you're reading...

Fire and Rain

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

August 14, 2022

Click to Join our Meeting for Worship

Click to read in Swahili

Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

Luke 12:49–56 (ESV)

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 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.” 54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 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?

I must make a confession today. I confess that this week’s passage is one that I did not want to speak on. I confess that for many years I have used this passage in properly and maliciously. I confess because I am wrong. And I also believe that most people have been led astray by the misuse of these verses.

I say this because often these verses are used in a prideful manner. We use them to justify laziness in the realm of reconciliation and the pursuit of unity. We use these verses to justify judgmental attitudes and self-righteousness. We use these verses and verses like them to demonize those who do not agree with us.

When I looked at the readings in this week’s lectionary list, I was tempted to skip it. I was tempted to go somewhere else and not even engage with the text. I was tempted to do this because of the current events that have been occurring throughout the past weeks. I wanted to skip these verses because I was afraid. I am afraid. I fear because division is something that happens frequently within our various communities. It is occurring in political spheres, within denominational spheres, within our own families, and among our friends. I am tired of all the division, and I desire unity and peace. But living in fear does not move us forward. Taking a step back from a conflict does not lead to resolution nor reconciliation. Staying silent in the face of division does not always demonstrate wisdom but can sometimes lead to the continuation of unhealthy relationships.

While I am speaking of division, I want us to start there. Jesus says in verse 51, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” I hope that this verse troubles you as much as it troubles me. This statement seemingly goes against everything that the church teaches about Jesus. We call him the prince of peace and yet in his own words he very clearly states the opposite.

This is not only troubling to me, but to the disciples within the narrative. The disciples believed that Jesus is the Messiah. This title had some baggage attached to it. There were expectations, ideologies, and opinions as to what that meant and what would happen when this prophesied figure appeared.

Our call to worship included a strange Psalm. A Psalm that is in scripture but one that probably makes us cringe a bit. “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods, he hold judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?’” What is this divine council? Who are the gods that are sitting with God? I thought we believed in one God not many. This one Psalm should get us thinking, but what I want us to focus on is the last verse of that Psalm, “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!”

The idea surrounding the Messiah was that as a result of sin and rebellion against God, the entire world was divided among spiritual beings. These beings were stewards. They were given authority over specific areas of the earth and God begin to work through one person, one nation, to start bringing people back. It is through this one nation, Israel, that Messiah would emerge, and this Messiah would bring all people, all nations, back to God the Most High and humanity would be restored back to the place they were created to be. And peace on earth would finally be accomplished, and God would inherit all the nations! I want us to think about the temptations of Jesus for a moment, one of those temptations was directly related to this Psalm. Satan tempted Jesus to worship him, so that all the nations would be given to him. This was the goal that Jesus wanted to achieve. It was his ultimate mission. He could have completed everything he set out to do, but there was a problem. When we seek to achieve good goals through evil means we negate the whole thing.

This is where division comes into play. When we hear the word division our mind immediately moves to a negative image. We often see division as being a bad thing, but I want us to take a step back. I want us to look at things from a different perspective.

I want us to look at the people within this meeting space and consider what we see. This place is filled with people from various background, and various ages. We have infants and we have people in the golden years of life. We have people that can trace their roots to Africa, and others that have heritage derived from European regions. We could look at this and say we are divided. Or we could look at our meeting and say that we are diverse.

As we look at each other I want us to consider the youngest among us. Many of these individuals we saw from the moment of their birth or a few weeks after. Some of these young people that we once saw as infants, are now two years old, eight years old, some that we once observed are now over forty years old. We have watched them grow, we have observed their personalities develop and we have watched as they have become adults right before our eyes. What a beautiful thing to see, and participate in. But I want us to realize that this does not happen without division.

Growth is division. One cell divides and becomes two cells. And these two cells divide and become four, this happens with a multiplying effect that will eventually become a multicellular being that once began as a single microscopic cell and now stands several feet tall. Division when healthy creates growth. We see this even in the first chapters of Genesis. When we read about the creation of the world, we read about God creating order out of chaos. God does this by division, He divides light from darkness, he divides the waters to make the sky and the sea. He divides the sea from the land, and then on the land he divides more and creates plants, animals, birds, and all the creepy things, and he calls all this division good. Then he says, “Let us create man in our image”, and he created them. This final division within creation he calls very good. And he gave us a mission to go out into all the world and bring it into submission, which means we as humans are to continue this growth of order out of the chaos, so that the good earth can become very good so that all the world can bear the image that God created in us.

Creation is growth, and growth is division. And with growth comes discernment, differentiation, and diversity that all works together toward a greater goal.

“I came to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already kindled!” There is both hope and distress in these words of Jesus. We can sense the distress, but do we see the hope? As much as a parent would like their children to stay small, this is not their future. Every child grows and growth at times hurts. Usually this happens while we sleep and we do not realize that it is happening, but there are times where this is happening so fast that we are awaken from sleep in pain, and there are even times where this growth continues even during our wakeful hours. This has been happening in our household over the past couple of months. Growth hurts. We do all we can do to avoid pain, but in many cases the pain is essential. This is what Jesus is referring to when he speaks of fire. This is a refiner’s fire. A fire of purification. Through the pain something greater emerges. Something of value and of purity. Jesus came to purify the earth.

The blacksmiths among us might understand this better than most. Metal is placed in the fire so that the smith can draw it out and reshape it. And through the process create something news, something useful or beautiful. But to get to that final product the metal is repeatedly plunged into the flames, and then beat with a heavy hammer. Depending on what the metal is, and what the smith is attempting to make there are different methods employed, and at times even different materials. And some of the most useful tools created, extreme heat is required.

Jesus is telling us that he came to cast fire, a refiner’s fire, a smith’s fire on the earth. He came to transform and to encourage growth. That is another thing about fire, that is not directly implied in this wording. Fire is also necessary for growth in nature. A wildfire is one of the most terrifying things within nature, but also necessary. I grew up on the high plains and fire is necessary for the ecosystem. If there is not an occasional fire that removes the old dead plant material the prairie grasses will not emerge from the soil. The fire triggers within the seeds something that causes greater growth. And when we prevent fires within this ecosystem, we disrupt growth. This causes certain plants to grow at a greater density and others to diminish. This might not matter too much but for animals it could mean feast or famine. And when animals cannot eat, they move to other areas to find food, or if there is greater food supply the animals that eat that food flourish. And suddenly we have more deer and less rabbits. We get less songbirds and more vultures. All because the ecosystem got disrupted. Fire can bring growth and diversity within nature. It can reset the earth.

Jesus came to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already kindled! This is an odd phrase, but it speaks volumes. To kindle a fire is to build it up, you do not start a fire with the giant logs that we have laying up at the top of our meetinghouse lawn, but you start it with something small. You get twigs and leaves; you might even get shavings of wood or even dry grasses to catch the spark so that the fire would begin to take hold. Jesus is saying that he came to cast fire on earth, but something is wrong. It needs kindled. Meaning what once might have been burning brightly has died off, and we must start from the beginning once again to build the blaze once more.

I have started many fires over the years. And it is not always easy. It takes discernment and patience and when we are inpatient, we often find ourselves burnt. But when we take the time, when we get the proper pieces in the right spot so that there is proper ventilation and fuel it burns hot and bright. Jesus came to cast a fire, but he must first prepare the way for the fire to take hold. This also links to baptism. So often when we see the word baptism, we think of it as an initiation rite. But it is much more than that. The word is derived from the immersion of cloth into dye. This is much like preparing a fire. There are steps and processes that go into it, and they are brought together for a purpose so that what went in comes out changed. Drab natural wool comes out vibrant red. Initially it was cloth fit for the peasant, but it emerges as fabric fit for the kingdom. Will we be changed? Will we be kindled, into the refining fire? Will we reset the ecosystem?

This takes us back to division. Look at verses 52 and 53, “For from now on in one house there will be five 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.” Do you notice something here?

Majority against the minority and minority against the majority. And then the mature against the youth, and the emerging generation against the established generation. How many of us have notice this before? All too often we look at these words and we see it as our world is continuing to get worse. Just look at the music of the younger generation its terrible. Of course, my parents told me that, and so did yours, and I can’t stand much of what is coming out now. We look at this and we see the change, and that change is painful. We want things to remain as they were, why do we need new music, it was just fine the way it was.

But things need to change, or we will not grow. The younger generations need to express themselves or they will not find their voice. The minority populations need to rise, or injustice will never be eliminated. If we prevent change, the fire will die, and need rekindled again. And if we are unwilling to embrace the change, we will often find ourselves in opposition to the kingdom of God.

I want us to sit with this for a moment. I want us to consider the news that we have heard over the past few days, and our responses to it. When we hear words like critical race theory what happens within your body? Do you cringe or do you become hopeful? And what if you were to ask the person next to you what they thought would it be the same as you or would it be different? If it is different, why?

The negative side of growth occurs when people stop listening to others and they move off into their own like-minded areas. This gives our ecosystem too much of one kind of plant and not enough others. Suddenly we find ourselves with an overabundance of one thing and a critical need of another. One example can be seen in the labor shortage. What caused this? One might say the young people just don’t want to work, and others might say that too many people retired. One might say that the social safety net is too vast so people have no incentive to work, and another might say that wages are not good enough to bother taking a job because it would not cover the most basic of needs. The conversation has different views and when we only listen to one side we have an over abundance of one idea, then we will get a majority for that idea, and suddenly there is a law passed. Was the problem fixed? Probably not, because we are divided three against two, and two against three. Younger generation against the older.

The point of this whole passage is to give us a shock. We have our ideas and our ideologies. And that is great but that does not mean you are right all the time and in every way. Unchecked growth in one area is cancerous and unhealthy. We need the refiners fire, and the baptism to promote real change. We need to listen to the minority and emerging voices so that we do not continue to promote injustices and instead promote greater health to the community. And I do not say this because I want to be political, far from it. I say this because this is the tone of the passage.

You can see the division all around you. We see it in our homes, and in our workspaces. We see it on the streets and in the seats of power. Its all around us, but are we listening? Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ 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?” We know what we should do in most cases. We know what is right and what is wrong. We know but we refuse to admit it. We refuse because it might require us to acknowledge that we might be wrong, we might have made a mistake, we might have contributed to something unintended, and we do not want to endure the pain to reconcile and rebuild.

First century Israel, wanted the Messiah, they were ready for the messiah. They wanted hope, they wanted change, they wanted to make Israel great again. They wanted everything that we want. But there was a problem. To get what we want we must listen, we must change, we must repent, and we must be willing to put in the work. Jesus told them that the kingdom of God was at hand, it was right in front of and all around them. And that kingdom is still at hand, but are we willing to see it? Are we willing to participate? Are we willing to say that the ways of God are not the same of the ways of men and admit and turn from our own sin and align ourselves to that of God? Are we willing to stand up and bear the image of God within us so that those around us can see it and know that there is a better way? Will we allow growth through the fire and rain? Will we allow God to hit the reset button in our lives so that we can be recalibrated and restart the Edenic ecosystem around us? Or will we allow our divisions to go unchecked and continue to spread cancerous sin among us? How will you interpret the present time?

If you would like to help support the continued Ministry of Willow Creek Friends Church please consider donating online:


To help support the personal ministry of JWQuaker (Jared Warner) online and in the community click to donate.

About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply


Meeting Times

Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
%d bloggers like this: