Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 18, 2013
The tie that binds
In its mission statement, our congregation describes itself as “a family of believers,” so what are we supposed to hear in today’s text? The divisive Jesus who declares, “I came to bring fire to the earth!” (Luke 12:49) is not the Jesus we imagined when our con-gregation crafted its mission statement. “A family of believers” follows the Christ who calls us into fellowship and promises peace.
In contrast to the heartwarming description in the mission statement, today’s text produces heartache, by reminding us of the ways we are and can be divided. Mission statement notwith-standing, our congregation knows it is easier to declare a common mission than to accomplish one, and this understanding is in the Gospel as well. When Jesus speaks of his family as “those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21), he allows the possibility that mission, rightly heard and enacted, can divide as well as unite. Indeed, every conversation about our mission—because it often involves change—can generate more heat than light!
In the fiery light of today’s text, our faithful community reflects upon its mission statement. As the absence of conflict is not always a sign of peace, the congregation’s self-understanding is not always reflected in our actions. We sing about the time when “perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity,” but Jesus’ work on earth (and in us) is not complete.
Claiming God’s embrace of all, we pray for unity and give thanks for those times when the words “Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love” are heard and enacted among us. In this way, our family of believers embodies its mission. May it be so.
Craig Troutman, pastor, Raleigh Moravian Church, Raleigh, North Carolina