By Roberta Mosier-Peterson at pastortiedye.blogspot.com
Michelle Carter won the gold medal in Rio by shot putting 20.63 meters which is 67.68 feet. This is amazing! This was her 3rd Olympics and she is the first woman from the United States to win gold in the shot put. She was a surprise champion. Among the other amazing things about this is that her father is her coach. He expressed his pride in her accomplishment and was ecstatic as he shared her glory as her coach. He said, “As parents, we jump for joy, are happy, but as her coach, I’m responsible for what happens when she fails. But she finally succeeded. The coach has retired for this year and the dad is now just walking around happy, with his chest stuck out.”
It strikes me that a family such as the Carters are much like all families. It is clear that they love one another. They have values, priorities, and a way of communicating that. It could be said that the members of the Carter family treasure one another and they also treasure shot putting.
Jesus’ words in Luke 12:49-56 are hard because we also treasure our families. We are encouraged to do so by our families, by our society, and even by our Judeo-Christian faith.
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be 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 daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
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. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 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?'”
This scripture is doubly hard because, at first glance, with only a superficial reading of it, Jesus seems to contradict other scriptures that tell us that peace is offered to us through His word and work in our lives. (By the way, these are some very favorite scriptures of mine) These passages seem to say the very opposite of what Jesus is saying in Luke 12:49-56. Consider these:
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
It is possible to hold all of this together at the same time. In fact, these truths are all essential in understanding the nature of discipleship and obedience.
Jesus introduces his followers here in Luke 12:49-56 to the basic, shocking fact that obedience is thicker than blood. He is now heading toward Jerusalem where he will be immersed in difficulty. The truth that Jesus has proclaimed, has lived, and is inviting us into demands our absolute ALL. His way has to become our way. If Jesus’ way becomes our primary loyalty, we are headed for fire.It is inevitable that those who are closest to us – even our family members- will want us to follow their values, their priorities, their goals. There are times that this brings crises. We are given a choice, will we choose our family’s way or will we follow Jesus’ way? Will we accept radical change in our lives which mean that we end up “treasuring” that which seems a little ridiculous to those who are most dear to us?Even though this seems shocking, it has a ring of truth. To those listening to this for the first time, to the disciples, they would know that they had indeed left their families to follow. For instance, James and John, the sons of Zebedee heard Jesus call right there in their fishing boat with their dad. They literally left their dad in the boat, left the family enterprise of fishing,the priorities and values of their father, to become Jesus’ apprentices. It is obvious that Zebedee would not have agreed or understood such a shocking and maybe even disrespectful act. He very well might have thought and said, “My sons hate me!”
John Wesley’s covenant prayer gives us a way of understanding and praying this hard reality. We embrace Jesus call and sometimes this means being emptied or abandoned. However, it is true that as we walk with Jesus, he provides everything that we need. Here is the prayer: “Make us what you will Lord, and send us where we are to go. Let us be vessels of silver or gold, or vessels of wood or stone; as long as we are vessels of honor we are content. If we are not the head or the eye or the ear, one of the nobler or more honorable instruments, then let us be the hands, or the feet, as one of the lowest and least esteemed of all the servants of our Lord. Lord, place us in your kingdom in roles you have designed for us. Lord make all of us your servants. In exalted places, or humble places. Let us be full, let us be empty. Let us have all things, let us have nothing. We freely and gladly embrace our places in your kingdom.”