I am terrified of snakes. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not the snake is venomous, I want absolutely nothing to do with snakes.
My fear might sound rather petty, but we are all afraid of something. There are things that fill us with dread. Things that keep us up at night with worry.
The opposite of fear is peace. And we often turn to our faith in search of that peace. Among other prayers, we pray that God will grant us, “the peace that passes all understanding.”
So, it might be jarring to open our Bibles this week, in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, because they say very little about peace.
Debie Thomas summarizes the readings quite well, “The prophet Jeremiah describes God’s presence in his life as fire, ‘a burning fire shut up in my bones.’ The Psalmist writes that his faith makes him an object of shame, gossip, insult, and reproach in his community. Paul reminds us that our commitment to Christ requires us not simply to be nice people, but to consider ourselves utterly ‘dead to sin.’ And in our Gospel, Jesus speaks of exposed secrets, broken homes, heavy crosses, and lost lives.
These readings, as Debie Thomas writes, “Declare in honest, unflinching terms what will happen if we dare to take our faith seriously.” They are texts that force us to wrestle with hard, high costs of discipleship.
Which brings me back to where I started. We all have fears. So, the question is, what should we be most afraid of?
Perhaps these texts remind us that we should not fear insult, change, persecution, or even death. But perhaps our greatest fear should be a life half-lived. The gospel of Jesus Christ asks everything of us. And that will surely challenge us, it will challenge the people around us, and it might even mean rejection.
So, what if alongside all the comfortable names we give to Jesus - Son of God, Son of Man, Emmanuel, Logos, Lord, Christ - we add another. Jesus, the Disturber of Peace.
Because the good news is that we have not experienced anything that Christ himself did not experience when he came down, moved into the neighborhood, and walked among us.
While peace might not stand at the center of these texts, the presence of Jesus Christ, the Disturber of Peace, does. And there is no better news than that.
Grace and peace,