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Last Sunday After Pentecost - November 20, 2022




This is the Last Sunday after the Pentecost and next Sunday begins our season of Advent…a time when we are to prepare for the birth of the Christ child….

Advent is probably one of the most difficult seasons to observe in the church…

Depending on our current situations, we all seem to have our own way of wrestling our way through Advent and into the time of the birth…

But the church calendar wants us to pause… or in my case it was a screeching halt… to pause and consider the conflict that occurs in ourselves…


A conflict not just in Advent preparation, but in all circumstances in our lives as we struggle to be the people of God that we are called to be…


I do not think that I would have told you that I thought that one of the foci of the Gospel of Luke was conflict…


If just asked, I could have thought of several other foci…the inclusion of the birth narratives of both John and Jesus; the universal significance of the story of salvation through Jesus Christ; the inclusion of marginal members of society such as women, the less than pious; the sick, the oppressed, and even prominent pharisees…


But not conflict…and yet there it is…from the very beginning of the Gospel to the end…


And somehow, I must say that it has changed my thinking all week since that quality of conflict jumped off the page when I began my studying and sermon preparation on Monday morning…

It is not at all unusual for me to find myself mulling over the lessons but the subject of conflict woke me up over and over at four in the morning…

And my conclusion is: of course! What causes more conflict than trying to live out the teachings of Jesus in one’s life…to be a person that reflects the nature of God…My goodness! That is truly overwhelming!

And Luke does not cut us one bit of slack…

Zechariah in chapter one of Luke is in the sanctuary of the Lord offering incense and there appears to him the angel, Gabriel… in Gabriel’s full glory and Gabriel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, will have a son…

And this son will prepare the people for the the coming of the Lord…and Zechariah, who I must say is most likely not the brightest in the priestly bunch, argues with Gabriel…


And I can imagine Gabriel standing at Gabriel’s full height, whatever that is for Gabriel, and declaring that Zechariah shall be struck dumb until the birth of the child…


And when Jesus as an infant is brought to Jerusalem and the temple for the rite of purification and presentation to God…Simeon proclaims that this child is destined to be the cause of division throughout Israel…


We read of the conflict between the demons and Jesus during the healing episodes in Luke; in the conflicts between the disciples arguing about which of them is the greatest; the conflict that seems constant between Jesus and the Pharisees; and the conflict that is raised in all of the parables….


That conflict of wrestling with oneself between selfish goals and desires and the love of God and one’s fellow men and women…


And finally the conflict that leads us to today’s Gospel and that is the whole arrest scene, Peter’s denial, the mocking of Jesus before the crowds and by the crowds…a true mob scene with conflict fueling conflict…


The conflicts that are shown throughout Jesus’ ministry culminate in Jerusalem during this Festival of unleavened bread and the Passover…


This Festival is in fact the VERY celebration of Israel’s identity!


Pilgrims have gathered in great numbers; Roman leadership normally resident elsewhere are present in the city…


It is as though the very celebration signifies the solidarity of Rome…Jewish leaders and the Jewish people seem to be unanimous in their opposition to Jesus…


We see this conflict throughout the Gospel except for a very few…


And on the cross…the criminals on either side of Jesus…one deriding him and the other believing in Jesus’ goodness…


Throughout this conflict that Luke writes of as Jesus’ life, we see NO conflict in the beliefs and behavior of Jesus… He is ever in control; He trusts God the Father completely ; he never strays from His prophetic role ; He loves and honors those who dishonor Him…


Now… Why does that speak so clearly to me and interrupt my sleep and my thoughts through the week? Because Luke is mirroring our lives…


We choose to declare that Jesus is Lord and that we will model our lives and actions on that belief… And immediately, we are confronted with situations that call for our very best effort


We are faced with dilemma after dilemma that begs the question…What are we to do to be examples of Christian way of life?


How do we live in such a way that we demonstrate love instead of jealousy; openness instead of closure and protection of self; delight instead of despair


How can we be faithful?


Of course, Luke was brilliant to include conflict as an undercurrent in His Gospel…We live in that conflict and perhaps why we had to look at those lessons this Sunday is that next Sunday is a new day…a new Church calendar year… the beginning of Advent


A time to get ready; a time to wrestle with the conflict within us


A time to accept the Radical Redemption of Jesus Christ and live as a radical recognizing both the pain and delight of this life that we have been given…


I think Luke would tell us that conflict is our ever present companion as we strive for a complicated Christian life.


Amen






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