For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
Praise the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.
For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
to deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 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.”
I picked up a book in a store that boasted of quotes that proved atheism was the only way. Today’s Gospel was one of the quotes used in argument against God. The author felt that if God were real, if God were truly loving, then God would not be fomenting division as is so clearly stated in this Gospel. This overly simplistic approach does not even begin to look at all the forms of division that God calls us to. He desires us to be divided from our worldly desires. He desires us to be divided from the things that divide us from him. He desires us to be divided from evil. He desires us to be divided from the things that harm us. While “peace, love, and harmony” sound like good things on the surface, such a motto can become a terrible bully that foments oppression rather than division, silence instead of truth, and tolerance of evil over conflict.
We live in a divided age. It is not uncommon to hear of fathers divided against sons and daughters divided against mothers, and so on. We even hear now of bishops divided against bishops and cities divided against cities in the landscape of our global church. If there were no wrong-doing, then this division would be inherently wrong. Peace is a gift from God, and it is his ultimate desire for all of us. But pretending to be at peace when there is evil in our midst is not peace at all. So what are we to do?
The psalmist tells us that the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him. Our first job is to fear the Lord, to fear offending him in our words and actions and lack of loyalty. If we love him enough, we should be afraid of hurting him by not paying him the attention he is owed. He is the one who created us, who has saved us, who continues our existence every moment. He should always be on our mind and a part of our thoughts. We should be in perpetual conversation with God, checking in with him and listening for his guidance. When we do this, we are able to carry out the tasks that God has for us. We must remember that he is the one that brings about the necessary divisions. God is the one who comes in with the fire and sword. We must trust that his plan will be accomplished, and pray that he uses us according to his will. We must not be afraid of things of this earth, ill-favored opinions about our beliefs, outright persecutions. We must rely entirely on the Lord, the one who will keep us alive in the famine of faith in our world. Let us pray that God sets the world on fire, that he burns out the things that are evil, that he purifies the things that are good. Let us pray that God’s will is accomplished, and that we will have the strength to carry out our part in his plan.