Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” ( Luke 12:49-53)
Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus came to set our hearts on fire, burning brightly with His love and motivating us to not only step out in faith but to step up to what our faith is about.
The problem is that often we draw near to God with asbestos around our hearts. We don’t draw near with the love we should. We say our prayers, but rush through them without love. We go to Church and time the preacher’s sermon. We want our Christianity “light” please. Oh, and not a lot of rules either because we value our freedom.
Isn’t that the world most of us live in?
We want our meat drowned in gravy but minus the fat. We want our drinks laced with sugar but minus the calories. We want low fat, less sugar, and so we want a comforting Jesus minus the demands.
We want our Christianity to always be about Christmas. . . charming portrayals of a baby in a manger, animals standing meekly nearby, a remarkably well-recovered new mother looking on lovingly at her new-born child, shepherds gazing in wonder, wise men laying down their gifts, and a clear sky above with one star brighter than all others.
I like these images too.
But they distract, and we forget momentarily that the one in the manger is God’s Messiah by whom the world will be judged, the one who will hang in bloody agony on a cross for our sins until dead.
Jesus is challenging us to choose him and when we do, to know that there is a cost to be borne. When we choose Jesus, Calvary is our home. But, if we shade Jesus grey, we will find excuses to stand in the shadow. When Jesus is watered down, then our task is to ensure that Jesus does not intrude into our lives. He can be there but he must not disturb our comfort. We want a Jesus to tell us that He loves us but we don’t want a Jesus to remind us that it is our sins that keep us away from his love.
Jesus’ message was hard but honest. No one who hears and considers His words could ever feel misled about the cost of discipleship. But also, no one who hears and considers his words could ever doubt that there is no other choice to make than surrendering to Him as Lord, no other life worth living than giving every day and every breath to him, no other destiny worth pursuing than eternity in his presence. His way is the only way.
In my morning prayer today, I randomly (or so I thought) chose to begin with song and I listened to Dan Schutte sing “Only This I Want.” The chorus is:
“ Only This I Want but to know the Lord, And to bear the cross so to wear the crown he wore.”
That says it all.
We choose to bear the cross so that each of us can wear the crown he wears. Eternal life with God in His kingdom.
Nothing has greater value or import in our lives.
If we are to choose the less travelled road of moral integrity otherwise known as the less travelled path of suffering then only Jesus can be our rock, our salvation. Nothing less is good enough to be a shield and an armor against the winds that blow around us.
We must always keep our eyes and hearts on the prize.
When we commit to Jesus and obey his word, we find true peace, joy and happiness.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Make me strong in love and fidelity that nothing may hinder me from doing your will.”
The problem today we will do nearly anything to avoid a confrontation or argument. ‘Play nice’, we are told, like small children, compromise, negotiate and keep the peace at any cost sacrificing even the Gospel. We become so accustomed to evil it hardly moves us. Is religious liberty more important, for example, than religion, a right relationship with our government rather than a right relationship with God? Jesus, however, directly confronted the powerful, questioning, challenging or condemning evil. No gospel writer knew this better the John who ten lines into his gospel acknowledged that Jesus, “was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not . . . .” And then incredibly we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1, 10-14)