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Luke 12:49-56

"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 12:49 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 12:50 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 12:51 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 12:52 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." 12:53 He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens.12:54 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. 12:55 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? 12:56

Ever find yourself confronted by something challenging? Moments come when out of desperation we hear ourselves say, “I do not know how to do this.”

People in crisis show up at emergency departments every day. Traumatic events put all we know into question in the blink of an eye. Death and dying shakes us to the core and holds us to account. What do you believe about God? Moments of trial expose the deepest truths. How does faith guide our response to traumatic events and conflict?

Luke offers us a confrontation. Jesus reveals what is going on under the surface. It is like he holds up a mirror to show the most honest version of what is happening. People have it all figured out, yet deceive themselves. We know a lot, yet have so much to learn.

Let’s face it. Luke touches on the stubborn human tendency to rely on our own ability to predict outcomes. We are often like those who tell the future by reading the conditions of matter. We want to read the signs; the force of the wind. Leaning on our limited perception brings added stress, prolonged suffering, and frustration.

Consider the transcendent reality of God. Restoration will come, yet destruction and demolition is necessary. From our own day we hear, “No justice. No peace.” A collective cry in solidarity with the oppressed rises in protest from our streets. Achieving highs comes with lows. Divisions and unraveling of systems bring change; renewed community.

Hospitals, shelters, and institutions serving an aging population reveal the hardest of life. The reality Luke speaks of in this passage comes alive in such vulnerable places. A person may have deep faith, knowledge of scripture, and regular spiritual practices. They too find themselves facing the hardest situations. Life comes at us. Emotions run wild, pain and suffering overwhelm, and grief weighs us down.

No one can imagine what a day will bring. Enjoying morning coffee cannot awaken us to predict what each day holds. Everything may change in an instant. How do we prepare ourselves for the goodbyes we must say?

What does it feel like when confronted with the hardest moments in life? Denial and avoidance try to keep us from pain. Fear holds us in contempt and makes us want to run away. Should we hide ourselves and delay what will come? Author Maggie Callahan offers practical guidance for the living. Inspired by her father who desired to be a good example in his dying, she shares people’s stories.[1]

A wife with faith is surprised to find herself angry, afraid, and alone. She sits in a hospital room listening to a young doctor share bad news. An injury has left her husband unresponsive and at the brink of death. A tube assists his breath and the process of diagnosis proves the damage done. All the tests are complete and a prediction made. There is nothing to do but wait for him to die.

Families touched by tragic events often draw close to the mysterious work of God. Spoken prayers, stillness, and tears make room for farewells. Assurance of transcendent promise instilled over a lifetime impresses hope. Challenges may transform us and the spaces we inhabit. People can come to accept and to trust. We may become able to step forward from wrongs and injustices. God leads us in unbearable times. We can advance and know that somehow everything will be okay. We will make it through.

A Christian rite of baptism begins, “Do you believe…”. We profess core tenets of belief in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and culminate with, “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

How does faith prepare you to face the trials of today? What needs to happen to empower you to know how to do difficult things well? Are you open to allow God to help you to discern your next move?


[1] Callahan, Maggie. Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life. Bantam Dell, New York, New York. 2008, p. 2.