“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? (NRSV)
ire can be a terrible thing: However, the contained use of fire helped create the first civilization on earth. Adam and Eve must have learned early how to collect combustibles and spark a fire to provide warmth, heat water and cook food. The fire circles provided a place to gather family and friends. Heat from these fires kept them comfortable in winter and broke the darkness of night. Our family visited ancient Native American caves where these experiences were evident. Crude stick pictures on the cave walls chronicled these experiences.
Fires still are a major part of outdoor work and life. Contained indoor furnaces provide much of our electric fire power. Nuclear energy plants are a modern example of highly developed firepower which we depend on to sustain our lifestyles.
However, the power that Jesus is referring to in our text is “spiritual fire.” It is the power we are describing when a local church is being, “On fire for the Lord!”
If our church was physically on fire with hot flames destroying our sacred house it would be a devastating experience. We would lose our identity as a congregation. Insurance would help restore it, but the scars would be visible and our hearts would be emotionally broken.
However, today’s Gospel Lesson text deals with spiritual fire. Jesus said. “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” (Luke 12: 49) NRSV.
It is the metaphorical tongues of fire from Pentecost that keeps Jesus’ love in our hearts and the fire of ministry in our actions. Whenever local churches allow the fires to go out they cease to be true churches. Likewise, whenever believers allow their fire to be extinguished, they soon lose the fervor and “on fire lifestyle” that was once their life’s power.
Jesus did not want to destroy but to build up the disciples who formed the first small churches. His purpose in our text was to encourage, re-ignite, and build up stronger fervor within the community of faith. He was, and is, encouraging believers to use symbolic fire to burn away the sin that separates us from God and typically from each other. Homes divided, families divided, communities divided, nations divided and sadly churches divided, soon fall apart and fail. Sometimes it takes a fire in the form of a catastrophic event to draw groups of humans together in one accord. Wars and terroristic attacks have made our nation unified and stronger. As a result of the fires, smoke, ash and many deaths of 9/11/01 our nation is stronger. Families and churches that make the effort to re-unite find that their broken places become their strongest parts. They are reminded of the pain but also the victory.
Jesus is encouraging us to make efforts to mend the broken places in our lives. There must be some persons here today who have heard Jesus calling for spiritual healing fires to make our lives renewed and better.
Jesus points out divisions/brokenness between parents and children, husbands and wives, and church folks too. We need to get prayed-up and then we need to say we’re sorry. But mostly we need to hear Jesus’ voice bringing new life to our broken places and scars.
We might just need to get fired up in favor of a better life!
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor