Christ the King
November 24, 2013
He was a King unlike any the Ancient Near East had ever seen.
This king did not signify his kingship in land, Herds of sheep and cattle, palaces, or a harem.
He did not rule over the people but rather walked among them, healed them, fed them.
He spoke to them, with them.
His prounouncements were blessings.
It was to be an entirely different kind of kingdom than the ancient
near east had ever seen and an entirely different kind of king the people would believe in
Belief in this kingdom is shown in love, in fellowship, in care; tribute and taxation are for other kings.
This is Christ the King Sunday
We use a different kind of imagery now, this Sunday, to prepare us for Advent.
Before Advent’s hopeful anticipation of joy we speak of pain, politics, and suffering.
For everything that we will feel in advent, we, today, consider
Jesus on a cross, between criminals, being given sour wine on a sponge. And the only sign of his kingship in this moment is a mocking sign hung above his body hanging on a cross calling him King of the Jews
He was a king who did not save himself and the criminals he spoke with on the cross. The Greek text tells us more about the criminals. The text of Matthew and Mark calls them ‘lestai’ meaning peasants separated from their land, usually as a result of taxation or their land having been seized by elites. The text of Luke calls them kakourgos meaning common thieves.
On the cross, under a sign alleging a political crime in the eyes of the Romans. Politics is not the focus humanity is. One of the men being crucified beside Jesus is angry, disbelieving,—IF YOU ARE SO POWERFUL, SAVE US! He taunts; but Jesus does not play into the worldly test he is mocked towards. He does something more miraculous than toppling the crosses, or vanishing: HE STAYS.
He is a God and King on a cross, suffering, in pain. Together with his people, the people that he came for, who are also suffering
He does something more miraculous than vanishing off the cross. While he is beginning to end death, He says to the criminal who spoke in his defense
You will be with me in paradise. It is true kingship when in your own suffering, you can turn to a neighbor and offer words of hope.
When I was little, my older cousin Casey told me a bedtime story about heaven she told me what she had heard at her Assemblies of God church. I would tag along with her there and watch how she prayed, how she sang and want with all my heart to believe the way she did. In this bedtime story she told me about how when we get to heaven we will each be given a great gift--she was about to tell me the secret of heaven, my older cousin, she told me that we will all be given sapphire mansions to live in for eternity.
As I remember this story, I remember feeling a little non-plussed—it sounds cold and hard on the eyes; but I remember my question—"Casey, can I visit you in yours?"
As the holidays approach, as I look forward to being home for family meals, I've been thinking of the allegory of the long spoons, which is told in Confucianism, Judaism, and other traditions:
The story goes that a person dreams of two scenes
the first is set in hell in some tellings of this story
in others, this first scene is on earth
many people are seated around a table
around a feast
these people are looking at the food
looking but not eating
because their arms are tied to boards so they cannot bend at the elbow
and the only utensils are long spoons
long spoons they cannot feed themselves with
the people are miserable
kind of whiny
the second scene the sleeper dreams
has a similar set up
people around a table
an aromatic feast
and long spoons
but in this scene
commonly set in heaven
the people are using the spoons
maneuvering them with their bound arms
not to feed themselves
but to feed each other
In heaven, we feed each other, the story goes, we resist the solitary misery of giving up and staring at the feast and staring at our neighbor staring at the feast
and reach out to offer comfort and sustenance.
I like this story because it doesn't talk about the kingdom of God in far-off distant terms, because it shows both grace and responsibility towards each other
And that the Kingdom of God is not something we wait for.
The Kingdom of God is a state, a state of being.
The Kingdom of God is something we participate in.
The Kingdom of God is what we do.
The Kingdom of God is located between us when we cross paths with each other, with our neighbors.
Between us and people the world would call criminals.
Its beautiful but
We're not going to arrive immediately.
We're not going to finish the work of the kingdom tomorrow.
We are not doing it to earn salvation.
We do it because we believe that Jesus was more than a community organizer and more than a rabbi who spoke peace, but also the Christ, Christ the King.
We're doing it because we believe in the word spoken and embodied by Jesus on the cross that we will move beyond the structures of this world. And through this belief, we know that the Kingdom of God is how we are with those who are suffering. Like Christ the King when he is with the criminal on the cross.
Living in the Kingdom of God is not just the imitation of Christ in manners only, not in speech only; but in conversation, IN RELATIONSHIP with those he would have spoken to, who he still speaks to, those who speak to us, those who show us the places where we can bring the Kingdom of Christ: places to visit the sick, places to offer shelter, places we could feed our neighbors.
Like here, this last Tuesday night I overheard some of our neighbors talking about us it’s a long walk but the food’s good. The people are real here and talkative too, not just here’s your food and get out and one woman said quietly they seem to want us to be here.
When we act with love, according to the kingdom of God people notice.
In a few weeks we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, God on earth, God among us, God in relationship. The potential of the Kingdom of Christ was shown to the disciples and shown to be more of a kinship than a kingdom spread by the apostles and through the years to us. Given to us--a kinship for us between God and humanity, a kinship between us, for joy, to mourn. A kinship to worship Christ the King