Learning What to Look For

On August 18, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Learning What to Look For Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Luke 12.54-56 Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Strange gospel reading today. ”When you see clouds, you know rain is coming; […]

Learning What to Look For
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Luke 12.54-56

Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Strange gospel reading today.
”When you see clouds, you know rain is coming; and when there is a south wind you can expect warm weather. Why can’t you read the signs of the of socio-political climate?”

As odd as that is as a sacred reading, it’s stranger still if we back up a bit.
Luke 12.49 – Jesus says, “I came to bring fire to the world.”
12.51 – “Do you think I have come to bring peace?
12.52 – “from now on communities and families ill have a lot of conflict.”
12.54 – 56 – “you can read the weather, why can’t you tell what’s going on in the world?”

But this is the gospel. It’s supposed to be good news.
What’s this talk about fire and conflict and a finger wag for not being aware of what’s happening around us?

The news realy is good, though it does come with a call to action. The good news is that when we do good we make a difference. But yes, we have stuff to do. We must see what needs healing, and offer love as a medicine to bring the healing. We must learn what to look for, and how to respond to what we find.

Luke imagines Jesus saying that he came to bring fire; and a living faith will fire us up.
The fires of biblical myths provide guidance, like when the children of Israel followed a pillar of fire by day, or they prove resilience like when three young men survive a fiery furnace in the book of Daniel.
Fire can symbolize the divine presence as when Moses heard from God in a burning bush, and fire can cleanse, consume, and purify negativity, as when the apostle Paul shook off into a fire a viper that had fastened itself to his hand on Malta.
Fire is also empowerment as tongues of flame danced in the air at Pentecost.

When Jesus says he wants to bring fire, he’s saying he wants to bring healing, joy, dedication, resilience, wisdom, renewal.

And when he says he’s not here for peace…remember when the passage is written. The Roman Empire prided itself on its Pax Romana…the Roman Peace.

Rome’s peace wasn’t about harmony, goodwill, and justice. Rome’s peace was domination, intimidation, a lack of resistance because people were too afraid to make their voices heard. Luke’s Jesus says he’s not here for that kind of so-called peace.

Jesus is here to proclaim the kin-dom of God.
The non-kingdom.
The anti-empire.
A world where peace and justice and goodwill and compassion are valued and promoted. Such a vision doesn’t accept violence, and doesn’t allow oppression and injustice to go unchallenged.
God’s kin-dom is at odds with, in conflict with systems of oppression.

Jesus isn’t here to embrace the Pax Romana, but to show that its so-called peace is really just privilege for a few at the expense of the many.
To call that out will likely rock the boat, step on some toes. And it’s what Jesus did.

Luke’s Jesus is saying, “I came to fire you up for the kin-dom of God, which stands as a clear alternative to the domination of empire, and resistance to empire can prove to be contentious.” But it’s needed.

Being healers in the world requires us to see what needs healing, and it requires that we stand up for the marginalized, that we care for the broken hearted, that we work for justice, that we affirm the sacred value of all people, that we welcome the stranger, and that we speak out when there is cruelty and oppression.
You can see when rain is coming, why can’t you see that? (says Jesus).

The gospel lesson isn’t so strange after all, and it is good news. It’s telling us to look for goodness, and to express goodness in our hurting, fearful, hate wounded world.

If we will resist oppression, affirm the dignity and sacred value of all people, welcome the stranger, love the unloved, care about the hurting, challenge domination and oppression when we see it…then we can be healers in the world, we can help the world be better, we can usher in the kin-dom of God…the non-kingdom, the anti-empire, the realm of compassion, hope, and goodwill. It is a call to action, and when we answer it, it changes the world.

We are trying to answer the call…to look for and share goodness.
The Prophet Jeremiah reminds us today that divine goodness fills the earth…and we are the earth’s stewards. It’s up to us to see and share the goodness throughout the world.

With every bag of groceries we give,
with every support group that meets,
with every prayer said,
with every referral to a service agency, with every outcry against racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia, with every prophetic or pastoral proclamation, with every dollar raised for ministry, with every dollar shared justice work or AIDS services, with every artistic performance that brings people together to celebrate life and joy, with every cathartic tear and every belly laugh, with every hug and smile, with every celebration of same-gender love, non-binary gender expression, and interreligious relationships, with every effort made to bless the orphan, the bereaved, the exile, the refugee, the unfairly imprisoned, the abused, the neglected, the forgotten, with every affirmation of omnipresent goodness, with every declaration of the all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love of God, with every sermon that says you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake…
we are showing ourselves to be a different kind of church, an expression of the kin-dom of God, a healing light for the world.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Today I will look for goodness everywhere.
I will look for goodness within myself.
I will express goodness.
I am a healer in the world.
Thanks be to God
Amen.

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