Maybe I just don’t have rosy questions in mind when I think of Bible studies. Want to know what I’d like to see? A Bible study on division(s)!


“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). So why not explore what that means for us?
I do not mean to stir up division, but to recognize it. There are all sorts of division—and not necessarily with negative connotations! Division of belief, certainly, but also distinctions between the priesthood of all believers and the Office of the Holy Ministry. Differences between the Sacraments. Men and women. Even God and man. Authority. Law and Gospel!! Divisions of the law, etc.
Think about it: angels and demons! Body and soul! Testing spirits!
Unfortunately some of my initial examples have fled my memory, but am I crazy to think a surprisingly large amount of stuff could fit into that? Even as it revolves precisely around Christ’s work! CHRIST causes some division! Now would be a great time to relearn the relationship between Christ, the Church, and division.


Filed under Shared Writing Ideas

5 Responses to Division(s)

  1. This is a wise idea and I think could sell well too. We spend too much time settling for fuzzy distinctions simply because it’s easier not to explain the differences. You should write this!

  2. I too think this would work well. It also put me in mind of (an old) sermon from 2001 on Luke 12; I hope you don’t mind if I attach the whole thing!

    THE MEANING OF THE TIMES Pentecost 11 Luke 12.49-56 se010819

    Did Jesus really say ALL THAT?
    “I came to bring FIRE to the earth . . . What STRESS I am under . . .
    Do you think that I have come to bring PEACE on earth?
    NO—but rather DIVISION . . .three against two, and two against three . . .”

    The tone is so DIFFERENT, say, from the Christmas gospel we know so well:
    “Peace on earth, good will to all…”

    It’s safe to say we’re not talking about anyone’s FAVORITE Bible verse here
    I doubt any of us has ever seen someone in the crowd at a football game
    holding up a sign that says “Luke 12:51!”

    A reading like this in the lectionary is a real CHALLENGE—
    (sometimes it challenges preachers to find a different text to preach on!)
    What are we to make of Jesus’ words here about “Fire…Stress…Division?”

    Well, Rule No. One for understanding “tough” Scripture is this:
    Begin by checking OTHER verses where the same words show up,
    to see what we can learn. When we do that,
    it becomes clear that this FIRE is NOT a fire of destruction.

    Remember back in Luke 9,
    how Jesus’ disciples James and John wanted to call down fire
    in order to “fry” a whole village for their sins?
    Jesus put a STOP to talk of that kind of fire!

    Instead, from the story of Jesus’ RESURRECTION in Luke 24,
    we learn that what Jesus is talking about here in Luke 12
    is the FIRE of the Gospel itself.
    Recall how on Easter day, the Emmaus disciples exclaim, (Lk 24.32)
    (“When JESUS was SPEAKING to us on the way)
    were not our HEARTS BURNING within us,
    when HE was opening the Scriptures (about his suffering and glory)?”

    “Were not our hearts BURNING within us…!”
    The Gospel message of Christ crucified and risen—
    THAT’S how hearts “catch fire”—
    even hearts which had been “slow to believe” . . .
    For even as these disciples hurry to Jerusalem on that Easter day,
    IMMEDIATELY, like WILDFIRE, this faith quickly spreads to other hearts—
    even in Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit will soon confirm the message
    with Pentecost wind–and FIRE! (Acts 2)

    So this FIRE Jesus longs to kindle in today’s reading is NOT
    a fire of destruction—this is the fire of the Gospel message.

    And what of the BAPTISM Jesus speaks of, and his stress concerning it?
    This is NOT John’s baptism in the Jordan–here Jesus means
    the baptism of his SUFFERING AND DEATH at Jerusalem–it is his CROSS.

    On an earlier day Jesus had told these same two–James and John–
    that they too must one day drink his cup of suffering,”and be baptized
    with the same baptism (of death)” that he himself would face. (Mk. 10.39)
    St. Paul likewise calls baptism a “drowning,”
    and connects it with death (Rom. 6).

    So Jesus’ STRESS is understandable–at the prospect of violent death.
    Jesus’ baptism here is his CROSS.

    And what of Jesus’ word here about peace and DIVISION?
    This is NOT the sword and division of religious warfare and the Crusades.
    Indeed, Jesus IS born to bring “peace on earth”—as the angels sing—
    but even there in Luke 2, we heard a warning to Mary
    that he will also be “a sign that will be opposed”—
    for NEVER will Jesus be at peace with wrong-doing.

    By refusing to recognize Jesus, Jerusalem’s leaders reject
    “the things that make for peace.” (Lk. 19:42)
    Jesus is in conflict with all who are at peace with wrong.

    Yes, he is crucified…but his death is NOT a peace treaty with the world.
    And he LIVES…
    to offer forgiveness and peace to all who will receive it and be changed.
    But where he is refused, there can be no neutrality–division is inescapable.

    So what DOES this whole challenging Gospel say?
    On his last journey to Jerusalem, for a third time Jesus is saying
    what his mission there will be: the CROSS.

    His death and rising to life will cause FIRE, he says:
    the fire of hearts that burn with faith in him…

    His cross and resurrection will cause DIVISION–division
    that inevitably comes, because some believe in him, and others don’t.
    Division, in families?
    Indeed–I knew many a man or woman in Korea who came to church alone
    because no one else in their Buddhist household believed.
    But then you don’t need to go overseas to find that.
    Pastor Dennis Bolton of Columbia, South Carolina writes this:
    “Christians (in the United States) know about division in their own families.

    Just ask the wife who brings her children to church
    while her husband sleeps or plays golf.
    Just ask the mother (or father) whose children never set foot (anymore)
    in the church where they were raised.
    Just ask the college student who attends church alone
    while roommates sleep off their drunken stupor.
    Many people understand very clearly
    that to follow Jesus may divide their families.” End of quote.

    In this Gospel today, we are invited to do the very same thing
    every other Gospel reading urges us to do:
    Jesus invites us to fix our gaze on the CROSS,
    and use the CROSS to understand “The Meaning of the Times.”

    “The Meaning of the Times”—this is critical, both to disciples, and to ALL!
    Luke specifically notes, “Jesus also said TO THE CROWDS”—
    crowds which we heard earlier numbered in the THOUSANDS (Lk. 12:1):
    “When you see a cloud rising in the west,” he says,
    “you immediately say, ‘it is going to rain’ and so it happens.’
    And when you see the south wind blowing, you say
    ‘there will be a scorching heat’ and it happens. You hypocrites!
    You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky,
    but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

    When it comes to the weather, even without sophisticated equipment,
    even the average person is alert enough to observe what’s going on,
    and act accordingly.
    If you see clouds to the WEST in Palestine,
    you know that rain is about to come in off the Mediterranean,
    or that when the wind blows up from the great desert in the south,
    intense heat is on the way.

    Jesus bemoans the HYPOCRISY that knows how to forecast the weather
    but pretends not to notice or to understand social realities.
    Nowadays you don’t even need to go outside to observe the signs–
    all you have to do is to turn on the television or check the internet.

    So, to church and society alike, Jesus says:
    “This is common sense, like the weather–it’s not rocket science.
    START FROM THE CROSS–observe the cross and the values of the cross:
    sacrifice, community, forgiveness, compassion.”

    Do not ignore “the appearance of earth and sky”–
    Look at yourself, look at others, look at the world.
    Observe the meaning of the times:
    Compare Jesus’ cross with the values of our culture:
    a society where only the individual matters
    and community counts for nothing;
    a society addicted to personal convenience, casual sex and quick cash;
    a society that amuses and entertains itself
    with insult, violence and contempt for weakness.

    We are all of us implicated in this world.
    THIS is the world with which Jesus is NOT at peace–
    and just like his cross was not a peace treaty with the world,
    so our BAPTISM into Christ is NOT a peace treaty with the world.
    Our Baptism, remember, was that time and place that
    we “renounced all the forces of evil,
    the devil and all his empty promises”–
    the time and place we were united to Christ
    and the FULLNESS of HIS promises!

    THIS is “The Meaning of the Times”–of ALL the times,
    “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.”
    There never is a time for business as usual—
    EVERY MOMENT is a time of Christ’s gracious presence for all who believe.

    NOW is the time for the Word and Table of Christ crucified and risen,
    to warm and fire the hearts of God’s people
    to living in faith and the values of the cross.

    Now is the time for the Spirit of Christ to renew and rededicate us.
    Now is the time for change, for repentance, for words, for actions.
    Now is the time for faith, for love, for hope.

    Now is the time to follow Christ.
    THAT is “The Meaning of the Times.” Amen.
    Pr. David J. Susan Immanuel Lutheran Church Madison, WI

  3. This is a hugely important subject… and a hugely difficult matter to address. Yes, a solid biblical study on this subject would be invaluable.

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