want to be prepared for anything new–that is, they preferred the status quo of chronological living. Keeping the status quo means keeping to a minimum anything that disrupts (like divisions–and there is lots of division-talk in Jesus’ words) is to “manage” conflict. Thus, “managing” conflict is often controlling conflict so as not to let it get out of control. Where would the world be otherwise?

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Extinguished
Jesus calls the crowds “hypocrites” (v. 56)–which has the connotation of being “less-than-critical.” The truth is that there is a crisis before them, and they are unable to recognize its signs. While they may be able to make small-talk on the weather (vs. 54-55), they are unable to recognize the new wind and flaming fire that has come on the scene in the presence of Jesus. Their spirits have been effectively snuffed out by their longing to avoid crisis, to maintain the status quo.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Scorched
That behavior and unfaith, however, does not dissuade the approaching crisis. A crisis is not simply between human beings–it is divine in its significance. God is the one who is causing the stir, and the ramifications for the people (then and there, here and now) is that none of them will be able to bear the heat of God’s passionate wrath in the crisis that is before them.

PROGNOSIS: Peacing Divisions

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Refined
Jesus does step aside from that crisis, but places himself into the midst of it–for us and for our benefit. To face the fiery wrath of God is to be refined–and for Jesus the price for refining is death. That is the baptism of Jesus. But Jesus’ “stress” for its “completion” is for our benefit (v. 50)! Jesus wants to see us through the crisis and have our lives preserved through the process of refining. Through his own passion and death, Jesus gives himself to provide for our safe passage. Our own baptisms, joined with his death and resurrection, brings us through the refining and into new life.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Kindled
What kindles our hearts anew in faith is to have the assurance that we are, indeed, kindred. The new judgment that rests on our lives is not critical, but promising. That frees us, of course, to accept the criticism; but it also empowers us to live beyond it. Our status is redefined, and we are not left in the “state in which” we were, but now live with a new hope of a homeland “whither” we are going–from status quo to status quod!

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Blazing
As rejuvenated beings, we begin to blaze new trails. The truth is that Jesus’ new trail to the cross was not to create more divisions, but to heal a very deep division–between ourselves and God. Our new trails with our Lord will surely lead us into conflict (even in the struggle within ourselves–that struggle is itself a sign of faith!). But our mission, like our Lord’s, is to bring his peace to bear on the world, living kairologically (explosively) in the present time. Where would the world be otherwise?!


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