Grace Episcopal Church

Reaching the world for Jesus Christ beginning in Casanova

Sunday's Sermon by Fr. Jim Cirillo 


Luke 12: 49-56                        Jesus Unleashed                      Grace                                                        8-18-2019 Luke 12: 49-56



The 1928 Book of Common Prayer has a section which was known as the Comfortable Words.  It is also found in Rite 1 of this prayer book and these comfortable words begin with words of Jesus found in Matthews Gospel where He says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Those are comfortable words of Jesus.  And if they are, the words from Luke’s Gospel today would have to be the Uncomfortable Words of Jesus.


This is not the Jesus of childhood – that is little Jesus meek and mild.  This is not the “90’s guy” Jesus all in touch with his feelings and His feminine side.  But it IS Jesus!  It’s not another Jesus or a different Jesus but rather another side, a different side of the same Jesus who is caring and compassionate and sometimes gentle and tender.  This is the side of Jesus that many in the Episcopal Church are very uncomfortable with because it’s really not about peace and unity at all costs.  Just ask the Jesus who overthrew tables in the Temple court.


I went to check out the helpful website “The Desperate Preacher” and I found lots of interesting comments about this.  Rather than fitting them all nicely into this text, I thought I would just read some of them to you.  As you will see, they don’t all agree!


I am sure I am not alone in thinking, "Where is my gentle Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one who takes the children into his arms?"


Jesus unleashed!  Enough of the domesticated Jesus who can fit in just about anybody's pocket!  Enough of the Jesus who sits in a corner like some wallflower hoping that he will be asked to dance!  Jesus unleashed!

This is a picture of Jesus served straight!  You see, peace as the world wants it is not going to be happening with Jesus.  Yessir!  How many times do people talk about peace but all they mean is that whoever is their opponent should shut up and roll over!

But the peace Jesus talks about is Peace with Justice.  And THAT is no party!  And best part of it, he is OKAY with the way the cookie crumbles.  Jesus is not interested in unity for the sake of unity.  Its going to get HOT. Very HOT!


Jesus might have been the first postmodern! Unity is not necessarily and always a good thing. Unity does sometimes mean a silencing of certain voices.  Division could mean that everyone has a voice.   Jesus is not about unity, Jesus is about Justice.


So often, the question is, "Why can't we all just get along?"  Maybe the answer is Jesus speaking the words none of us want to hear, "I told you so!"  I told you to expect division.  I told you it wouldn't be easy.  I told you everyone would be critical.

Why are we uncomfortable here in our pews?  Because it's not comfortable to be the church in today's world (it never really was, though we tried awfully hard in the 50's & 60's). We are always (in some way) counter-cultural, though for many years we thought we had made the culture Christian.  There is no longer a Christendom in the USA, if there ever really was.

And now we preach the Gospel, sometimes falling into some kind of warm fuzzy cheap grace.  Tolerance and acceptance becomes the creed, rather than "Jesus is Lord!"


To me, the division is similar to the division of the sheep and the goats. God loves us, God gives us free choice.  We love God back and surrender to God or we don't.  


There are some good thoughts in these statements.  Some challenging thoughts which don’t all fit together easily but are nonetheless valid ideas.  Jesus says clearly, in words that refer directly back to Micah 7:6, that there will be divisions even in families. Fathers against sons and mothers against daughters and even divisions among in laws.  Wait – that’s just life with teenagers and married life with in-laws (sometimes).  My guess is that’s not in fact what He’s talking about though it does fit.  He talks about divisions in other places and with other examples.  There are wheat and tares (weeds), sheep and goats.  In each example there is a good and bad group.  Wheat is good – weeds are bad.  Sheep are good – goats are bad.  In today’s divisions, Jesus doesn’t say who is good and who is bad, just that there are or will be divisions.


And we certainly see it around us.  There is division between those who are Christian believers and those who are not.  Each group approaches life with a different world view and perspective.  There is division within the church as well.  We know that it’s occurring in the Episcopal Church and there’s a lot of pain to go with it.  But we’re not alone.  There is division in other denominations also.  It’s to be expected.  After all, that’s what the reformation of 500 years ago was.  It was a division based on what some thought was doing “the right thing” by returning to some basic Christian practice and understanding.  Now we face a division with some trying to do “the right thing” by moving beyond what is the accepted Christian practice and understanding.  It’s difficult.  And what makes it difficult is that everybody thinks that their point of view is right.  If someone really thought they were wrong, deep down knew they were wrong, there wouldn’t be a fight.  They would just say – this is wrong!  But since everyone thinks they are right - we have some serious division.


And so, in the midst of the remaining tensions in the Episcopal Church, we can take these uncomfortable words of Jesus as comfortable words.  Comfortable in the sense that Jesus told us to expect such times, such division.  It doesn’t become easy all of the sudden, but maybe it does allow some at least, to lower the level of angst that they feel over the divisions we face.  Eventually, God is going to sort it all out.  And my guess is that folks on both sides of the current dividing issue will be surprised at God’s ultimate outcome.


The story goes that being much concerned about the rise of denominations in the church, John Wesley tells of a dream he had.  In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell.  There he asked, "Are there any Presbyterians here?"  "Yes!” came the answer.  Then he asked, "Are there any Baptists?  Any Episcopalians?  Any Methodists?"  The answer each time was Yes!  Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven.  There he asked the same question, and the answer was No!  "No?"  To this, Wesley asked, "Who then is inside?"  The answer came back, "There are only Christians here.


Let us then live more as Christians than Episcopalians.  Let us give Jesus room in our lives to be Lord in ways that take us out of our comfort zones.  Let Jesus be unleashed, as one person put it, as more than gentle Jesus, friendly shepherd and tender, caring 90’s guy.  He is the Lion of Judah and the Lord of His church even though we may not think it looks that way at this time.  Let us be intentional and consistent in following Him knowing that, whatever the path, He is with us on the journey.   AMEN