First Lesson: Isaiah 5: 1-7
Responsive Reading: Psalm 80: 1-2, 8-19
Second Lesson: Hebrews 11: 29- 12:2
Gospel Lesson: Luke 12: 49-56
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“If you can’t fly run, if you can’t run walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward”- Martin Luther King Jr.
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house, there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 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 a daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”-Jesus of Nazareth- Luke 12:51-53.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus comes at us with some words that probably will catch all of us off-guard “I come not to bring peace but a sword.”
The way to understand this passage is to learn about the context in which these words were spoken. In the earliest days of Christianity, if a Jew converted then he was cut off from his family. If a Roman converted, they were viewed as a fool who was often engaged in treason against the empire.
To understand what it would have been like for people to announce they were converting to Christianity in the 1st century imagine the following scenario: a thriving college student who seems destined for medical school. Now imagine this student announcing to his parents that he intends to drop out of school and follow some band with what Mom and Dad consider awful sounding music all over the world as a roadie. The parents would rightfully think that their child was wasting their life. Now imagine this scenario and as you hear Jesus’ words for today. Imagine now the college student within Jesus’ day confessing to his parents that he was going to become a Christian. Jesus was the ultimate interriant preacher surrounded by seemingly nothing other than deadbeats and hangers-on. Jesus’ realized that following his ministry would create turmoil for the Disciples and those close to them.
Jesus is getting at something very important today as he speaks to the Disciples and that is the importance of mission in the midst of hardship.
One of the more influential books that I’ve ever read is Dr. Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Branden seeks to ask the question of this book “How do you keep going in life when everything is working against you whether it is your family or your situation?” Branden’s answer is self-esteem comes from living purposefully out one’s mission.
Let me illustrate how living with a mission might work. Bill Wilson was a thirty-nine-year-old alcoholic. Wilson’s life was a complete mess. His marriage was in shambles and due to the Great Depression, his finances were a ruin. Wilson had lost his job after getting into a booze-induced fight at a country club. Wilson had tried everything from detox to support groups and the only place where Bill Wilson continually found comfort was in the bottle. Wilson eventually meets a friend who told him he recovered due to finding religion. Wilson thought the guy was nuts! Wilson’s life in the latest round of detox would soon change forever. Wilson took a drug that began to cause hallucinations. Wilson finally yelled out in agony “If there is a God, I am ready to do anything.” At that moment, it was almost as if God’s hand reached out to Wilson as he described a “white light filling his room” and “pain ceasing”. Wilson otherwise known as Bill W. would never have another drink the last thirty-seven years of his life. Wilson today is known as the founder of an organization called Alcoholics Anonymous. What forever changed Wilson’s life is expressed in AA’s step three “He turned his will and life over to the care of God as he understood him.” When Wilson was only living life for himself, he had no sense of mission. After his white light experience, the new found mission totally changed Bill Wilson from that day forward.
How might you live out Mission within your life? Let me tell another story; this story involves a personal confession. The year was 2009; I was working down in Lamberton, and the Vikings were playing the San Francisco 49ers. I was watching the game by myself. The Vikings seemed headed for defeat. My parents and sister were at the game. Vikings fans had already left in large numbers. Twelve seconds left in the game, the Vikings new QB Brett Favre hoists a ball to the back of the end-zone. Greg Lewis catches it; the Vikings win the game and the play is known as “The Minneapolis Miracle.”
How did I react to this catch in the privacy of home? I started running around the house as fast as I could, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, I feel down on the ground and started hyperventilating from all the excitement. My breathing wasn’t back to the normal for probably a half- hour.
Why do I tell this story? It has to do with a sense of mission.
Vince Lombardi once said, “Think of only three things: your God, your family and the Green Bay Packers in that order.”
My mission would be the same only with a different football team at the end.
I tell this story with no embarrassment this morning because everyone that knows me would believe it to be true. Your life mission ultimately shapes how you will interact with the world around you for both good and ill. Your mission can either be who everyone else wants you to be or who God calls you to be.
I also tell this story to illustrate Dr. Branden’s point that self-esteem comes from living for something bigger than you. One’s personal mission should cause them to approach the world not with a sense of embarrassment or shame but rather with a purpose even when things get tough.
What Jesus had been hearing about in our Gospel lesson for today was all sorts of conflict. To quote: David Lose “People were fighting within families, synagogues, and the larger public arena”. Jesus kept hearing about all sorts of families being broken up because of their faith. So Jesus seeks to speak to these conflicts involving mission.
Let me tell you a story related to the Olympics this morning. This story was captured in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell was born in China the son of missionaries. As Liddell grows up, he becomes known as the fastest runner in all of Scotland. Liddell’s fame spread as a potential “gold medal” winner. Liddell is one of the favorites at the 1924 Paris Olympics in the 100 meters until he finds out that the prelims were scheduled to run on a Sunday. Eric Liddell refuses to run because of his faith. The British Olympic Committee and even the Prince of Wales try to convince Liddell to change his mind. Liddell’s sake of mission was stronger than any conflict, Liddell’s mission was stronger even than the pull of a potential gold medal.
Your mission in life will probably not be the same as Eric Liddell’s. Your mission like his and will inevitability run into conflict.
What Jesus is illustrating to the Disciples this morning is something very important “If someone says something nasty to you, don’t let this keep you from your mission.”
People certainly said nasty things about Dr. King; people denounced Bill W. as not having been properly trained in counseling; people have certainly made fun of the Minnesota Vikings for having empty trophy cases. The thing about mission is that it can keep a person going even in the midst of divisions and disagreements within your life. Jesus is illustrating potential conflict over life mission in Today’s lesson by citing family conflict as the harshest of potential examples of mission conflict.
Yet Jesus in our Gospel is encouraging people to hang on to mission in one’s hardest of times.
Why cling to mission in the midst of hardship? Let me tell a story about why mission can ultimately bring hope to a person’s life. Henry and Jeanette DeLange were married in 1953. Jeanette DeLange several years back was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Jeanette went into nursing home care in 2011. Henry kept coming to visit Jeanette even with her mind unable to remember (one, two, or three times a day).
For Henry DeLange, his sense of mission to his wife was more important than any personal convenience. Several months back, Henry is diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. The Doctors weren’t able to do anything more for Henry DeLange. Henry eventually ends up in the same nursing home room as his wife, Jeannette. Sunday, July 31st: Jeannette died at 5:10 PM, Henry died at 5:30 PM.
Here’s how their son Lee DeLange described both Mom and Dad’s deaths “mom and dad were Christians. They loved Christ. They wanted so badly to show their love for Christ that they loved one another. It’s natural what they do. For them to be able to be a witness in life, also in death…That’s cool. Really cool.”
For what Henry DeLange’s story illustrates is that mission will not always be easy to live out. Mission will probably cause you to have all sorts of conflicts within your life. Mission might cause you to debate whether to visit your Alzheimer’s ridden-wife or do something simpler with your time. When you sustain mission, it can carry people not only into the grave but beyond the grave itself.
“God gave you this particular mix of talents and abilities because they match up with the mission that he has in mind for you.” -Matthew Kelly.
For let me tell you this morning where many people go wrong in this life. Many people go wrong by spending their days obsessed worrying about how other people are going to judge them. Instead how we should be approaching life is looking towards why God put us in this following time and place. We need not worry about judging other people’s value; we need instead focus on defining our own.
Jesus’ words that we hear today are hard. No one wants division within their life, especially with their families. For plenty of people within our midst, these words that Jesus says about houses being divided hit close to home. No one likes to hear negative feedback in life, especially from one’s family. What these words also indicate is that Jesus understands your pain on this day. Unfortunately, Jesus doesn’t have the words that will instantly heal every rift within this world in this instance. Jesus does have words to help deal with your conflicts. Define your mission! Look towards the cross!
Realize that you alone will not be able to fix all the problems that ail this world. Cling to the hope that there is a power out there that can forgive your past, can guide you in the present, and will save you in the future.
The following is a quote from Matthew 10:34 which parallels our Gospel lesson for today.
 The theme of “mission” in the sake of division comes from Ed Markquart’s sermon “Christ Brings Division” Pentecost 12: Year C. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Aug.9.2016.
 Dr. Branden’s book was originally published by Bantam publishing in 1994. It was republished again in 1995.
 Duhigg, Charles. Power of Habit. Random House. New York. 2014. Paperback Print. Pg.66-71.
 Duhigg, Charles. Power of Habit. Pg.67.
 Duhigg, Charles. Power of Habit. Pg.68.
 Duhigg, Charles. Power of Habit. Pg.70.
 Lombardi quote comes from 2001 Steve Molin sermon “Flashing Yellow Lights” found on lectionary.org.
 Lose, David. “Commentary on Luke 12:49-56”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 15. Aug.2010. Web. Aug.9.2016.
 Analogy idea taken from Zingale, Tim. “Cutting Edge”. Sermon Central. August 2001. Web. Aug.9.2016.
 “Eric Liddell”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 29.Jul.2016. Web. Aug.9.2016.
 Collen, Courtney. “ After 63 years of marriage, Platte couple dies 20 minutes apart.” KSFY News (Sioux Falls): ABC. 07.Aug.2016. Web. Aug.8.2016.
 Collen, Courtney. “ After 63 years of marriage, Platte couple dies 20 minutes apart.”
 Collen, Courtney. “ After 63 years of marriage, Platte couple dies 20 minutes apart.”
 Matthew Kelly is a Catholic Motivational Speaker. I got this quote from Saint Mary’s of Silver Bay Parish Secretary Cindy Rowlee.
 The idea for the hard sayings of Jesus came from Pastor Steve Molin’s sermon “A Strange Sort of Peace” copyright 2004 from Lectionary.org.