Hard, Hard Peace

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.


Hebrews 11.29-12.2; Luke 12.49-56

There is an image that I sometimes like to share with couples as they come to me in pre-marital counseling. We talk about how we, as human beings, when we are threatened or we face conflict, how we respond. We have two general ways of responding: we are either tigers or turtles. It’s another take on the fight or flight response.

But when you are a tiger, if your tendency is to be a tiger, when you are faced with a threat, when there is conflict, what do you do? You strike out. Others of us, when we are faced with conflict or when we’re faced with tension or division, what do we do? We’re turtles. We hide in our shells, we withdraw. We hide under those hard shells to protect us.

Now be honest, are you a turtle or a tiger?

Perhaps when we’re more confident we tend to be a tiger, or when we’re more uncertain we tend to be a turtle. Most of us are a little bit of both.

But is we would characterize Jesus today, if we listened to his words, we would definitely say that at least in this moment, Jesus is all tiger. As I read these words, I hear Jesus striking out, going on offense: “I don’t come to bring peace, but division.” And to be honest with you, I don’t know if I like it. I’m not sure if I like Jesus here, I don’t know if my Jesus would look like this, or speak like this. These words, in fact, make me very uncomfortable.

These sayings are hard, perhaps they’re offensive in any age, but particularly in the Middle East where everything in society is focused around family. Jesus goes right for the jugular. And he says, “When I come, when I speak, I’m not coming to bring peace, to smooth things over, to make everything calm and nice and rosy. I’m coming to bring division. And those intimate relationships that are supposed to be so peaceful, I’ve come and when I speak, son will be set against father, mother against daughter.” Say it ain’t so, Jesus.

I wonder if Jesus, as he is looking towards Jerusalem, as he thinks about his fate there, and all of the suffering that he is undergoing, as he feels all of the opposition starting to generate around him, I wonder if he’s beginning to feel frustrated. Maybe a little exasperated, maybe even a little anxious as a human being about what is to come. Do you hear how the NRSV translates it: “What a stress I am under. I wish I could just get it over with!” Perhaps he feels frustrated and exasperated as he heads to the cross.

Now we have two ways of responding to this language of division, this talk of not bringing peace, but bringing conflict. We can either like it too much or not enough. We can either be tigers or turtles.

When we like it too much, this talk of division, when we connect with it too easily, division becomes the goal in and of itself. Nurturing ferment becomes the sign and seal of our conversations and our actions. Oh, that Pastor Paul, he just loves stirring the pot. He just loves to cause trouble. And we like this language of division too much, we are not happy when people compromise or discover common ground. We are not pleased when the focus changes from what drives us apart to what brings us together. When we like these verses too much, we like to rock the boat and we are happy when those with whom we disagree fall into the sea.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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