August 14, 2022 The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
August 14, 2022
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin

Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18; Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56

From the Gospel according to Luke, “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” I
speak to you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, if our Lord’s frequent demands that we sell our possessions as heard these past few
weeks in our Gospel lessons haven’t created enough angst in the hearts and minds of many,
today’s reading is likely to create even more bewilderment for us as people of faith. Jesus calls his
followers, calls us, “Hypocrites” and asks why we do not know how to interpret the present time.
You know, whenever I read this passage from the Gospel according to Luke and I feel like Peter
who, upon being chastised by Jesus a few chapters from now, snapped back at him saying, “Look
we have sacrificed everything to follow you. What more do you want?” (Luke 18:28) See, Jesus’
words trouble me because they are so harsh and judgmental. Like me, some of you might find his
words threatening. But that raises the question: Is that this passage’s fault, or ours?
See, one of the many blessings of living in this our beloved nation is the freedom to practice (or
not practice) the religion of our choice. And the truth is, friends, Christianity has long been not just
acceptable but almost expected in North America. Even in what many call a post-Christian era,
going to church creates no controversy in our communities. This isn’t true in other parts of the
world, and we would do well to remember and pray for those Christians in various nations for
whom the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord brings division, strife, danger and death.
But all of this raises another question I think worth pursuing: Is the relative ease of the Christian
life here in America entirely the result of cultural acceptance or is it because we fail to live into the
gospel Jesus announced? Throughout Luke, Jesus announced a new community -- he called it the
kingdom of God -- that is governed not by power but by equity, where all in need are cared for,
where forgiveness is the norm, where the poor are privileged, where wealth is shared rather than
hoarded, and where the weak and lonely are honored.
Earlier this week, I came across what for me was a new moniker posted on Facebook. Now, I’m
sure we have all heard various politicians refer to some of their colleagues as “DINO’s” or “RINO’s”
that is a Democrat or Republican “in name only” because they didn’t kotow to the party line about
something or other. But what I heard this week was a new one for me: CINO’s – that is “Christians
in name only.” Wow. Talk about a judgmental term. Nevertheless, I believe that is what Jesus is
talking about in today’s gospel lesson.
At this point, Jesus has said that committing one’s life to him has consequences. Peace has a price.
Accepting Jesus Christ into our hearts is not an ending, but rather, the beginning of a life-long
journey where God’s redeeming work of love, mercy, and grace begins to continuously change us
to the point where our priorities, our goals, our desires, and our values are completely reshaped
into God’s values. Even old patterns of behavior are slowly changed. Jesus says God’s new work in
us will affect everything in our lives from a renewed sense of seeking God’s justice, mercy, and
righteousness in all things to a shift in our relationships even with those whom we hold most dear.
Committing one’s life to Christ should change not just our label – “Christian” – but who we are and
how we live and relate to other people. Committing ourselves to following Christ will mean that
moral responsibilities especially to one’s neighbors suddenly take on a new sense of urgency. Like
we heard in our lesson from Isaiah, our ears are suddenly opened to the cries for justice and mercy
in the streets and we choose to begin to seek righteous action, begin to insist that our communities
and nation uphold God’s values especially when it comes to how we speak of and treat our
neighbors and the neediest of society. And as we are changed from whom we once were and we do
lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with perseverance the race that is
set before us, as the writer to the Hebrews says, we begin to experience for our own selves that
some of our friends and colleagues, even family members will choose to walk a different path.
Some choose to follow Christ while others reject him because wherever the Word of God is heard,
division always occurs among its hearers. Jesus says those who commit their lives to him must
expect division and strife even within their own homes. Thus, he asks his followers, asks us, “Why
do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
See, there is a tendency to hear these words of Jesus and think that he is referencing some sort
of end-times theology, or even talking about predicting tomorrow’s weather or what kind of winter
lies ahead of us. But he is not referring to either. No. He is reminding us of how easy it is to get so
caught up planning and preparing for tomorrow’s weather or even Judgment Day, as so many
Christians are want to do these days, that we ignore the storm brewing right in front of our eyes:
the storms in our hearts and minds caused by hidden resentment, griefs, understandable
disappointments, and even sins; the storms within our own families or communities as political
disagreement, a sense of economic injustice, and worry over gun violence rob us of any sense of
hope for the future even if our nation is one of the greatest in the world.
Jesus says if we pay the slightest attention to the signs of weather or what may come, we
should pay even more attention to this present moment and respond not as CINO’s – Christians in
Name only – but as people of God, as people of faith are called to do. Jesus urges his followers to
grasp that God’s kingdom is not just some future dream, but rather, a reality unfolding right now in
our hearts and minds if we will only choose to see it, embrace its values, and insist upon living it
and fostering it as God expects God’s people to live and do.
So, I wonder this morning if the problem with these scripture lessons these many weeks, have
not been with the passages themselves, but with us after all. What areas of our lives have we so
neglected that we don’t see the intervention and presence of God that has already happened and is
here, but something is blinding us from seeing and knowing it? What sins haunt our memories so
that we keep looking for the redemptive promises that have already been fulfilled, but sin and the
voices of others who claim we are unworthy keep us from knowing the life transforming gift of
God’s salvation? What griefs do we carry with us that we hope to lay aside some day so we can
experience this new life – but we just cannot let go of that sense of loss?
Our lessons this morning suggest we stop and reflect upon where we are in life right now- to
interpret this present moment and confront whatever is right in front of us – spiritually,
emotionally, and physically- that gets in the way of, as our Collect prays, following daily in Christ’s
blessed steps and being filled with God’s grace. To those who are struggling with grief, loss, or
troubled relationships, I urge you to seek out the help of gifted professionals. To those beset by
unconfessed sin or guilt: seek godly counsel. The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers absolution and
peace. For those who are simply tired, worried or burdened by the complexities of daily life,
understand that none of us is immune from hardship, fear, or doubt. Invite others to pray with you
and share with you in your journey. Ask God to help you remember that Christians have committed
to walk the Way of the Cross together.
Jesus urges his followers, urges us, to not only hope for God’s kingdom, but to see all that that
kingdom is offering us right now – in this moment: redemption, unity, forgiveness, grace, mercy
and unconditional love. Jesus asks, “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” …
See it, embrace it, and act upon it so that you, me, all of us are known not as CINO’s but as
Christ’s own so actively choosing to walk in the ways of God they change who we are, and how we
May God give us the grace to interpret this moment for what it is: God’s gift of life, God’s gift of
grace and peace, God’s gift that in Christ, is ours right now, in this moment, and forever. Amen.