By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 12:49-56
49 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they 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.”
54 He 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. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
I’ve always loved Gone With the Wind (inhaling the whole 1,000 pages inside of four days), which is odd because it doesn’t have any characters I really admire. In many ways, it’s a more modern story than you’d expect, the kind where all the characters are deeply flawed. They can only begin to overcome their failings when they see them clearly. Scarlett can only realize her love for Rhett when she understands that the Ashley she thinks she’s loved is no more than a figment of her imagination. It’s largely a story about how Scarlett deludes herself.
The thing is, we do the same thing with Jesus. Ever heard anyone use the term, “my Jesus”? When we creep into language like that (and we have many ways of doing it), we show that we’ve enshrined our tendency to reduce the one we worship to the parts we like. We remember well “Come to me, all you who are weary,” and “I will be with you always.” And we should remember these well. But less well do we remember “Take up your cross,” “Keep my commandments,” and especially today’s lesson, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” The first time I read my little girls the story about Jesus cleansing the temple, they said, “Jesus wouldn’t do that.” The tendency to think we know him sets in early.
We have a choice: self-delusion (remembering only the comfortable parts) is remarkably easy (just ask Scarlett O’Hara); or we can work to keep our eyes open. The real Jesus is always going to foil our efforts to have him figured out. A good rule of thumb: if Jesus doesn’t make you at least a bit uncomfortable, it’s probably not the real Jesus.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Tallahassee, Fla.