Most people don’t think of the Berlin wall as beneficial. The Iron Curtain has not been extolled as advantageous. Prison walls topped with barbed wire do not evoke beautiful poems from the pens of poets. Trenches filled with spent artillery shells and bodies of soldiers do not make for posters placed on palace walls. Rather artists spend lifetimes attempting to picture peace in their art. They attempt to capture, in colorful detail, whether with the plumage of beautiful birds or by the varied array of wild flowers all the beauty of creation, hoping to convey in some small fashion their understanding of peace. They strive to convey that peace to those who see their art. Many times, when we think of peace, the picture we imagine is of Jesus holding his lost lamb and gently guiding his flock. Why then does the Prince of Peace speak so brashly of the fire he has come to cast upon the earth? Why does he bring into the picture of peace the fire of division?
THE DIVIDING LINE OF PEACE
Preached by Vicar Roy Askins

Most people don’t think of the Berlin wall as beneficial. The Iron Curtain has not been extolled as advantageous. Prison walls topped with barbed wire do not evoke beautiful poems from the pens of poets. Trenches filled with spent artillery shells and bodies of soldiers do not make for posters placed on palace walls. Rather artists spend lifetimes attempting to picture peace in their art. They attempt to capture, in colorful detail, whether with the plumage of beautiful birds or by the varied array of wild flowers all the beauty of creation, hoping to convey in some small fashion their understanding of peace. They strive to convey that peace to those who see their art. Many times, when we think of peace, the picture we imagine is of Jesus holding his lost lamb and gently guiding his flock. Why then does the Prince of Peace speak so brashly of the fire he has come to cast upon the earth? Why does he bring into the picture of peace the fire of division?

Perhaps a fly on the wall view of our own homes provides a better perspective to view the division inherent in our daily lives. A fly on the wall view which sees husbands and wives bickering after balancing the checkbook. A view of fathers and mothers divided against their children for their musical preferences. A fly’s view of a father pitted against his son’s plan to move in with his girlfriend, a choice that is destructive to God’s gift of marriage. A fly’s view of mothers pitted against daughters when the daughter responds unfavorably to her mother’s second or third divorce.

Truth be told, we don’t need more division. Division finds us in whichever direction we turn. It does not allow us to enter our own homes without greeting us at the door. It does not allow us to sit down at our work computer without greeting us on the computer screen. Division finds us. So Jesus, why are you bringing us more division? We’ve got enough already.

Yet Jesus said, “A fire I have to cast upon the earth, and would that it already were kindled!” The fire he came to cast upon the earth is the fire of God’s wrath. The fire of wrath against every sin and wickedness committed from the dawn of time. “Behold, the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart.” (Jeremiah 23:19-20a) From the first bite of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden to each failure to treasure the preaching of His Word this Sunday, from the first attempt to hide from Him in the garden to any attempt to hide from His Word today, the all consuming fire of God, Christ came to cast upon the earth. For all the divisive sins committed since the dawn of time, the fire of God has come to consume in wrath. This is the all holy God who does not allow to stand before him one sin or one transgression. This is the all-holy God who requires perfection of every son of Adam. This fire Christ cast upon the earth requires obedience of every human being.

How shall we stand before such an all consuming fire? Where can we find the peace this Prince of Peace gives? How shall we who are tainted with sin, divided eternally from our Maker stand in his presence? How shall we stand before the anger of the Lord which will not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart? (Jeremiah 23:20a) We can’t. Jesus does.

For now we are in these latter days, and we do understand it clearly. (Jeremiah 23:20b) For the fire Christ cast upon the earth did consume all the chaff and unholiness of man. The fire of the wrath of God consumed all the sin from the dawn of time to its completion. All of the dividing moments of man, from the highways and byways of Iraq to the familial squabbles at home, and to the divisive tongues of gossip, these all have been consumed by this fire. This unquenchable fire. The true division, the division Christ comes to bring occurred intents Holy Week. On Good Friday, completed on Easter Sunday, Christ brought true and holy division. He divided you from your sin. He divided you and set you apart from sinful humanity. Instead of dooming you to enter eternal existence in suffering, Christ took all sin into himself. The fire he cast upon the earth consumed him. The Baptism of fire he desired to be kindled he underwent on the cross. In that Baptism all the wrath of God was poured out on all the sins of the world. In that Baptism of fire, Christ cried out, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” this is the true meaning of division. This is the Baptism he longed to have completed so that in your Baptism you might be divided from your own wickedness.

For while the soldiers divided the garments of Jesus below him, he was dying in order to divide them from sinful humanity. While we live in houses divided by sin and evil, Christ has died on the cross to divide us from these impurities. While we pile on more divisions and more sins, Christ has already divided us from them by His death.

And when He stands here in your midst and by the hand of the pastor divides His body and blood for you... when He breaks bread with you, there He continues to divide and separate you from sin. When you deserved to bear all the suffering you yourself caused, there He stands, giving His body for you, His body which has already born the brunt of Your sin. This is the division Christ brings. This is the division necessary for the Prince of Peace to work peace in your lives.

The peace He brings is peace with the Father, His Father and ours.

Reconciliation. Justification. Reuniting. Where your sin divided you from the Father, Christ with His body reunites you, reconciles you, washes away the dividing line, to bring you peace with the Father. This peace Christ does bring, but it is not a peace which occurs on earth. It is a peace with the Father.
In fact, the division and struggles of this world will continue to plague us. Fathers and mothers will still argue with their children and children will still be willful and stubborn. Sins will still divide one from another. And even more so for the Christian, for when the Christian is baptized, he stands opposed to Satan and the world. Want to know something that will bring division and suffering in your life, try standing up and saying, “I will not live in wild lusts of the heart, for I have been separated from my sin. I will not follow you in jealousy, for it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”

These things will bring division; they will bring suffering. These are the results of being a forgiven child of God. Reconciliation with our heavenly Father might mean division from our earthly father, as is the case with any Muslim or Jew who becomes a Christian. Reconciliation with our heavenly Father might mean separation from an errant son who wants nothing to do with his seemingly overly sensitive father. These divisions however do not result from sin, but point to our separation from the world. We never seek out these divisions, but as Jesus says, they will come.

And so Christ comforts us when these divisions occur. In fact, we can even rejoice in sufferings which result from the Gospel. Whether it means confessing Christ before the sword or the executive board knowing your livelihood is on the line, take heart for Christ says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23) Whether suffering comes while confessing Christ before the wild beasts of the coliseum or the wild ravings of the college classroom professor, rejoice with Paul who says in Romans, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:3-6) Rejoice then for this division will not last forever. No, the Father has reconciled you to Himself, to live with Him in His kingdom.

Nor do you suffer alone. The church, the bride of Christ, is connected to Christ. Christ is the head of the church and the head cannot go on vacation without the body. The bridegroom doesn’t leave his bride alone in suffering. When the church suffers on account of the Gospel, Christ suffers with you. Christ, present here in this divine service, unites you with the entire church through His Body and Blood, so that when suffering occurs on one extremity of the body, the entire body suffers together. This earthly division cannot divide the head from the body, the bridegroom from the bride; it cannot divide Christ from you.

Know now that Christ has divided you from your sin. He divided you from your sins with a wall stronger than the Iron Curtain. He divided you with a trench so deep it could consume all the trenches of every world war. He divided you with His own blood. His own blood delivered for you on the cross, applied to you in your Baptism by water and His Word and fed to you in His body and blood. This division cannot be destroyed. This is the dividing line of peace. The dividing line that brings peace. This line no earthly artist can picture. This line no art can fathom. This dividing line occurs here in the presence of His Word preached and His gifts delivered from the altar. The dividing line has been drawn. The fire has been cast. Peace has come. Peace which is yours. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a