“I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed.” Luke 12:50
More than ten years ago now, I received some sobering news from my family physician. I had just finished my first physical in a number of years. I was overweight. My blood sugar was high. My blood pressure well above normal. My triglycerides off the charts. The doctor sat me down and said, “If you don’t do something about your health right now, you are not going to live to see your grandchildren.”
He spoke an uncomfortable truth and it was not good news.
Throughout Luke, chapter 12, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the coming judgement. He is preparing them for the coming difficult days in Jerusalem that will lead to a cross and for the challenges of the mission they will be given following Pentecost. He speaks an uncomfortable truth, and it doesn’t sound at all like good news. For Jesus’ disciples, these words are prophetic. For Luke’s community, they are descriptive. Living in the Way of Jesus has never been easy. Jesus’ inclusive vision of the Kingdom, and his welcome of those the world would reject – lepers, sinners, tax collectors, demon possessed, Gentiles, prostitutes, outcasts, the “unclean” and others – caused division and conflict. Making a commitment to Jesus’ Way of love, grace, forgiveness, mercy and compassion will inevitably get us cross-ways with the ways of the world. That does not sound like good news.
But, maybe we need to look again.
My doctor’s uncomfortable truth was a wake-up call for me. Over the next six months, I started to lose weight, changed my diet, started a meager exercise program and began to get my health under control. The good news is that, today, at 58, I’m probably healthier than I was at 40.
The division caused by Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom got him nailed to a cross. He was rejected for his supposed blasphemy. Executed as a criminal. Forsaken by everyone. But, in order to prove that there truly is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, not even death itself, he rose again on the third day, crushing the world’s system of division, oppression and death under the rock of the broken tomb. And that is good news!
Today, we still live in a divided world. We still live in a world where people are rejected and cast aside. We still live in a world where it is difficult to interpret the times, or know how things will turn out. But we do not face the terrors of our world with no hope. We do so empowered by the vision of an empty tomb and the peace, the shalom, the wholeness, and the LIFE it represents.
And so, we become good news in a divided world.
When we live in the Way of the Risen Christ, we become the presence of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, mercy and compassion for the stranger, the poor, the powerless and the suffering. For the children and the vulnerable and all those the world would turn away.
That can be uncomfortable. But at the same time it is also blessed work. For when we care for the “least of these,” we know that we are, in fact, caring for Christ.
Thank-you for reading. Please pray for the immigrant, the refugee, the stranger, the homeless, the rejected and all those who desperately seek for a place to call home.