We tend to do things in Gods name at times,
that God has not asked us to do.
And likewise, at times we blame God for things God has not done.
God gets the blame for a lot of things at times,
and sometimes that is helpful,
and sometimes that is not helpful.
Anger at God
A wise person once told me to take my anger out on God,
that God could handle it.
And I think that was good advice.
When we take our anger out on our friends and family,
sometimes we might say or do things which are hard to repair.
But God the Father, is the perfect father,
always willing to forgive,
and to not bring things up time and again.
In our reading though Jesus says I’ve come to bring conflict,
and I think he was in part joking.
He was joking that there is always conflict within a family, to a greater or lesser extent.
He was poking fun saying, you can blame me for this,
but look honestly at yourself,
the conflict existed before me.
Family conflict within the Gospels is simmering away.
Whether it is the fishermen who leave their boats, trade and family to follow Jesus.
Or whether it is Jesus’ family turning up at his work place going:
“Come home, we need you, you’re spending too much time at work.”
Or whether it is the conflict within the family of the Pharisees,
over Jesus healing,
and the healing of Jairuses daughter.
In almost every situation of conflcit in the Gospels,
the conflict existed previously.
Jesus acts as a great big highlighter,
highlighting the problem parts…
As a priest and a leader,
you sometimes get blamed for things in people’s lives.
My take on today’s reading is that Jesus was being sarcastic,
or joking with people.
I’ve come to bring conflict he says:
And I can imagine the crowd saying:
“Yeh! You really have !”
The problem is,
they don’t see that he is in part joking with them.
Now of course Jesus did bring division amongst families,
in his day,
We still see families split over religion,
and differences of opinion.
The challenge in this reading is not to blame God,
but to accept the conflict,
and seek resolution.
We can’t blame God for everything,
sometimes we need to take responsibility for some of the conflict we cause.
And of course,
taking responsibility also means seeking resolution of that conflict,
and working for peace and reconciliation.
Today’s reading though does not talk of reconciliation,
it talks of conflict, of wars,
both within and outside the family.
This is a reading that grates.
At times we ignore these readings in the gospels that talk of conflict, of judgement, and of difficulties.
There is a conditioned response within us to ignore conflict;
and the best way of ignoring conflict,
is to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
But Jesus reminds us that for some of us that is not possible.
He said he had come to set fire to the earth.
I think this means he has come to set fire to you and I through the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
My experience is that when I open myself to the Holy Spirit I am touched by God,
and from that moment on,
I view things differently.
And that has brought conflict in my family.
At different times I believe God has spoken to me,
and I’ve followed the path God is calling me to and family members say I’m throwing my life away,
and maybe I am,
but I believe that in God these things eventually reconcile,
even if not how we thought they would,
eventually in God they sort themselves out.
But back to the Gospel.
Family against family it says.
What is Jesus meaning?
He is talking about the prophets,
particularly Micah, (Micah 7:6)
who warns that there will be family member against family member when we ignore injustice.
And justice for God means everyone having food and somewhere to live.
Our latest attempt at this is the living wage debate;
and we call it a debate as there is yet to be a consensus that people should be paid enough to live on.
And Jesus’ and God’s warning into this debate,
is an age old debate,
where the warning is that of you don’t pay people enough to live on,
there will be wars,
within and outside the family.
At the beginning of Micah chapter 7 God says this:
Woe is me! For I have become like one who,
after the summer fruit has been gathered,
after the vintage has been gleaned,
finds no cluster to eat;
there is no first-ripe fig for which I hunger.
2 The faithful have disappeared from the land,
and there is no one left who is upright;
God’s commands where simple,
leave enough for others to live off of.
The wealthy who owned the vinyards had enough,
it was their God ordained role to leave some for others.
And when they didn’t God said:
“2 The faithful have disappeared from the land,
and there is no one left who is upright;”
So if you don’t leave something for others,
if you don’t provide for others needs then you are not upright,
and today’s Gospel reading picks up the rest of Micah 7, in verse 6,
where Micah says:
the powerful dictate what they desire;
thus they pervert justice.
6 for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
your enemies are members of your own household.
Jesus is saying, there is conflict in our families because we ignore injustices.
Our reading from Isaiah picks up on this today too.
Although Isaiah levels God’s accusation at the entire family of Israel;
and he says that because of their injustices,
they will loose their entire inheritance,
in this case signified by the vineyard.
Our texts today serve as our warning and our wake up calls.
They have been and continue to be seen by the church as our wake up call,
our call to action.
Jesus says to the people gathered,
you can interpret the times,
go and do something about it before it’s too late.
Our wake up calls today are all around us.
Whether it is the ethnic violence in countries like Egypt,
or the living wage debate here,
or the climate crises.
We see all around us,
the signs of the times.
Jesus warns us to do something about things before it is too late.
It is important to say too that his line about magistrates and judges is not referring to the court system,
rather he is referring to the problems that the community was facing in the Roman occupation,
and the tyrannical rule of Herod.
He was saying if you continue to fight,
you will pay the price.
Summing up … Today’s Gospel then has a learning for us,
and that is that the family issues exist in our family already,
they are not God’s making.
God and Jesus and their call on our life can highlight the issues.
Our families often have unspoken topics,
today these are sex, politics and religion.
If we leave these topics unresolved, they will continue to bring conflict,
we have to decide if we are going to do anything about this.
That is the practical application of the gospel.
We also take out the warnings.
This is a wake up call.
Will you head the warning,
will you read the signs of the times,
or will you go your own way?
Luke 12:49-56 (CEV)
I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire! I am going to be put to a hard test. And I will have to suffer a lot of pain until it is over. Do you think that I came to bring peace to earth? No indeed! I came to make people choose sides. A family of five will be divided, with two of them against the other three. Fathers and sons will turn against one another, and mothers and daughters will do the same. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law will also turn against each other.
Jesus said to all the people: As soon as you see a cloud coming up in the west, you say, “It’s going to rain,” and it does. When the south wind blows, you say, “It’s going to get hot,” and it does. Are you trying to fool someone? You can predict the weather by looking at the earth and sky, but you don’t really know what’s going on right now.