Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to us all from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
These days, division is a dirty word. We need to get along. Avoid rocking the boat. Learn to compromise. We can’t insist that we have the market cornered on truth. The idea is, that the best way to achieve unity is to simply pretend that we’re united. Jesus is co-opted as this movement’s greatest supporter. Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? If God is love, and has commanded that we love one another, doesn’t that mean we should avoid conflict? Can’t we all just get along?
We see a similar attitude among the false prophets in our Old Testament lesson from the book of Jeremiah, “They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ”
It is far easier to understand our God as a benevolent grandfatherly figure who merely wants us to be happy and get along with one another. It is easier to focus on the, “universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.” This is a central teaching of freemasonry, and, according to liberal scholar Adolph Von Harnack, the central teaching of Christianity.
But this is not the center of Christianity. It is not even Christian. Hear again the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? ”
Hear also from the Apostle Paul, in his Second letter to the Corinthians “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”
What have you, people of Christ’s Church, in common with the world apart from the Church? Idolatry in believing that money is the key to happiness and security. Murder, when you hate your neighbor and wish him ill. Adultery committed in the secret place of your heart. Covetousness, when you long to have what belongs to your neighbor. The universal brotherhood of man is united in that it is full of sinners, worthy of nothing but temporal and eternal punishment, and that the wrath which should be ours is upon one Man, Jesus Christ, who has taken our sin and its shame on Himself to free us from our miserable condition.
What then divides us? As our Lord says, “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 daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
The single most divisive moment in human history is the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This cross divides you from the world, for the cross is foolishness to worldly wisdom. This cross divides you from even the members of your own household, turns those you love into enemies, because the foolishness of the cross is too much to bear, but for us who are being saved, it is the power of God for salvation. But there is a still more significant division that occurs at the cross, about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” In the crucifixion, Jesus was abandoned by the Father as he bore the wrath of God for all our sins. So too are we cut off from Adam and joined to Christ and through Him, to our Heavenly Father through the waters of Baptism with which we are united to the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the baptism with which Jesus is to be baptised, and how great is His distress until it is accomplished.
Those who reject the cross, reject Christ Himself. They prefer darkness to light, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. On the other hand, when Christ cried, “It is finished.” We who were bound by sin have received, by grace through faith on account of Christ, His righteousness. So we are no longer unbelievers, but believers; no longer unrighteous, but righteous, no longer live in darkness, but walk in the light of Christ. There is no more significant division. This division is a division which unites us with the Father. It is a sword that severs the ties that bind us to Sin, Death, and the Devil. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. You have been called out of darkness. Separated from the evil that has clung to you since your first breath. Instead, we are made Holy as God our Father is Holy. None of this is our doing, but it is the work of God, thus we do not divide ourselves, but hold ourselves separate because God has divided us.
So then should we view Jesus’ words about longing to kindle the flame which He has come to cast down upon the earth as a statement that he desires to pour out His wrath upon sinners? By no means, for God desires not the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live. Rather Christ is looking forward to the Cross where the Father’s wrath against sin will be poured out on the Son. In going to the Cross Christ has severed you from the seduction of the world, by which you were willingly captivated. In going to the Cross Christ has abolished your tresspasses, and cleansed you of your sin. In going to the cross, to be crucified, and die, Christ has united Himself to you, He has called you His bride and covered you with His righteousness. Therefore you will be united with him forever in the place where death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for our division from God our Father has passed away.
Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.