Christ the King, Reign of Christ, Or?

Posted: November 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

Isaiah 23:1-6; Luke 23:33-43

Christ the King, Reign of Christ, Or?

At first glance, there is something anachronistic about claiming Christological superiority in a postmodern age of seekers, multiple faiths, and self-described spiritual but not religious persons.  What does it mean to talk of Kings when there is very little understanding of what that meant, means or could mean? Do we need to use such language today to talk about the presence of a man who dies thousands of years ago? Do we need to all think the same in order to preserve some sort of story or truth? Do we need to use such language to contribute to an understanding of the way God’s presence or the presence of the sacred is with us?

Well! I do think we need some sort of myth, some sort of story or myth to provide us with life. We are conscious beings who cannot be without the conscious exercise. The question I think we might ask is do we need universality, some sort of collective vision to help us question things like custom, and culture, and institution, and organization and assumption. And the answer again is yes, I think we do so long as we can maintain the scepticism, maintain the questioning so as to critique the inevitable imperialism. That comes. The theological question is ‘Can we claim universality in terms of God’s presence in the ministry and mission Jesus of Nazareth in a world of multiple truth claims?  Again, my answer is yes but only if the universal can be balanced by the particularity of our own faith perspective? It is always in tension and that is good.

The reality is that every religious tradition claims a type of universality.  Buddhists assert albeit humbly that Buddhist practices can, in principle, be transformative for everyone.  The Jewish vision of God, even apart from the Christian incarnational understanding of Jesus, cannot just be restricted to the Jewish people, but must have applicability, in principle, to all people.  The reality is that the world’s many faith or wisdom traditions affirm different things.  The world’s religions are not the same, nor do they claim to lead to the same destination by similar practices. Here we have the inevitability of human consciousness. This diversity does not need to lead to a concrete wall between faiths, but rather to an evolving interdependence of faith positions, growing alongside one another and learning from each other. The fear of losing one’s uniqueness is transformed in the joint hermeneutic walk. We interpret together pooling greater diversity in thought and the result is a more real and true outcome.

Jeremiah speaks of divine shepherding and by that he introduces the idea that God does not dominate but serves.  The God of all things cares for each thing: God’s companionship casts away all fear and renews all things.  God appoints caregivers not to “lord it over” the laity but to heal and reconcile all people.  God seeks wholeness for all creation, and God’s spokespersons have the same responsibility, to gather together, to seek unity, and nurture new life and creativity. Note the need for diversity, the need for difference that requires the walk together, the sharing of difference in the interests of the new.

Psalm 46, today’s psalm we didn’t read continues the theme of divine wholeness.  God is our refuge and strength; God helps us in challenging times.  In the maelstrom, we discover that we are not alone but that God is with us. Here we have the together requirement, the engagement with ‘the other’ the need for the hermeneutic, the sharing of the interpretation.  But, to experience divine wholeness, and by this we might mean the engagement we make with the sacred. One of the aspects of this engagement is that we need to “be still” or “pause awhile.” God or the divine or the sacred speaks in the maelstrom of life: a still small voice whispers through the storm and gives guidance and courage to those who stop long enough to listen.  Awareness begins with a small seed within consciousness. God is on our side, giving protection and strength, in times of trial.  But we must let go of frenetic activity and anxiety to experience holiness in the center of the cyclone.

We are called to Honour the Mind.

Stillness awakens us to the larger perspective.  Mindfulness takes us to the place beyond judgement, a place of vulnerable openness and we discover that our personal and social upheavals are part of a larger more orderly and creative fabric of divine care.  The upheavals are important but not all-dominating when we recognize that that which we name God is with us. John Caputo might say we encounter the God who is the insistent call. A Creed from the United Church of Canada which is theistic says “We are not alone, we live in God’s world; In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone.” I might say the same thing in non-theistic language as “We are not alone, we participate in the creation of the divine world. In life, in death, in life beyond death, what is divine is manifest in our becoming”

Today’s lectionary passage from Colossians joins the universal and intimate.  In Christ, all things are created. Christ is the impersonal, timeless everlasting insistence where God’s fullness dwells: the fully alive post Easter Jesus or the fully active faith of Jesus is a catalyst for our own personal and institutional creative transformation.  God’s glory does not dominate but nurtures our own agency, creativity, and responsibility.  Through the Christ, the divine insistence reconciles all things.  In reconciling all things, Christ reconciles each thing and that means each one of us.  The ever-present divine is present in the here and now, in our life, and in our community, always seeking Shalom.

The words I have just used are an attempt to articulate that which Colossians argues as joining cosmology and personality.  What touches all things heals each thing.  The One who moves though all things also moves through each of our lives, seeking abundant life and wholeness for all of us, one person at a time. The systems and society we live in is always too complex, too busy, to belittling, too hopeless, yet in this Christ we are talking about the individual, the small, the insignificant is imbedded within everything.

We are called to Live the questions.

Luke sees Calvary as the center of sacred space-time.  Jesus forgives the people right in front of him:  the crowd and the political leaders are dominated by fear and egocentricity; they cannot see beyond their own alienation and consequent need to dominate and destroy. They choose which side of the equation to stand and fight, inclusion or separation, difference or sameness and Jesus is used as the projection – the scapegoat – intended to ease their anxiety and alienation; The Christ is conditioned as the only way out and can become locked in creedal form or concrete infallible truth that denies his humanity. He becomes perfect and untouchable. But this projection fails to limit or dominate the post Easter Jesus, The Christ. He freely claims his relationship to God’s Shalom within the maelstrom of violence.

Jesus’ promise to his companion on the cross goes from clock time to a timeless, risen life.  “Today you will be with me in paradise” suggests a relationship of wholeness in the midst of dying and death.  Jesus doesn’t describe what he means by paradise, but he opens the door to a larger space-time perspective that embraces the vision of heaven and the communion of saints.  We can experience this everlasting life now: we can experience the sacred vision amid the ordinary moments and tragic conflicts of life. Our life is part of a grand adventure that goes beyond our physical deaths.  Death does not limit God’s love.  Rather God continues God’s aim at wholeness in any future adventures we might have.

We are called to Explore the adventure of Humanity.

This realm of Christ, this divine world, this pre and post Easter world is intended for healing and affirmation.  In the divine-human, divine-creaturely, call and response, that which we name God identifies with our deepest needs and the deepest needs of the planet (and beyond) and does all that can be done to bring health to the body, cell by cell and soul by soul.  The divine we name God insists that we be expressions of the creation, agents of the creativity that manifests the purpose and the meaning and enactment of the universe.

Let go of the language of Kings and realms with boundaries. Let go of the limited view of differences and the fear of the universal and be The Christ today. Amen.


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