Sunday, August 19, 2007

God isn't "nice"

Luke 12: 49-56

Some preachers will focus on the last verse of today's Gospel, where Jesus tells the crowd they can read the weather but not the signs of the times. In our generation apparently we can't do either; global warming being just one case in point. Our celebrant chose the verses in the middle: "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?" (Well, uh yes. Weren't the angels singing about that at your birth?) "No I tell you, but rather division."

He related the story of a famous theologian who told his class about the experience of his own Sunday school training: In a Texas drawl: "God is naa-ice. And He wants us to be naa-ice."

Well, doesn't he? There are cute little signs in catalogs that say: Nice Matters. And what about Forgive your enemies, turn the other cheek, run the extra mile, give up your life for your friend? The point was, of course, that these are not matters of nice. These are radical dangerous ideas, counter-intuitive to the way the world runs, and if you follow Jesus' radical teachings, you will be divided, and in radical ways. "Father against son, Daughter against mother. Mother-in-law against daughter-in-law." Our church has been fighting over itself since the early days when it was little more than "the way." We call it the Holy Catholic Church, and then go on to accuse each other of apostasy, heresy, apathy. If Jesus came to bring division then he has done well: we are divided.

But there is more to the reading... the very first verse says: "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" We could take this as a warning, or we could think of it as a promise. Fire is symbolic of punishment and judgment, yes. But it also stands for purification, refining, enlightenment. "How I wish it were already kindled." Maybe he was having a bad day. maybe he was envisioning possibility. Either way, he was reminding us that life isn't always nice, and neither is God. I'm reminded of a line from C.S. Lewis referring to Aslan: Is he safe? Well of course, he's not safe. But he is always good.


Cat. said...

I read this just after I read today's sermon-post from another bloggy-friend. You both use the word 'nice' in your posts, (same lectionary, btw) and say essentially the same thing: following Christ ain't always nice.

Guess I needed to hear this, eh? :-)

Cat. said...

Sorry, I think I messed up the link: here it is 100% perfect

Diane said...

good reminder, not safe, but good...

Anonymous said...

Recently, I saw a sign in a business that stated: Be Nice or Leave.