Division and Unity

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Romans 6:1b-11; St. Matthew 10:24-39


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has united us into one body.

If I may summarize last week’s Gospel reading:

Congratulations, apostles! You’ve just won a no-expenses paid vacation to the small towns dotting the Judaean countryside! You’ll confront demonic powers that seek to destroy you, and while there, you’ll be handed over, beaten, flogged!

This week, it continues:

But wait, there’s more! You’ll also be denounced by family members, father against son and mother against daughter! So pick up your cross and head on down to lose your life!

Maybe wait to bid on the second package in the Showcase Showdown?

This is one of the recurring themes in the Gospels: membership in Christ is not going to be easy or fun.  It’s dangerous, and it will bring about conflict: both with the sinful powers of this world but also those who would turn a blind eye to the status quo. Certainly we might expect that our modern-day Caesars take issue with the claim that Jesus is Lord.

But then there’s the more pervasive temptation: just keep your head down. Why bother speaking out? Why upset the peace? Why risk the threats of violence, the tear gas, the jail time? Just stay home and turn a blind eye. It’s safer that way. Yes, things are bad, but surely not bad enough to risk more trouble.

How often have we heard these calls? How many people told Bonhoeffer to keep his mouth shut? How many other pastors told MLK to not stir the pot? How many friends told Luther to just recant and move on? How many family members told James and John to stop following that crazy Galilean preacher? How many martyrs were told, “Renounce the faith. It’s not worth your life.”

Christ warns that he came to bring about division. Not only will we be separated from the powers and principalities that govern this world, set against them, but we will also be separated from those who would turn a blind eye to the sinful power structures, those who would tell us not to seek the Kingdom of God.

We are the ecclesia, those who have been called out of the world into a new body. In that, we have been divided from all that we leave behind. But we are also united to something new.

We have been incorporated into Christ’s death, united with him and the entire Church through his sacrifice on the cross. In the agony of Christ’s passion, we have been set free from sin and death. But we are also united into Christ’s resurrection, living into the new creation already erupting forth into this world. And in this, we are set free – not only from sin and death but for the Kingdom of God, free to live as though our victory is already at hand.

In doing so, in proclaiming the coming Kingdom, we will inevitably expose the false peace of this world: the racism, the brutality, the misogyny, the violence that keeps the current system in place. But by the power of the Spirit, we will also point to the true peace, the reconciled creation and restored relationships, that will be ushered in on the last day when Christ returns in glory.

We may be divided from the fallen powers of this world for a time, but we are united into the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. He lives, and because he lives, we know that we too shall live. Go, therefore, and live to God.

Amen.

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