We all have awkward moments.
Such as when the pastor, unexpectedly, asks you to pray.
And when you start to sing, one beat ahead of the rest of the congregation.
Or when your server says, “Enjoy your meal,” and you reply, “Thanks! You too!”
"That awkward moment when the only thing you know on a test is your name."
"That awkward moment when the whole room is quiet and you start laughing."
"That awkward moment when you say goodbye to someone,
and then both of you start walking in the same direction."
How about waving at someone you think you know but actually don’t.
Yes, that's awkward.
Awkwardness is part of the national mood these days, and advertisers are picking up on it. According to David Ignatius in The Washington Post (October 30, 2015),
many "television commercials end with a deliberately awkward moment,
where the characters make non sequiturs [Latin for ‘does not follow’ used for comedic effect],
or say things that make others uncomfortable,
or otherwise look like miscast nerds."
You've probably seen regular Rob Lowe and painfully awkward Rob Lowe
explaining the differences between DIRECTV and cable.
"Hi, I'm Rob Lowe and I have DIRECTV," says the regular actor.
"And I'm painfully awkward Rob Lowe," says the actor the high-water pants, "I have cable."
Advertisers have made the discovery that awkward sells.
"It takes the edge off," says Ignatius.
"It's fashionably geeky. It's anti-elitist. It's memorable in its otherness.
And it's inclusive: After all, what's more down-to-earth and American than feeling awkward?"
Jesus creates some awkwardness when he says to his disciples,
"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled" (v. 49).
Although he is known as the Prince of Peace,
Jesus surprises his hearers by asking,
"Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division ... 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" (vv. 51, 53).
But Jesus knows what he is doing.
Just as advertising today is memorable because it is awkward,
Jesus grabs our attention with his unexpected and uncomfortable words.
He's giving us a message about the kingdom of God,
a new order in which the social structures of the world are completely rearranged.
In these verses Jesus is talking about the nature of his mission while on this earth.
1. He came to bring fire ~ the fire of judgment
~ the fire of the Holy Spirit
2. He has a baptism with which to be baptized.
~this text (in Mark’s Gospel) is an allusion to his death
~here, in Luke, it seems more likely to refer to the conflict and distress
that would envelop him the closer he got to Jerusalem.
3. He is distressed or under stress until it is completed.
~ his mission completely consumes him;
~ he is completely and totally governed by this mission
~ his stress will end on the cross as he says, “It is finished.”
The division Jesus is talking about comes as family members become Jesus’ disciples.
Imagine how hard it would be on your family
to have someone renounce Christianity
to become Jewish or Buddhist or some other faith tradition.
Such a transformation would come only after much discussion and many tears.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ completely changes a person.
It changes one’s outlook on life.
It changes one’s speech and choice of words.
It changes one’s value and mores.
The second part of the text are words of criticism directed at the crowd gathered around Jesus.
They are able to predict the coming of rain or the arrival of a scorching heat wave,
but they cannot see the coming of the kingdom of God (vv. 54-56).
We might criticize the crowd around Jesus, but do we perform any better?
Perhaps we are focusing on the wrong things –
we're able to spot the arrival of the latest iPhone,
but can we see signs of trouble in our marriages, our families,
our churches and our communities.
Too often, when a teen is in trouble, a parent or teacher will say, “We never saw it coming.”
New Testament scholar R. Alan Culpepper asks:
"Have we given as much attention to the health of the church as we have to our golf score?
Have we given as much attention to the maintenance of our spiritual disciplines
as to the maintenance schedule for our car?"
Paying attention to the health of the church and our spirituality can feel awkward.
It's much easier to focus on our golf scores or car maintenance.
But Jesus challenges us to look for signs of the kingdom of God,
and to shape our lives in accordance with kingdom values,
even when such values cause conflict with people around us.
Perhaps we need to embrace a bit more of the awkwardness of life.
Have you written your will?
Have you purchased a life insurance policy?
Too many people are turning to Go Fund Me accounts
and other forms of fund raising to pay for ‘unexpected funerals.’
I have to ask, “What unexpected funeral?”
We will all die. We will, someday, need a funeral.
Have you given any thought to how your loved ones will pay for it?
Have you had a discussion with your loved ones
about your wishes as you approach the end of life?
Does your health care proxy know what you want in terms of health care?
Do you have a named Health Care Proxy?
Do your loved ones know what you would want in terms of a funeral or final wishes?
Funeral home or church?
Donate body to science?
Cremation or embalming?
Buried with or without glasses, wedding bands, etc.?
Buried in the family plot or scatter ashes? If scattering, where to scatter them?
These discussions, and others, tend to make us uncomfortable.
We feel awkward in how to bring them up with our families.
[Feel free to use this sermon as a discussion starter!]
Yes, they are awkward. They may even be painful.
But in the end,
the stresses of this life
will be replaced by the peace of eternal life with God.
On that day, there will be nothing awkward about it.