by Bob Wickizer

Does Your Faith Make a Difference?
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Jeremiah 23:23-29; Hebrews 12:1-7 (8-10) 11-14; Luke 12:49-56; Psalm 82
19 August 2001

Our scripture for last Sunday and today probably will never make any preacher's top ten favorites list for sermons. Given to us during the long stretch of Pentecost these texts exhort us to hang in there for the long haul, to run the race with perseverance and they tell us to expect division and real difficulty when you follow Christ. Today's Gospel from Luke cannot be found in the list of "Texts of Terror" for preachers either, but it is sufficiently difficult that for the 9:00 Children's sermon I have ducked Luke altogether and focused on running the good race with perseverance from the Hebrews lesson.

But for our 7:45 and 11:15 services I want to tackle these difficult words of Jesus head on. As a kind of prelude to our reflection this morning I need to give you a brief history of hell. That's right we're talking about hell, gehennae, Hades, sheol. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries thanks to the strong influence of Calvinism, preachers leaned heavily on the fire and brimstone notion of an angry, wrathful God sending us poor sinners to hell if we don't shape up and behave. You can imagine how adults and children must have responded to Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon titled "Sinners at the Hand of an Angry God" where he compared God's judgment to a situation where we the sinners are like a spider that God holds by a thread over a candle flame. But all this began to change in the late 1800s with the advent of a simple Bible tool that we take for granted today.

The appearance of the Bible concordance books that compiled occurrence frequencies of all the significant words in the Bible showed preachers and the public that there were very few references to hell and similar ideas and that teachings about love, compassion and inclusion comprised far more of both the old and new testaments. With this insight int ...

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