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Peace With A Sword

July 22, 2017 Leave a comment

rue8 Good morning and welcome to all of you, this family of Sisters and Brothers in Christ. Greetings!

I had to think long and hard about today’s scripture and where to go with it. A few years back I had the opportunity to sit for a while and talk to a Quaker, or one of the “Friends” as they like to be called. It was a casual conversation and an open and trusting dialog developed as the two of us became more comfortable and at ease with each other. As it were, I was not yet ordained at the time but I was going through the education and discernment process, I still had much to learn. Our talk eventually turned to current events and politics. He knew that I had spent 20 years in the military and was retired from the Air Force but was puzzled at why with a military background, I was now coming to terms with a call to ordination I had had as a young boy.

He asked how I justified the two careers, each of them being on different ends of the spectrum involving peace. When it comes to military actions, we know that Quakers are conscientious objectors and are to do no harm to anyone. They truly are a peaceful group and if you ever have the opportunity to attend one of their meetings, I’ll be interested to know your perception of what you think happens during the time they spend together on Sundays. After explaining my intentions for joining the Air Force, and getting a nod of understanding from him it was my turn to ask a question. So I asked him, “Who do Quakers say Jesus is, and why is your service, or meeting, set up the way it is?” He knew I lived for the Liturgy of the Word and the Holy Eucharist so his response was quick and put me on the defensive from what I was hearing. He said, “I can’t speak for all of them, but for me personally, Jesus is all about peace. He came to show us how to be peaceful. Do all Quakers think this way? Probably not and I’m not speaking for them. As for your Christian sects I don’t understand your services. You seem to have all kind of rituals that don’t lead to much of anything. We sit in prayer and meditation and wait for the Holy Spirit to give us any messages we might need for today or the future. It’s all about meditating in a group.”

I’ll not comment on the meditation part. But my friend here really shocked me. I knew, as I said, they were peace-full, but I figured perhaps he might go deep and a little more in-depth theology might emerge. Surprisingly, he didn’t mention anything about Jesus coming as the Messiah, or the Holy Trinity or Holy Eucharist, or even prayer for that matter. His affirmation was simple. You were just to be peaceful. He insisted that Jesus was simply about peace. He came to bring peace. Period. Knowing this portion of scripture, today’s Gospel we just read, I was ready to get into a discussion and question him on what discipleship meant. Something said “Pete, let it be” no need to make things confrontational at this point in the discussion. Perhaps another time when we’d gotten to know each other better we could talk about Scripture and disciples, but this seemed to be sufficient for the time being.

This didn’t stop me from continuing to think of Jesus and Peace and the cost of discipleship during a long drive home afterwards. If it were that easy, to live in peace with no challenges from anywhere or anybody on this earth, then why are there so many wars? Or not only wars? Why are there so many arguments and fights and altercations where people are left with both physical and emotional scars? “I leave you peace, my peace I give you?” Or “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”? Of all things to bring besides peace, he comes with a sword. Just as swiftly as a sword can slice through flesh and even bone, Jesus’s words here slice through our thoughts and sever any notions we had about him from the other words of peace and love we hear him speak of; Love. Peace. Servanthood. No matter how you cut it, his words we hear now don’t go down easily.

It was this exchange that helped carve out my own views on what it meant to be a disciple of Christ. You see, when Jesus gives us this lesson it is with the intent of making us uncomfortable. One of my favorite musicals of all times, The Fiddler on the Roof, points out how uncomfortable things can be for someone who is used to living in a world where nothing changes and then everything seems to cave in on him! It would be as hard for these new converts and followers of Jesus to change their ways than it was for the father, Tevye, to give up his traditions! If we are to become disciples of Jesus we must have the will to give up some of the ways we’ve been used to doing them. If we are to be students of the Good News, we must be prepared to spread that news and tell everyone we can about it. If we are to fit into this life and what it takes to live into our baptismal covenant we must have the fortitude to forget what we’ve been taught by others and stand with our new sisters and brothers. We will need to walk a walk that is much different than that of our fathers and mothers, or sisters and brothers.

That is what I think is meant by Jesus when he says he’s come with a sword. He will make the cuts that separate the talkers from the doers. Our calling is not only to affirm that Jesus is our Lord and Savior; but to make the change that shows that in the world. It’s an easy thing to do, once you convince yourself that you are not held to the old standards of the letter of the law. The spirit of the law now lives in us and we are beyond a meaningless gesture of giving lip service to one deserving of our service to others in his name. Those who follow the master and the teacher will find their peace at some point. The journey and the road that takes them there will make all the difference in the world as to when that peace comes. And when we think we’re near the end and we look back, we may find we’ve been living in that peace all along. All because we paid the cost of discipleship through making the right cuts from the beginning.

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