Sunday, August 14, 2022

“The Cutting Edge” The Sermon for Sunday, August 14, 2022 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost


Our Gospel message comes to us today from the 12th chapter of Luke, beginning with the 49th verse.

“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.” Interpreting the Time 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? (Luke 12:49-56, NRSV)

All mighty God, we thank you for your word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you've done for us in Christ. Now as we open that word we pray that your spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your spirit through the reading and proclamation of your word this day. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.


“The Cutting Edge”

I want to tell you a story about a family, a typical family, a family similar to many of the families you may know. A family with a father, mother and several children. They could be your family; they could be my family. This family sat around the dinner table one evening, and a discussion was started. Ruth, in high school, began the conversation by telling of a friend at school. Her friend had told her that Jesus was the son of God and that salvation was free to all who would trust in Him. Ruth quoted her friend as saying, “Jesus is the way the truth and the life.”


Immediately an argument started. Tom, an older brother, said, “I don’t want any of that church stuff at supper.” The father agreed. A fellow at work was always trying to “corner someone on religion.” He did not want any of that nonsense in the house.


Mother raised her voice, saying, “A little religion would do all of them a lot of good. The least they could do would be to get a Bible and check it out.” She had a Bible that had been given to her as a child. She would help Ruth look it up after supper.


Little Bill, the baby of the family, suggested that they ought to go to church and ask the preacher. He would know. After supper, Mother, Ruth, and little Bill gathered around the kitchen table with the Bible to look for some answers. After reading for a while, they decided they would go to church the following Sunday and talk with the Pastor. The father and the older son left the supper table in a “huff” to watch the football game.


The three did attend church the following Sunday. They did talk with the Pastor, and in time they came to experience the love of Christ in their lives. They did find that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life for them. These three became regular attenders in church. For the other two?—Still watching TV.


Jesus says in our gospel lesson, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be 5 divided, 3 against 2 and 2 against 3.”


There is a cutting edge for a person who has experienced the love of Christ in their lives. That cutting edge may mean that, indeed, families can be divided, as in our story. That cutting edge may mean that you might be ridiculed for your faith, that cutting edge may mean that you might stand apart and alone for the convictions you hold, that cutting edge may dictate how you will live your life, how you will treat others and how they will treat you.


Jesus is telling us that he demands loyalty, a commitment that produces a cutting edge in one’s life.


Jesus is telling us he demands a commitment that just might cut across families ties, that just might cut across at how others see us, a commitment that says as a Christian you are different in this world. Jesus senses in his disciples as he is now headed for Jerusalem and the cross that altitude that they were not taking his claims seriously in their lives.


Their problem was like the chosen one in Chayefsky’s play, “Gideon, the angel of the Lord, recognizes that his chosen one has rejected him. Gideon has vacillated between love and enchantment. He desires to serve and yet wants to be served. He turns away. Then the angel, speaking for the Lord, says, ‘I meant you to love me, but you are merely curious.’”


Jesus senses the attitude of curiosity among his followers. He wanted love, loyalty, obedience, and a sense of commitment. Still, they were merely being curious, seeing what this poor country preacher was saying and doing.


So Jesus tells them about the obedience, commitment, and loyalty he demands from his followers. A commitment that could and does even cut across families’ lines.


And that same commitment is demanded today in the 21st century by those who would follow Jesus. But many have asked, “does he really mean that?” “Does Jesus really want that kind of commitment from me?” “Won’t Jesus sell better to society by watering down his demands, by making him cheaper?” “Does it have to be that radical and decisive?”


Yes, it does. Over the last 2000 years, Christ has not watered down his demands upon our lives. He has not watered down his demands nor given any sales or easy bargains for those who would want to find an easier and cheaper way. There are no red hot deals, no easy sales, no close-out bargains, and no end-of-the-month clearances with Jesus. The cost to follow him is still and will always be the full surrender of one’s life. The cost is a high price, my life, but the prize is life—abundant and free. Life in and through Him who bought and paid for my life with the surrender of his life on the tree at Calvary.


Now how does one go about living this life that is lived on the cutting edge? How does one develop such loyalty to Jesus? We can see this development in 3 steps, one—conviction, two—courage, and three—testing.


Conviction may be called rebirth, conversion, or getting to know Jesus. Whatever it is called, it is God’s action in one’s life.


It is God opening the heart and mind of a person to God’s promises and then letting that faith or conviction grow. Conviction is a quality that produces certainty, self-assurance, and an attitude of confidence in one’s life. Take Paul, for example. After the experience on the road to Damascus, Paul was convinced that Jesus was his savior. In his writing, Paul uses the terms, “I know,... I am sure” many times. Paul had a conviction.


Or take one of the many Old Testament figures, say, Daniel. He was forbidden to pray to Jehovah. Violation would result in being thrown into the lion’s den. It wasn’t a tough decision for Daniel to make, for he had already made some strong convictions concerning his relationship to God. He kept praying. He was thrown into the lion’s den.


Or take one of my favorite movies, Chariots of Fire, which is about a man who eventually became a missionary and won a gold medal running for the 1924 British Olympic team. But it happened that Eric Liddell almost lost his chance for that Olympic gold because of his conviction in Christ. One of his preliminary heats was to be run on a Sunday morning when he would be in church. He announced that he would not run. He was brought up before the British Olympic committee but still refused to run on a Sunday. But, another runner voluntarily withdrew from another heat and let Eric run in his place. Eric ran and won and eventually won the gold medal. He had his eyes on a goal, that of Christ, and was willing to lose the medal he had trained for because of his convictions. There was a cutting edge to his life.


The next step is that of courage. And by courage, I mean the inner strength one draws upon when the going gets tough. And for a Christian, living a life full of conviction needs strength which comes from God through his Holy Spirit in our lives. God gives us the strength, courage, and fortitude to keep that trust and faith in him strong.


The Bible says, “No one who puts his trust in him will ever be disappointed—no one.” The inner strength is available for everyone who is willing to call upon the resources of God to give them the courage to stand by his or her convictions.


It is like a story told by Lou Little, the football coach at Columbia University. He had a guy on his squad who didn’t play very well but had a spirit that lifted the entire team’s morale. Little was proud of the boy and marveled at how he and his father would walk arm and arm around the campus after the football games. The boy’s father died unexpectedly, and after he returned from the funeral, the boy asked if he could play in the game on Saturday. He said he wanted to play for his father. The coach thought he would let him start the first few minutes, then replace him with a regular player. But to the surprise of everyone, the boy played the entire game. He played 60 minutes of inspired football. After the game, the coach sought him out. “What got into you out there?” he asked.


The boy replied, “Do you remember how my father and I used to go around arm-in-arm? He didn’t want people to know, but he was totally blind. This afternoon was the first time he ever saw me play football!”


The inner strength we receive from God is JUST like that. We know that as we live, God is watching us, the will, strength, and inspiration to live for him.


Now that brings us to the third step. First, there was the conviction, then courage, and now the final step, the testing or, as Jesus says, the division or the cutting edge to one’s life. This cutting edge is not to hurt others but for healing. Sometimes that calls us to make a stand that cuts across lines that tend to separate us from others or from what society holds to be dear. If something or someone is destroying your relationship with God or dimming your vision of righteousness and goodness, it must be stopped. Sometimes we must separate ourselves from situations or people in order to remain true to our convictions, true to our faith.


Take, for example, Joseph. The king’s wife, Potiphar, had desires for this young man. She thought it would be great fun to seduce him. She tried with all of her charms, but Joseph refused. Joseph could have done what is thrown at us in every TV ad, in books, and in magazines, he could have fulfilled his “Playboy” philosophy and given in to his desires, but he refused. He said “no” to this woman and said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” You remember he had a price to pay for this rejection, for she brought false charges against him, and he was persecuted for righteousness’ sake.


This is the kind of life Jesus is calling us to live. A life with a cutting edge that chooses the costly price of ultimate loyalties to the cheapness of easy thrills or momentary relationships. It is a life that holds onto abiding joys instead of reaching for quick kicks and easy pleasures. It is a life that is called upon to weigh the consequences, to think first, then react. To react in a way that puts God first and our desires, our aims, our pleasure second. It is a life that even sometimes calls us to stand apart, to stand alone, maybe even in a family. But know and believe that this life full of loyalty, full of commitment, full of Jesus is an abundant life. It is a life that is truly rewarding, and it is a life worth living.


Jesus calls us to live for Him. He calls us to a life of loyalty, a life of commitment, a life that is lived on the cutting edge of society. He calls us to live with conviction, to a life in faith. He calls us to live with courage, to draw on His strength, and he calls us to be tested. He calls us to make a stand, to live by our convictions even when those convictions might bring separation or pain into our lives.


For we know that Jesus is truly the way, the truth, and the life for us.



Let us pray: Almighty God, our hope and strength, without you we falter. Help us to follow Christ and to live according to your will. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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Scripture taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)® Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Rev. Tim Zingale.
Jesus is telling us that he demands a loyalty, a commitment that produces a cutting edge in ones life.

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