Introduction: Jesus continues to warn the disciples and crowd to be watchful and most especially prepared for the Master’s return. He even goes so far as to warn them that the lax servant who forgets who he is and the mission he has been given to enter into solidarity with his God. Jesus says he will as a punishment for his negligent behavior be even cut into pieces! In today’s lesson Jesus talks about fire and baptism. Certainly this brings to mind John’s baptism of Jesus. Personally this brings to mind the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18: 20 – 40 p. 321). In that confrontation Elijah has the prophets of Baal put out an offering to their god of a bull set upon wood. The bull is a symbol of their god and should be a help in this god coming and consuming the offering. Nothing happens. Then Elijah puts out the wood and the cut up pieces of meat. Before he offers it to God he has the people take four jars of water about 30 gallons each and pour them on the offering and does this three times. Finally he has the prophets of Baal taken away and killed.
I) After warning the people that those to whom much has been given much will be demanded he goes on to share about God’s coming as a consuming fire and a new baptism with which he will be baptized by God, certainly calling to mind water.
II) The judgement the people are facing will divide the people against each other, perhaps going back to when the people were divided by their devotion to Baal and their allegiance to Yahweh. Jesus notes that incredibly they seem unaware of this coming choice even though they are most certainly able to discern the weather – when it will get hot and when it will rain. How can they discern this and yet fail to understand the one whom stands before them, the very Son of God, and fail to understand much less heed his warning!
III) The time is now to decide whom we will serve. Much like the ancient Israelites who had to decide which God they would serve now is the time to see clearly what God is demanding of them! We too are being called to see clearly what our role is as the church of God as we are invited to move forward with our mission of seeking out others to be disciples of Christ. Are we willing to focus our energies to meet the rigorous demands of the Gospel? Not just fulfilling our mission statement by daily prayer, weekly worship, regular Bible study, having a spiritual friend, giving to the church and outside the church but even be willing to open ourselves up to welcome those who come to us here at St. Michael’s when they seek out God’s love and solace as they long for a new way of life?