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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  • November COVID Update

    If you are reading this before Sunday November 1st, I hope you take the time on Sunday morning to join us for communion in the parking lot at FPC.  It’s communion in the drive-through style, something the first Christians could never have envisioned.  It is nonetheless a faithful celebration of the meal that Jesus first initiated with his disciples.  Pastor Meg and I will be in the parking lot from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and we’ll have music to go along with the meal and hopefully lift your spirits. Stop by to hear the music, and for a blessing along with the communion meal.

    One of the most exciting things for me in recent weeks was our congregational meeting that we held via the online service Zoom.  It was so heart-warming to see that many of you in attendance.  Counting the couples on various screens, I think there were around 50 of you in attendance.  Thank you for your participation.

    At the meeting we elected new elders and deacons for the Class of 2023.  Please join me in expressing our thanks to elders Lovet Fokunang, Dee Logterman, Scott Hofmann, and Dawn Drost, and deacons Terry Brennand, Darcie Bessinger, and Marcia Baker.  We also elected Sheryl Bessinger to fill a partial term as an elder in the Class of 2021.  I’m thankful that they’ve accepted God’s call upon their lives to serve God by serving the people of our community.  May we lift them up in prayer (along with our other deacons & elders) as they help to care for and lead our congregation in challenging times.

    As you might imagine if you’re watching the news, Session unanimously voted to continue with YouTube worship for the month of November.  We continue to get around one hundred views each week, and I am very thankful for your participation in worship on YouTube.  It’s wonderful to have Pastor Meg back from maternity leave.  She is already busy planning Christian Education events and leading youth ministries.

    We will not host a church Thanksgiving dinner for obvious reasons, but we are spending this month getting ready for some exciting things in Advent.  We will have special music throughout our Advent worship services, there will be Advent activities for families, there is a special online bell choir concert in the works, and we’re hoping for an in-person outdoor Christmas Eve service.  Yes, it will be chilly, but we live in northern Utah and I know you people are hardy!  This service will be 30 minutes long, so you don’t get too cold.  We’ll have wonderful organ and bell music and Christmas hymns to sing, along with gospel readings of the birth of Jesus.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

    —Pastor Derek

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