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Not Peace but Division49“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter–in–law and daughter–in–law against mother–in–law.”
Interpreting the Times54He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It's going to rain,’ and it does. 55And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It's going to be hot,’ and it is. 56Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?
1. We pay attention to a lot of different things in our lives. We check the weather, we check the stock market, we check the box scores from last night's game (the Yankees lost btw, : ( What if we paid attention to what God was doing as much as we paid attention to these things? God is at work all around us whether we are a part of it or not! This is a very humbling thought! I like to think that God's work needs to be done in this world, so I better get busy... but it's not about me. I should feel more honored, I should feel more humbled, I should feel more in awe about participating in God's action for the transformation of the world!
2. This passage makes me uncomfortable because I guess, in a way, I really do believe that Jesus did come, does come, to bring peace on earth. I can't quite put my finger on exactly why I believe this at the moment, but I can think of tons of ways that Jesus did bring people together and still does bring people together! Jesus preached peace, and Jesus acted to create peace. Why would he say what he says in verse 51? What does he mean? Why does it bother me so much?
3. Of course, since the NIV uses the word "baptism," this got me thinking about baptism. This is a huge point of dissension between denominations that I deal with fairly often. I was visiting "The Bridge" church in Phoenix a few weeks ago and they had a few baptisms. Now, "The Bridge" is associated with the Baptist Church (and it is very cool btw) so the sermon on baptism and the theology surrounding it, was of course different than mine. This is what I learned from this wonderful experience: I think that baptism is a tool that God gives us to use. It doesn't "mean" exactly one thing, it is God being present through water and the Spirit to symbolize and transform in different ways. The Ancient Jews used baptism as a conversion experience, John the Baptist used it as a sign of repentance, Baptists use it as a sign to symbolize a commitment to Christ (what John Wesley would call "justifying grace"), United Methodists use it as a sign of all of these things and more. Jesus is using the term to refer to God marking him and being present in the Crucifixion. I think it matters how we use baptism, more than whether we roll the dice correctly and decide EXACTLY what baptism "means."