Richard Stearns had a rough life growing up and as a young boy he realized he had to take care of himself. He had a dream of going to an Ivy League school and worked hard to eventually get there. While at Cornell University he never really thought faith was a good idea and never believed in a God. Then he met Renée and as he started to fall in love with her he learned of her faith in Christ. They argued about God and had discussions about theology. Years later, after a dark time, Richard dove into research to find out who God really is. He found God in the end, reconnected with Renée, and became a faithful follower of Jesus Christ as Renée as his wife.
Richard went on to live into his Ivy League education. He worked his way up the cooperate latter. By 1984 he was the President of Parker Brothers. In 1985 he was the Vice President of The Franklin Mint. Then he joined Lennox (the fine china company) in 1987 and in 1995 became their Chief Executive Officer. As the CEO he lived a great life. His family lived in luxury in an old 10 bedroom home. His five children had everything they wanted and they were faithful church members. Richard was living the American dream and had built a wonderful life for himself. Things were great, until Jesus showed up.
In this text today we get a different sounding Jesus. We like warm fuzzy Jesus, the one that reaches out his hands to welcome in the children or to heal the blind. We like Jesus when he is telling parables or silently suffering for our sins. We are comfortable with that Jesus. But here at the end of this long 12th chapter in Luke, Jesus starts to sound a little different. There is a little, maybe even a lot of anger in these verses. It seems he is frustrated on his journey towards Jerusalem. Maybe the frustration is coming from the understanding that pain, sorrow, and loneliness will be greeting him behind those city walls? Maybe he is tired of people not hearing him or understanding what he is doing? Whatever the reason we hear the rare and uncomfortable words, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”
Division? In Matthew’s gospel there is a similar piece of scripture but instead Jesus doesn’t use the word division. I know what you are thinking, WHEW! Good, this must be a misunderstanding there in Luke’s gospel, Matthew will set us straight. Then you read in the 10th chapter of Matthew, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” Sword? This from the same guy who tells Peter in the garden, “Put away your sword, those who live by the sword die by the sword.” This is the same Jesus that says, “blessed is the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” This can’t be the same Jesus? Jesus is not here to bring peace but division? Jesus is not here to bring peace but a sword?
There are two Greek words that I would like to introduce to you today. Some of you may have already heard them and know them, some of you this might be the first time. The first one is chronos. This is the word that means time, as in human time or sequential time. This is the word that we get chronological from. This is the type of time we live by and the one our watches and clocks tell us about. The next Greek word is kairos. This word also was used to describe time but this word means the right or opportune moment, the supreme moment. It describes those moments in life when something special happens. A kairos moment is when something special happens and the old passes away and new life begins. When a person has a conversion experience that is a kairos moment. Those times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and that tingle shots up and down our spine and it feels like every cell in our body is on fire that is a kairos moment.
These kairos moments are when God breaks into our chronos. The cross what THE KAIROS moment, but there are little ones and big ones all throughout history and our personal lives. This is when Jesus cuts like a sword into our nice lives and disrupts. This is when Jesus comes in and causes a division in our lives. We become so moved by that kairos moment that we then move our lives in a different direction. There isn’t peace because everything seems crazy. Our new passion disrupts our old lives and so family members don’t understand what happened and are confused, lost, and sometimes even angry. Jesus, during these moments, disrupts our lives so much that we are forever uncomfortable.
When I first told my parents that I thought I was called into the ministry they had a lot of questions. Not necessarily for me but for the our associate minister I had been talking to. I learned later that they had their own meeting with them because they wanted to know more about what he was filling my head with. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t being brainwashed into something. When I learned about my calling when I was seventeen, that caused a division in my family, son against father, son against mother. Jesus came into my life and cut my heart open and that cut had a dramatic effect on not only my life but the lives of those I loved and those who loved me.
For Richard Stearns it was the same thing. There he was, in his comfortable life, in his comfortable job. His life was peaceful and perfect. Yet one phone call cut that peace in two and changed his life forever. One day he got a phone call from a recruiter who was working with World Vision. Many of you may know the type of ministry World Vision does. They go out to six continents and help children, the poor, and the oppressed. They are one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world and they were searching for a new CEO. When Richard’s phone rang he had already heard about this new opening a couple of times through different circles but he passed it off as a job not for him. He told a friend that if God wanted him to have that job a sign would need to happen. When that phone rang, God’s billboard went off in Richard’s head but he fought it all the way.
Through the next couple of months Richard would wrestle hard with the idea of taking the CEO position of World Vision. He didn’t think he could do it because he knew nothing about the poor in the world. He was active in his church but never ran a ministry organization. The list of reasons not to take the job stacked up but God continued to rip open his heart. If he did accept this job his family would have to move to Washington and leave the extremely nice life they had. No more huge house and no more giant CEO paycheck. The ramifications of this decision were huge and affected everyone he loved. Would his five children still love him if he did this? Could he do the job he is required to do? What was World Vision thinking asking him and what was God thinking?
It is a harsh misconception but God does know what God is doing. We humans think we know but in reality we don’t have a clue. When God comes into our lives and disrupts it, pulls or even yanks us in a completely different direction we think we have a better idea for God. We fight it and God always wins. I fought long and hard with my calling. I wanted to do anything else besides stand behind this pulpit each week and do something that scared the living snot out of me. But God knows what God is doing. Richard finally understood the same thing I came to understand and he took the position as President of World Vision.
Now instead of spending time creating and selling china for the world’s elite, he visits children soldiers in Africa and meets with starving families in Asia. His world was turned upside down and the calling Jesus had for his life divided his heart for a while. The sword of change cut it open and a new life, a new future was reborn.
When we become faithful followers of Jesus Christ we will all have kairos moments in our lives. Times when we feel God pulling us so hard that we will break. We, as humans, fight it all the time because we don’t want to make our family upset. The last thing we want to do is accept God’s calling in our lives and then have to explain that and defend that to our husband, our wife, or our kids. Then they might get mad, not understand, or fight hard against it. But God knows what God is doing.
We trust other things without worries. Jesus talks about how people will look at the weather and trust what they see in the skies. Dark clouds mean rain is coming. “And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is.” We trust that weather will do what it is suppose to do but why don’t we trust God when he knows what is best for our lives? Jesus is getting mad because he knows and understands what it could be like if everyone would actually do what God places on their heart. “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled!” If only people would let the wind of the Holy Spirit fan that flame that is burning inside them, the world could be a different place.
But we don’t because we are scared. We are scared of the conflict. We don’t want to fight with our families and so we decide to fight with God. Some are scared because they know that if they would actually do what God asks them, they will never be the same. Because when Jesus rips open our souls we are divided from our old lives. Christ separates us from the status quo and the powers of this world. As Bishop Mary Ann Swenson put it, the sword Jesus uses is “cutting us free from our past, our weakness, our errors, opening us up to a new future, reborn.”
Once we are opened up we start to feel things we never would before. We start to care for the 3 billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day. We care that out of the 2.2 billion children of this world, 1 billion live in poverty. Our hearts weep when we learn that 1.1 billion people have inadequate access to water. We hurt when we learn that almost 13% of the people living in the richest country in the world live in poverty.
Kierkegaard said, “From the very beginning, the purpose of Christianity was to change the world.” Jesus didn’t come to make peace, to make everything warm a fuzzy, because there is still suffering in the world. Once we let Jesus in we are tied to that suffering, that pain. It cuts us like a sword. This is what Jesus does to you. He comes into your heart and creates division. He makes us uncomfortable. He makes us more like him.
And all God’s people said…Amen.