Here's a little taste of the gospel lesson coming up for Sunday:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come
to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her
mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household. Whoever
loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son
or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the
cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39-45, New Revised Standard Version)
Do you ever read this and wonder what happened to the guy who said "Blessed are the peacemakers?" You have to admit, the gospel is full of what seem on the surface like mixed messages. Peacemakers were blessed in Chapter 5 of Matthew, but in Chapter 10, Jesus is bringing a sword and setting us against each other, in a mighty roar of conflict!
And if it sounds bad to us, in this era of mobile families, in our time when estrangement is commonplace and we almost expect people to complain about their parents, imagine how it sounded at a time when keeping your family ties meant everything.
Only the worst sort of people would have broken up a family. Women, especially, would never have done so, would never have risked alienating their mothers or their mothers-in-law. These were the people who made sure they had a roof over their heads, who kept them safe, who gave them what little status they had in the culture. Sons did not turn against their fathers; that's why the story of the Prodigal Son was so shocking!
But Jesus tells us clearly, he has come to upset the way things have always been.
I think it might be useful for church people to think about something in our faith community on which we rely, something we love, something we would never want to see changed, and imagine life without it. How might letting go of the thing we love make us understand or serve or simply love Jesus better?
I'm going to ponder this.