This reflection is based on Luke 12:49-53
“I have not come to bring peace but cause division”
All throughout Jesus' ministry we find tough passages which seem to sit in contrast with what we would like to hear and what we think of as Jesus message.
All too often we skate over them but we shouldn’t.
Jesus came to earth with a two-part mission; to bring God’s message of love for his creation and that he desires for us to love and to love one another; and to give ultimate act of love in his sacrifice of himself on the cross.
However, this message of love does not come without disclaimers which can feel very contrary to this. Here Jesus’ disclaimer is warning us to expect division.
This is not ‘Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild’, this is the Jesus who turned the tables in the temple.
Today we see division all around us.
Our country is deeply divided, the wounds of Brexit alone are far from healed and I fear they will continue to carve deep for generations to come.
We are not alone, America is similarly divided by President Trump, gun laws, abortion laws, immigration policies. India’s Hindu leadership seems intent on discriminating against their Muslim citizens, and in South Sudan, two sides claiming to be Christians continue to battle against each other.
Why are we surrounded by such division? Because we are being asked to make a choice. As the old hymn goes; “Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood for the good or evil side.”
When tough choices have to be made there will be division.
This isn’t a case of do you like tomato ketchup or brown sauce, this is more vital than Remain or Leave. This is whether we have faith in God or not.
When we make the decision to follow Jesus we set ourselves apart and that will inevitably cause division. It is how to deal with that division which is important. We are called to love one another, love our neighbour, our enemy, even though division.
There are ways in which we can express our many differences, in love. With patience, listening, trying to understand, why people think the way they do, even if you don’t agree. Some of the best discussions can come from two people who are certain of why they think the way they do, and actually talk to each other about it, not shout at each other or put each other down. Not by picking holes or calling them names but in respectful conversation.
You only need to spend 10 minutes online reading the comments on any hot topic to see how quickly and easily it falls into a dark nasty place of name calling, condescension, and even people calling each other evil. So, I come to wonder if because Jesus tells us these divisions will be there, is it in these divisions we need to place ourselves and show love and react with love.
There is a famous saying my Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor from the last century;
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Division is often where injustice is found and we know we are called to act against injustice. So yes, I think where division lies is where we need to take ourselves and to ask ourselves what side would Jesus be on? Where would he sit on immigration, gun control, a fair wage for all, fair access to health care, discrimination, those demonized and those attacked just for being who they are?
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz gives an alternative to Niemöller’s poem.
First they came for the African Americans and I spoke up--
Because I am my sisters’ and my brothers’ keeper.
And then they came for the women and I spoke up--
Because women hold up half the sky.
And then they came for the immigrants and I spoke up--
Because I remember the ideals of our democracy.
And then they came for the Muslims and I spoke up--
Because they are my cousins and we are one human family.
And then they came for the Native Americans and Mother Earth and I spoke up--
Because the blood-soaked land cries and the mountains weep.
They keep coming.
We keep rising up.
Because we Jews know the cost of silence.
We remember where we came from.
And we will link arms, because when you come for our neighbours, you come for us— and THAT just won’t stand.
I think is how it should go.
This is where our mission should be, discerning well what side of the division we should be, easing the pain, showing the love, reacting with patience and grace wanting to find understanding.
We shouldn’t be scared of division, it is to be expected, and we are to love through it, not avoid it.
Mrs Lydia Remick LLM
Uncertainty is something we can all relate to, but living well includes the acceptance that we live momentarily. Not just in the sense that life can feel fleeting, but in the sense that all we ever really know for sure is what we experience now, in the moment. Yesterday is a memory that begins to change from the moment it ends, and tomorrow is only ever imagined and hoped for. This moment, the one we live in now, the one that includes you reading this, is all we ever experience. This moment is life, the rest is uncertain, so live it.
Uncertainty is the experience of realising that tomorrow will be different from today, and we have no way of knowing how different it will be.
Sadly, in the last few years the word ‘uncertainty’ has been synonymous with Britain’s proposed exit from EU. The question over how much ‘uncertainty’ continues to impact the UK economy has been reported in the news on an almost daily basis. Journalists, politicians, business leaders, financial advisors, professors, and local government leaders have all had their say over what it will mean. Despite their collective wisdom we are still left with… yes you guessed it, uncertainty. What will it mean? How will it affect us? What will it do to the economy, how will it affect our relationship with the other EU states, what will it create, or what will it destroy in the UK? So many questions. It seems the only thing we can be certain of is that it will definitely be different.
In medieval times cartographers used to write the words ‘beyond ‘ere be dragons’ at the edge of their maps denoting the threshold of unexplored lands and seas. Its effect was to ward off travellers and seafarers from the unknown. Don’t go there!
You may, like me, wish we had never even considered leaving the EU in the first place. Nevertheless, the fact remains, there is still a great deal of uncertainty.
You might be surprised to hear that for Christians this social anxiety about the future is not felt any less than it would do for anyone else. If anything, the concern is felt more acutely, since the Christian duty is to care more intently for the wellbeing of people and the common good. Christians care about the same things as others do, especially when it comes to things like Brexit. Christians worry about the same things, fear the same things, get angry about the same things, and celebrate the same things as most other people.
However, there is a profound and important difference. Christians have a special ‘hope’ that shapes how we respond to uncertainty. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring is a necessary part of the Christian life. Christians aren’t any more certain about what tomorrow looks like than anyone else. But Christians do find their hope in the one that is. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Christian hope originates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is profoundly life changing for anyone who accepts him. But faith in Jesus, and our commitment to follow him doesn’t mean that we can kick back and enjoy the ride and not care about tomorrow. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
It is because of what Jesus has done for us that we find we can’t sit back. On the contrary, we are compelled to step out in faith, to go out in to the world in order to see it transformed.
Christians have a special ‘hope’ that shapes how we respond to the concerns of today and tomorrow. By reading the bible we are reminded that the author of time, who became human, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, is with us. And because of this, no matter what we face in life we do not face it alone (Matthew 28:20 – Jesus saying “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."). One of the greatest and most important truths of the Christian faith is written in the letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul, (Romans 8:38-39) "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
We might want to add nor ‘leave’ nor ‘remain’ can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God is at heart of our Christian hope, and it is what energises the Church to keep on. So, in this season of uncertainty I want to encourage you to consider Jesus and the hope that comes from knowing him. I want to encourage you to believe wholeheartedly that our heavenly Father, who can see everything about tomorrow, and the next, will always love you and will always be with you.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
May the blessing of God be with you this month and always.
Revd Jeremy Putnam
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.