The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r067.htm
s067e02 Lockleys Sunday 34 Christ the King 24/11/02
"far above all rule and authority and power and dominion ..." Ephesians 1.20
Today we finish the trilogy of parables of judgement with the standard of judgement for those who do not know Christ. Again, to comment briefly on the gospel, as I have done in the last two weeks, I point out that neither those who have "done the right thing" or those who haven't, recognise the risen Christ before whom they stand. Each acknowledges that they have never met their judge, so they have never had an opportunity to "confess the faith of Christ crucified" (1 Co 1:23) in their lifetime, yet those who have been charitable to those around them are included. So this final parable of judgement means that God has a place in the kingdom for all who have acted in a humanitarian way, regardless of motivation or faith. Again, we have three standards of judgement in this chapter 25 of Matthew, because God is a God who includes not who excludes.
So to turn then to the epistle. Of all the creatures in the world, I suspect the ones we most admire are the birds. "Oh for the wings of a dove!" goes the song. Or as the psalmist exclaims: "We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler: the snare is broken, and we have gone free." (Psalm 124.5) We have an image of birds being entirely carefree, masters and mistresses of all they survey. Their territory is the whole sky, from one horizon to the other.
Some of us, however, have had the experience of a caged bird, like a budgerigar or canary, managing to escape. Having lived a confined life of luxury, they are unable to fend for themselves in the wild. But more startling is the realisation, for me, that in the wild, other birds attack the new comer into their territory. The reality is that the formerly caged creature has little hope of survival, being unable to forage for themselves and being attacked by other birds which have all the advantages of being on their own home turf.
And those lovely possums with their big sorrowful eyes, shyly advancing to take a morsel of food from the human hand. What could be more delightful than them! They remain a protected species but if they are transplanted to a different territory they are attacked by other possums. The warm and fuzzy creatures are, of course, very vicious! What a blessing it is that they can't be protected from each other! :-)
The famous naturalist, David Attenborough, speaks of the real survivors of the plant kingdom, wheat. "Today, the descendants of that early grass, wheat, has become one of the most successful plants the world has ever seen. ... With the help of humanity, wheat no longer faces a social struggle. It has eliminated it." (David Attenborough "the Private Life of Plants BBC p197) Wheat has made itself indispensable to humanity and by doing so has propagated itself right around the world. It's territorial ambitions are indefatigable.
Indeed I suspect the cancers in our bodies are just like the weeds in our garden. Weeds are just the same as the plants around them - it is just that they grow so strongly, they push out everything else. So cancers are just prolific growths which invade the territory of others and push everything else aside.
Being human means that we do not live by the rule of the jungle. It is not "the survival of the fittest" when it comes to humanity, because if we live like that we will most surely die like that. We live, as humans, not just for ourselves, but also for others.
So when we were, in the beginning, given dominion over the rest of creation, it surely did not mean that we were given permission to wipe out the rest of creation. Dominion means caring for the creation, not beating everything else into submission. If we choose to beat the rest of creation into submission it is we who will suffer in the end.
This has, of course, considerable relevance to the relationship between couples. It one partner dominates the other, the dominant person misses out eventually.
It is just a logical extension of the fact that humanity does not live by the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest, that neither do we live territorially. We look beyond ourselves and our borders.
So this day when we celebrate Christ the King, we celebrate one who did not live like the animals and the survival of the fittest. We celebrate one who didn't live territorially, but looked beyond himself and the supposed boundaries of his existence.
So when we celebrate Christ the King and see him as above all "rule and authority and power and dominion", Christ is this, only in so far as Christ is caring of the other and Christ is inclusive of all others.
In fact it is precisely this aspect that makes Christ King, and not just a replica of the uncaring dominions that abound on earth.
Indeed the kingship of Christ shows us the blessedness of living life this way. Living humanly is approved of by God, and will be rewarded, most importantly in this life, without having to speculate about the next.
And we have to be clear about this. Recent press reports tell us of the "Blackshirts" coming to Adelaide, promising to harass "adulterous" women where-ever they can. I think if I was a woman married to one of these sorts of people and had the guts to leave and find comfort elsewhere, I would certainly do so. The last thing I would do is criticise such a person.
So Christ is "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion ..." including ours, so that Christ can be merciful to all. So this tells us that the risen Christ is not "ours" - the sole preserve of those who think like us or believe in our terms. This tells us that the risen Christ is not "ours" even in the sense of belonging to "Christians" rather than to anyone else.
So the reality is that we cannot work to make Christianity the "dominant" religion to the exclusion of every other faith. Dominion involves recognising, acknowledging and preserving the diversity of people.
As I type this the Iraqi leadership is considering the resolution of the United Nations Security Council. Initial reports suggested they complained that it is a breach of their sovereignty as a nation. But sovereignty, like dominion, is only valid where there is respect for the diversity of people. In World War 2 the regime of Hitler did not respect parts of their community, Gays, Jews, Gypsies and the disabled. It seems that the Iraqi leadership also has difficulties with the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south. We are told that the Iraqi government has used weapons of mass destruction against sections of their own population. Let me make it plain that the last thing I want is war, but neither do I think it is appropriate to sit idly by while whole communities are wiped out. Of course if we were certain of these things the way forward for the rest of civilization would, in fact, be quite clear. The reality is that no one can be certain of what is really happening there and we are necessarily dependent on second hand reports with unknown biases.
But these examples demonstrate the importance of the issue of dominion. We cannot point the finger at others who religiously or politically dominate others, if we in reality only regret it was not us in the position to do the dominating.
Today is our Vestry meeting where we elect the new Parish Council and consider a budget for next year. The proper dominion of Christ is important, for in doing so we proclaim that God is caring for all in all our diversity. This message is important for us as individuals, important for us as a community, important for us in our intimate relationships, important in our relationships to people of other faiths and of no faith, and important even on the world stage, in the relationship of nations towards their own people and between nation and other nations.
So the nature of the task is not trivial or something that we can ignore. We have a message to proclaim and we ignore it at our own peril and the peril of everyone else too, again, not particularly in the age to come, but in this life, here and now.
God has a place for all in the kingdom, Christian, Jew, people of other faiths and people of no faith, for God is a God who includes not excludes. We are wise virgins with lots of oil as we welcome this fact.
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