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Sunday Devotion: 18 August 2019, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday Devotions

No peace

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Main readings: Isaiah 5.1-7; Psalm 80.1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11.29-12.2; Luke 12.49-59 (Jeremiah 23.23-29; Psalm 82)

Supplementary readings: Psalm 81; Hebrews 12.1-13; Isaiah 5. 16-24; Psalm 82; Luke 13.1-9 or Hebrews 12.1-13

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12.51)

Every empire throughout history has understood itself as the world’s best hope for realising lasting peace. And, every empire throughout history has used that understanding as justification for bloodshed, dispossession and assimilation. What is now known as ‘Australia’, established as an outpost of the British Empire, has a history of mass killings of Aboriginal people in a systematic process of expansion between 1788 and 1928. Additionally, various states’ policies have historically sought to destroy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and supported the institutionalised assimilation of our Indigenous peoples into white society.

Jesus lived under the violent Roman Empire, which also understood itself as the world’s best hope for civil stability and peace. Yet Jesus refused the Roman vision for peace, knowing well that the price for peace under imperial regimes is always violence. At the heart of Jesus’ refusal is a challenge to those kinship ties that are regarded as foundational and sacred to the project of imperial peace. “From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three” (Luke 12.52).  Jesus did not come in the name of any imperial peace project with its hopes and visions of assimilation to a ‘proper’ social order. He comes in the name of the Kingdom of God, which cuts open all our natural allegiances to nation and even family. In Australia, what visions of society and family do we hold to be sacred?

Discipleship always requires us to break from those patterns of living that pledge allegiance to oppressive social orders. Jesus confronts us with a choice: choose empire or choose the Kingdom of God.

The promise is that with discipleship comes Jesus’ peace that surpasses all understanding—a peace that no empire could ever give.

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