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?
The fire cast on the earth was the cross. The fire called down against Jesus purified us from all sin. Sin was left hanging there, burnt to nothing, while we go free. The baptism Jesus distresses over: same thing. From His pierced side came forth blood and water. This was the baptism by fire John prophesied. The Lord was eager to get it done. Distressed until it was finished. But it is. He said so Himself. The peace doesn’t come from us all getting along down here. Peace comes through the division of that cross. The Father was set against the Son. The Father poured out wrath over sin against Jesus. Now it’s finished. It changed things. Your sins are forgiven. The dead rise from the grave. There’s hope now.
But hope is dangerous stuff. It changes how you see the world. It dares you to lift up your head. To stand tall where others would fall. To speak when others are quiet. True, raw, hope sets you apart. It makes you different from a world that can’t by it’s own reason or strength dare to expect what the resurrection of Jesus promises. And too often being different is more than enough reason to be apart. Hope is dangerous stuff.
It almost doesn’t seem fair. We want Jesus to bring togetherness but He promises the opposite. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” Look left. Look right. Thew pews aren’t full. People are missing. Each empty seat is a story. Blame anyone you want. Them. Yourselves. Some pastor. Me. The culture. The devil. It doesn’t matter. It’s still an empty seat. There’s a soul in your life that’s not here.
And I don’t know how to fix that. I’m sorry. I wish I did. I know what doesn’t seem to work, though. Usually the temptation is to downplay the hope until we don’t seem so different anymore. Stop talking about the whole Jesus thing. Pretend sin doesn’t bother you. Pretend hope doesn’t change how we see things. Pretend nothing different happens in the church. Disguise it so it looks like the rest of the world. Then be quiet when others are quiet. Try to forget the hope until you don’t see much reason to show up here either, except for someone’s expectation of you or a chance to socialize. It’s sad that so many have done just that, but it’s still easier than the division though. Otherwise, the only option we think of on our own is to argue the pews full. Convince people to believe by your reason or strength in something you couldn’t by your own reason or strength believe yourself. Ignore that part where it was the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith. Because after all, we’re right.
But hope is more than just being right. You’re right about knowing what time it is. You’re right in knowing it’ll be hot outside. You’re even right in thinking daylight savings time is stupid. If you disagree, you’re wrong. Being right changes a little, but not everything. Hope does. It changes everything. Hope is what fills the pews. Hope given by the Holy Spirit is what calls, gathers, enlightens, and keeps us. Hope is what divides us.
We miss that because we’ve made the whole thing about us instead of about God. How can we be so inoffensive nobody will mind coming here? How can we be so convincing everyone will yield to the right answers we’ve memorized? Where is God in any of that?
Honestly I’m not sure we want Him there. He calls Himself the stumbling block. The rock of offense. The one who brings division, setting families against each other. We think we can smooth things over. Make up for Jesus’ bad attitude. Sorry Jesus, it can’t be that black and white. It can’t be that offensive. You need to relax.
Because if this is the buy in, who would go? A building that’s only filled with more to be upset about doesn’t help, even if you stick a cross on top of it. There’s enough division in this world already. In all of it, the problem comes when we look more at the division than the hope that divides. Somewhere down the line we forgot why we believe this stuff. It’s not for a chance to find more division.
It’s not that we want to see families divided. It’s not because we love the concept of us and them. Christians and unbelievers. Elect and condemned. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Don’t you dare reduce a human soul into a foil for your faith. A soul Jesus was willing to bleed for but you’re not willing to tell the truth to because you want to get along. Take a soul Jesus died for and reduce it into a set of values or beliefs. Into a political party or ideology. Into a past or a sin or a conflict. see only something to argue with. To prove wrong. Then go to war and win, no matter the cost.
This is not why the Lord bore the cross. The Lord did not come intent on dividing families. He came to save sinners. This is not about division. It’s about hope. And the world needs more of that. Not less.
There is a dividing line drawn in sand. It’s not drawn from keep others out. It’s drawn to keep you in. God wants to save sinners. You. Me. Everyone. He did not just bear the cross for some, but for all. Cults separate you from your safety net. Your family. Your friends. This isn’t that. You can tell the difference. Are others allowed in? Are you allowed to question it? Yes, bring em. Yes, kick the tires. This building can withstand sinners being in it. It was built for them. These truths stand against hell, they can handle questions from YouTube atheists. If you don’t know the answer, ask. We’re here to help. To point to that hope that changes everything. And that hope can endure. That hope can call sinners out of the grave. That hope can gather a church across all the divisions we find in this life. It can bring light to darkness, and it can make holy the unclean. It’s faith. Trust. And it’s God given. For you. For all. Here. Now. The Holy Spirit is at work to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify the whole Christian church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. There’s room for more. Christianity isn’t about peace on earth, which isn’t peace so much as it’s just quiet. It’s about peace in Christ. It’s hope. This is not about what to say to win an argument or smooth over division. This is about where God has promised to be. God is not far off. He’s here. And more, He’s for you.
Why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Not the end being near. But God being here. That’s why you’re here. Yes, it brings a new outlook. An ideology. A morality. But that which brings dead men life is not the law. It’s the gospel. Jesus died on the cross for you. For all. The fire was cast on earth to purify sinners. The baptism of water flows from the side of God to make holy thieves and you and me and all. God’s word does what it says, and joined to water, it saves. Christ is risen. This is not secret knowledge, but a hymn of hope. A promise made present. Look at what the Lord lays before you. This is His body. This is His blood. The time is now. The Lord is here. And He came for the sinners. We don’t draw lines to keep others out. Jesus draws them to keep you in. The hope is too important. It matters too much. Don’t forsake it to pretend you still walk in death just to avoid a fight with someone you love. Rejoice. The same Holy Spirit who preached that hope which changed everything to you is at work to preach it to all. Don’t reduce hope to an argument. Rejoice. The Lord is risen from the dead in a truth that shapes reality even as The Spirit proclaims it. Hope. Lift up your head. Stand tall and sing. Kneel and eat and drink.
Because Hope changes the way we see things. It changes how you see what happens today. The Lord’s supper isn’t something to dread, but something to run to. Hope changes how we see the bread and wine God speaks His word over. This is His body and blood for you. This is forgiveness for everything that divides us. This is communion that unites us across time and space, even life and death. This is Jesus given for you. This is peace. Not just on earth, but in heaven too.