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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, November 23, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 10:34–42         

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (NRSV)

Well, the holidays are upon us, and what better words to welcome the season than these, where families are set against each other and swords are part of the equation. Countdown to Thanksgiving! Let’s carve the turkey!

And yes, I know that Jesus didn’t mean to literally take a sword to people—Peter thought he did and cut off a guy’s ear, and Jesus was none too pleased about that, remember. “Peter! It’s a metaphor!” So what was Jesus talking about?

There was an old samurai master who said, when firearms began to be used in Japan in the sixteenth century, “a gun is very useful in war, but I will continue to train with a sword.” He said this because a sword trains your mind in a way that guns do not.

A sword requires a level of physical and psychological commitment. The Japanese talk about “cutting in two with one sword stroke,” meaning a moment of committed decision. If you waver, you don’t make the cut.

As Yoda says, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Jedi, samurai, it all adds up the same way. Swords and truths divide. And in today’s world of “alternative facts” truth, real, palpable truth is going to divide people like the stroke of a sword.

But we’re supposed to be bringing people together, right? Shouldn’t we accommodate? Yeah, maybe. Maybe you should at Thanksgiving dinner. But you shouldn’t make a habit of not speaking truth for fear of offending. There’s a Japanese phrase, “mukashi no tsurugi, ima no na-gatana,” which means “once a sword, now a vegetable knife.” It’s used in reference to something valued that has fallen into disuse. A sad thing to say about truth.

Jesus came to bring the truth, and he knew full well that speaking the truth divides people. The question is, are we going set it aside for comfortable accommodation or will we tell the truth?

In the moment of truth where do we come down?

Lord, train us to serve the truth, knowing that you are the spirit of truth. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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