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s146g12  Sunday 34  Christ the King  25/11/2012

'If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over.'   John 18.36

Of course we see that Jesus' followers are fighting, fighting lest ‘their’ Jesus is handed over - to gay and lesbian persons, to Christians who don’t believe in creation, to churches who ordain women and allow the use of contraception.

It is interesting that had not the orthodox and the devout insisted, Jesus would have had nothing to fear from Pilate.   This is, of course, not an anti-Semitic sentiment, for many an orthodox and devout Christian and Anglican would have Jesus killed because of whom he included.

I have been reflecting recently how consistently the Bible tells us again and again, that religion is no recipe for success.   It is no remedy for poverty, illness and death.   Indeed the Bible tells us again and again that the origin of poverty, illness and death is religion itself.   One of the reasons behind the temptation to eat of the forbidden fruit is that it made the person wise, knowing good from evil.  The first murder was committed because of a perception that his brother’s offering to God was more acceptable.  Job suffers calamity despite his devotion and charity.   Ecclesiastes speaks of the futility of everything, including religion.   Indeed one of the major conundrums of the Old Testament is the reason that, despite the promise of God, an autonomous Jewish Holy Land has, for the vast majority of history, never been realised.  And in the New Testament Paul realises on the way to Damascus, that his religion was driving him to persecute others.

Salvation for St Paul is salvation from religion, from sanctified selfishness in whatever guise, using the name of whatever ‘god’.

Recently I have been reflecting on people’s journeys away from Jerusalem, away from the centre of orthodoxy and devotion, and into the real world.   Jonah is sent, but goes in the opposite direction lest God be merciful to the people of Nineveh.   The man on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho, the one who fell among thieves, found compassion and care, not from the orthodox and the devout who happened along that way, but from an unclean and heretical Samaritan.   Jesus found faith in the Syro-Phoenecian alpha-female on the very edge of the Promised Land but had to return to Jerusalem to be killed, because that is what religion does, not just to Messiahs but to masses of ordinary folk who don't measure up.   The two on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus meet the risen Jesus.   Peter, despite being the chief apostle, has still to be led step by step away from an old orthodoxy to the house of the gentile Cornelius to include his family, himself and, by extension, all others.   The Spirit forbad Paul simply to remain in his familiar home territory of Asia, but sent him even further from Jerusalem, to cross the rubicon into Europe.

So salvation is never personal for this is essentially selfish.   Salvation is never corporate at the expense of another corporation, for this is no less selfish, and potentially more destructive.   Salvation is essentially universal or it is nothing whatsoever.

So we today proclaim not that Jesus is our King, but we recognise and affirm that Jesus is the universal King of all.   We acknowledge that Jesus is never just ours; Jesus doesn’t belong to Anglicans, Christians, the orthodox and the devout; but to the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, and by extension to all others, whatever their faith or lack thereof.

So if our praise for Christ the King today is about keeping him to ourselves, a fight to keep him being handed over to others, then I suspect that the risen Christ is well out of earshot, having better things to do.

Today we are invited to celebrate that Jesus is not ours alone, and there are a good many reasons to celebrate this.   It means that we do not have to convert the world, and that is a real millstone we should be glad to no longer have around our neck.   It means that we do not have to save the church; save the church from declining attendances, diminishing collections and exponentially increasing demands from the hierarchy.   It means that we can look at others, and rather than nit-pick, acknowledge the good that they are doing.

It is fascinating to realise that the vast majority of ordinary folk, outside the pews, actually do believe that it is irrelevant to God that gay and lesbian persons seem to relate better to those of the same gender, know that God is not diminished in the slightest by those who believe in evolution rather than creation, who suspect that God is not the least affronted by those churches who ordain women and are entirely perplexed that God should have a particular distain for those who use their brains and contraception.

One of the particular issues that face some parts of the church today (including 'mine') is the sanctity of the confessional.   At this time, parts of the church are fighting to retain the inviolate sanctity of the confessional in the face of an exponentially increasing amount of evidence of child molestation by church workers.   Unfortunately we have been brought up in a culture that *obedient* 'children are to be seen and not heard' and *obedient* parishioners likewise.   Part of our inculturation, incarnation, is to hear the protests of the children, and to respond appropriately to their pain.  I really do wish that molestation of children is named for what it is.   God loves children but doesn't molest them.   To use a greek word 'pædophile' seems to dignify and pathologise what is essentially selfish.   If the confessional serves only to pander to the peccadilloes of a 'penitent' simply to allow him or her to carry on unabashed, ordinary people rightfully wonder if something is not a trifle selfish, both personally in terms of the 'penitent' and corporately in terms of the 'church'.   Who is being helped?   Why would modern parents want to send their children into a place where they are not respected and heard?   Does God have some word of comfort to a ‘penitent’ child molester but no words of comfort to their victim?   Well not the God I worship!   And lest it may seem as if I am singling out the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of which I am a part commends confession and defends the sanctity of the confessional.   And I commend these articles in the Melbourne Jesuit magazine ‘Eureka Street‘: ‘No lowly scapegoats in 'necessary' Royal Commission’ by Moira Rayner  and ‘Why the Church should thank the media’ by Michael McVeigh

The biblical witness is that God is ever the God of the powerless and the victim, not the God of the orthodox and the devout.   It is ever the orthodox and the devout who fight to keep God to themselves and their kingdom, for all the highfalutin language, quoting scripture and tradition and claiming the name of the divine, it remains a kingdom of this world; a kingdom of evil.