Swords and Sparrows – Matthew 10:24-39
Last week you got an over-long sermon. I’m going to make up for that today and keep it short! You have a bishop’s committee meeting to get to after all!
If you were a first century Jewish follower of Jesus after the resurrection, you’d be feeling a whole lot of pressure both from your family and synagogue leaders and also from the Roman political system that had been imposed on your nation.
Neither group of people thought Jesus was anything but a troublemaker – and indeed, he was. He came to critique his own people’s religious leaders, men who had abandoned God’s kingdom – in order keep peace with the Romans. And he came to invite even those Romans, tax collectors, foreigners, women, and all manner of assorted and marginalized people to trust his vision and to follow him, each in their own way, walking at right angles to the world around them.
And both of those things caused trouble – for him, and for his friends. He was a scandal.
By Matthew’s time, when persecution was real – this message mattered:
They will treat you like they treated me. You will be maligned.
Tell the good news anyway – shout it even! – because it really is GOOD news: Caesar isn’t Lord. You are called to walk an altogether different way as joyful children of God.
And do not be afraid. Even if you die – which you might.
Why? Because even tiny birds do not fall and die apart from the knowledge and care of God.
And you are worth more than many such sparrows. Your life is in God’s hands – and God will not let you fall from his love – even in death.
And remember this: He also said, I have not come to bring “peace” – not the peace of appeasement, not even the Pax Romana – the peace Rome brings – not the peace that sucks up to power to avoid pain – not the peace that covers over cruelty, and injustice in order to stay safe.
No, he said, – I have come to bring a sword. I have come to divide the real from the false – I have come to cut through nonsense, and to slice straight between traditional human loyalties including the traditional structure of “family values” and loyalty to the coming kingdom of God which is not the same thing at all.
Everyone will have to choose whether to follow me or not. And everyone CAN choose. You are not powerless or helpless.
Now look. Jesus’ sword is not one he will use to murder anybody. God has no interest in killing those who oppose him. His sword simply cuts BETWEEN those who welcome joy and hope and a future that is not determined by established religious or political powers and those who are content to cower under their authority.
And here’s the real deal: Jesus insists that if you dare to relinquish the life you have, the privileges you have been given, the perspectives you have held, the security of belonging comfortably to this world’s systems – you will find newer, better, richer and unending life, just as Jesus did.
If you cling to your old way of life, doing what you have been told, and keeping the peace that is no peace, you will find that in the end you have lost it all.
It isn’t a threat. It’s a warning. You will get to live gladly in the kingdom that is real, and radically different no matter what happens to you – or you will be miserable and finally die anyway as the powerful-appearing kingdoms of this world, the kingdom of Caesar fade into insignificance.
“A disciple is not above the master – it is enough for the disciple to be like the master.”