Christ The King Sunday
- Posted on Nov 26, 2019
AS ADVENT APPROACHES we have been thinking a lot about Crèche scenes in our household . Mike has been working on a couple of projects for the church and I have decided that our grandchildren who will be visiting for Thanksgiving ,are at the perfect age to introduce a new tradition…setting up Mia’s Crèche.
When I think of a manger scene It’s hard for me not to remember clearly our visits to Assisi, Italy, where the staging of figures to depict the birth of Christ was first used by Saint Francis as a teaching tool in the 13th century. In the more elaborate Italian Nativity scenes that followed, many of which were created in the finest artistry shops of Naples and Florence, whole villages, usually Italian villages .. were depicted in the Middle Ages …..These elaborate scenes were designed with people going about their daily lives. And somewhere among the throng of people Mary, Joseph and the Christ child lying in a manger would be displayed. The holy family was usually placed beneath the ruins of some ancient Roman columns. Metaphorically this announced the birth of a new kingdom on earth which would overcome and dismantle the old world order and empire.
What interests me the most when gazing at these artful creations are the people’s reaction to the miracle in their midst. Most are busy with the industry of daily living , carrying baskets, chatting with others, fishing at a stream. But there are always a few characters whose heads are turned in the direction of the holy family with an amazed look on their faces. Something about life at that moment caused them to turn and notice this wondrous anomaly. They are stunned by the beautiful bright star! They suspect that they are witnessing a great wonder and are humbled by its magnitude. Somehow they know they are facing God.
In this morning’s gospel reading we heard Luke’s account of the execution of Jesus. The world’s most powerful empire was exercising its authority to stage a state sanctioned crucifixion. People were gathered out of curiosity and grief. On this hill named Golgotha Roman soldiers tossed around mockery and dice.Yet In that moment ..and at that place …the truth and light and love of Christ the King conquered the cruelty of it all and was revealed. A man dying for his crime hanging beside Jesus suddenly saw with clarity who Jesus was …..”this man is of God ” he may have thought. Jesus recognizing his enlightened and contrite heart turned to him and offered him love.. a place in paradise. God was revealed….in this horrific dying moment ….Christ was king and changed the whole emphasis of the scene ….and then ….He changed the world.
Have we ourselves seen Christ this clearly? Have we been witness to his love ? Do we offer him room enough to reign over our world with its violence, sin, sadness and hopelessness? Have we offered space in our lives to live into the baptismal blessings bestowed upon us ? Have we tried to actively be a part of his kingdom here on earth? Or do we see our personal faith and connection to God as more of an anomaly in the secular world we live within? Are we too busy carrying our own baskets of earthly chores to notice the amazing gift of the birth of Christ.
As the great Christian writer Dorothy Day wrote,
” God doesn’t force any of this on us. God’s word is a personal address, inviting, commanding, challenging, directing but not forcing. We are given space and credo to enter the conversation. For more than anything else the Bible invites our participation in the work and language of God.”
But what we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives.
The early Christians were known for their faithful acts of love as they scattered” the First Fruits of the Spirit”. Their lives were guided by the directive left by Christ to love one another. Even the pagan moralists noted this as the primary thing which set Christianity apart.
These Christians were hoping to create the Kingdom of God here on earth, a world of economic justice, and peace, where nations beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, where every family has its own vine and fig tree and no one is made to live in fear. ( Micah 4:1-4; Isaiah 2:2-4)
This Kingdom of God …..is about loving God ……and loving what God loves”
Jesus demonstrated this for us as the incarnation, the embodiment ,of what can be seen of God’s character and passion in a life lived among us. His passion was for a Kingdom that would show what life would be like on a transformed earth. And whether we choose to engage in the kingdom or not the world continues to be God’s passion.
We understand from the gospels that Jesus’ Ministry was centered on love…to the marginalized, the lepers, tax collectors, the Samaritan woman at the well, the sick and dying. We may not know any Samaritan women or lepers but we can replace these nouns with the marginalized that confront our consciences daily : the immigrant on our boarder, the homeless, the sick and drug addled, the food insecure, the socially ostracized person, that relative that has the polar opposite political views from our own. Jesus’ parables illustrate for us fairness and justice, humility and activism… inclusiveness and forgiveness, but most of all love…for everyone. He left us with the directive to continue his work here on earth….to love one another, to gather together and remember him, and to forgive each other.
Four years ago a young white male fired 77 bullets leaving 8 people dead and one mortally wounded during a bible study class at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. The shock and heartache felt from this hate filled slaughter reverberated throughout the world. But the ” Fruits of the Spirit” overwhelmed the racist incident and our emotions were overcome and amazingly dwarfed by the Christian reaction from this community.
Just days after the massacre, relatives of the murdered spoke at the assailant’s hearing before a judge:
” I just want everyone to know, I forgive you. You took something really precious away from me.” Nadine Collier
” I forgive you, my family forgives you, but we would like for you to take this opportunity to repent, confess and give your life to the one who matters the most- Christ.” Myra Thompson
” We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with opened arms. Those who died were some of the most beautiful people I knew. every fiber of my being hurts, and I will never be the same…May God have mercy on you”. Felicia Sanders
” Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate , this is proof — everyone pleading for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live as love so hate won’t win.” Alana Simmons
We strongly pray that none of us gathered here today will face such a devastating event in our lives. We know that gun violence has become a normal part of our culture and sadness and injustice, poverty and prejudice have not been erased.
And when we are overwhelmed by the sinfulness of this world there doesn’t seem to be much we personally can do. God’s wish for our world…his kingdom…seems further and further from our reach.
St Francis said,
“Start with what’s necessary. Then do what is possible. Then suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
” The Universe is not interested in your achievements ….just your heart. When you choose to act out of kindness, compassion and love, you are aligning yourself with Christ and discovering your true purpose.”
Love affirms the reality of the other person, …..the other culture, …..the other way of life
Love wants the best for people
It was love that drove much of the world to oppose the apartheid regime in South Africa
It was love that drove abolitionist William Wilberforce to protest against the slave trade
It was love that gathered those heart broken and shattered members of the Mother Emmanuel AME church into prayer circles in the very sight of the flashing emergency lights at the scene of a massacre
It was love that checked on a parishioners house,when she was dying in hospice care
It is love that draws us to the basement of our parish hall each summer to offer what we can in food security to children in our midst.
” God is not in heaven nearly as much as God is the force field that allows us to create heaven ( here on earth) through our intentions and actions” ( Richard Rohr )
These summary bible verses from the book of Matthew have been translated by Eugene Peterson in his translation of the Bible entitled ” The Message”.. the words will sound familiar to you but in their modern translation they may speak to you in a slightly different , maybe even startling way.
Matthew 5: 13-14
” Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God flavors of this earth.” Here’s another way to put it: You are here to be a light, bringing out the God colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We are going public with this, as public as a city on a hilltop, as a lamp on a light stand— Shine! Keep open house. Be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, ( and to know) this generous Father in heaven!
Let us pray:
As we approach this season of Advent may we too turn and experience the clarity of seeing God. May we begin with what is necessary and make our contribution to bringing about the impossible to change this world. May we help to build the Kingdom of God here on earth by encountering our lives through Christ’s heart.May we bring the light of God’s colors into the world. May we find love when hate surfaces and forgiveness when it is nearly impossible to give. And on this Christ the King Sunday …..may we know which kingdom to follow….and to whom we should bow.