Sunday, August 14, 2016

Skipping over the Lord's Slave Remarks

This Sunday's Gospel reading continues in Luke 12, but skips ahead to verses 49-56 from where we left off last week. Today's reading reinforces the separation that people will have to cope with once they follow Christ,

‘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.’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. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 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 divisions among Christians are a disappointing if not unexpected proof of Jesus' words. Those who believe the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection will be against those who deny the physical resurrection of Christ. Those who have faith in the virgin birth will be against those who deny it. Those who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as one flesh will be separated from their brothers and sisters who insist that it is okay to revise the Church's teaching on marriage.

The way the Sunday Lectionary works, the average once a week or less churchgoer never gets to hear the full Gospel. This week,  Luke 1:41-48 was omitted. This section might be problematic for modern ears that are not expecting to hear Jesus talk about slavery and who would be shocked to hear him say anything about cutting one of them into pieces.

 Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
"Blessed be the slave whom his master finds at work" is not one of Jesus' more famous quotes. In fact, I suspect that if it appeared on a test as a True/False question, "Did Jesus say, 'Blessed be the slave whom his master finds at work'", most people would answer, "False."

As Paul might put it, we are slaves for Christ, and given Jesus' warning, we had better be prepared. I suspect that those of us who are slaves and who have been placed in charge of others had better be especially careful.

Beating false teachings into the pewsitters very well might result in the first penalty, being cut to pieces, that our Lord has reserved for the wicked.

Maybe that is why most priests will be happy to not tell you about the Lord's slave remarks.

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