Go

Contact Us

  • Phone: (111) 222-3333
  • Email:
  • Mailing Address: 2707 Congress Street Ste. #2G San Diego, CA 92110

 

 

Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (2019)

Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (2019)

Aug 18, 2019

Passage: Luke 12:49-56

Preacher: Rob Donehue

Series: Sermons for Year C (2018-2019)

Detail:

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (2019)
August 18th, 2019
St. Anne’s, Conway SC (Lackey Chapel)
Feast Day of William Porcher DuBose

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20         Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16       Luke 12:32-40

 

I think I may have said it the first time I preached on the Gospel lesson from this morning, but I’d be willing to bet that all across the country over the past week, Episcopal preachers took one look at the Gospel lesson for this morning and thought to themselves, “Oh, yes, the reading from Luke about Jesus bringing division…well, I haven’t preached on Hebrews in a while!” And I will admit that I was tempted to go the same route, as there really is quite a bit to say about the lesson from Hebrews. But there’s something a little different about today that made me think it was worth trying to dig down into this Gospel lesson so that we don’t just pass over it in embarrassed silence.

I’ll get to why today is special in a moment, but first, I think it worth pointing out that if we take what Jesus says in the Gospel as nothing more than prediction about the future, then we have to admit that he was spot on. In every century since Jesus spoke the words about dividing households, there is ample evidence that followers of Jesus either came into conflict with others, or they came into conflict amongst themselves…for a variety of reasons, ranging from families disowning and even persecuting members who converted to Christianity all the way to Christians hurling insults at each other over their different understandings on points of doctrine. And it’s still true today: Christians don’t always agree, and sometimes our disagreements can divide households. This church is actually living proof that following Jesus does not mean that everyone is always going to get along with everyone else and agree about what it means to follow Jesus. So if nothing else, I think we’d all at least have to admit that Jesus was right in what he said about bringing not peace but division. 

Now, I want you to bank that thought because it will come back up later on, the reason that today is a little different is because today - August 18th - is the feast day of William Porcher DuBose. Now, for those of you who don’t know, William Porcher DuBose was a long-serving professor of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee who has been described as, “probably the most original and creative thinker the American Episcopal Church has ever produced.” He was born in 1836 in Winnsboro, SC, to a wealthy land-owning family and grew up on an enormous farm. As you can guess, his family were slaveholders, and DuBose himself was not immune to some of the uglier prejudices of the age. He served in the Confederate army as a soldier and then as a chaplain, and after the war he was called to serve as chaplain of the University of the South in Sewanee. He held various positions at the university from 1871 until his retirement in 1908. He died in 1918. Even during his lifetime, he was known for his subtlety of thinking, and if you try to read through any of his works, you’ll quickly discover that his writing style is…not simple. But some of his thinking was actually far ahead of its time. And there are a handful of quotes I’d like to share with you that I think fit in with the Gospel reading for today. 

DuBose wrote a great deal about Christian unity. It’s understandable why he would have been particularly interested in unity in the wake of the Civil War, but his concern for Christian unity went beyond the political divisions of the day. And on the subject of Christian unity, DuBose wrote, “The one great lesson that must…make ready the Christian unity of the future is this: that contraries do not necessarily contradict, nor need opposites always oppose.  What we want is not to surrender or abolish our differences, but to unite them.” Referring to how people come to different, or opposite, interpretations of the truth that is found in scripture, DuBose wrote, “we do not believe because we argue; we argue because we believe.” And then, in another place, he wrote, “Truth is not an individual thing....Truth is a corporate possession.” This is just a snapshot of DuBose’s thought, but I’m hoping you get the basic theme and how it might tie into the Gospel lesson for today.  

Because I think this morning’s Gospel lesson presents us with a challenge. I’d invite us to consider whether the only way any of us can discover the truth is to wrangle over it and, through the process of dialogue and disagreement and struggle, come to an appreciation of the fact that truth is not always as cut-and-dry as we’d like to think it is.

You may have heard the old saying, “Wherever there are two Jews, there are three opinions.” That satirical line is not necessarily meant to be negative. It’s meant to point out the reality that if you understand your life as a constant dialogue between you and God and your neighbor, then it opens you up to the possibility that you might not be in sole possession of the entire truth. And we come out of this same tradition, where the point of a life of faith is not to have all the answers spelled out in an easy system - it’s to engage the deeper questions of life and, by wrestling with these questions, sometimes through disagreement with others, you arrive at the wisdom that only comes from being challenged by someone else. And if this process of dialogue and disagreement is how we arrive at the truth, then the only way we can ever discover truth is by being in community. You see, DuBose was really onto something! 

I don’t take what Jesus says in the Gospel just as a prediction of the unhappy divisions that have characterized the church since its very beginning. I think Jesus is also talking about how his mission is to bring our divisions to light so that we won’t be satisfied with easy answers. Jesus did not come to deliver a false peace; rather he came to get us to engage in the worthwhile struggle for truth. And this struggle will expose our divisions; I think ultimately so that we will all be brought together to a true unity and a true peace that none of us in this life can fully appreciate. But, to close with another thought from DuBose, we should not be anxious or impatient as we search out the deeper things of God. Instead, we should learn to “hold our minds in suspense about matters which we will have eternity to ponder.”