The readings on which this
sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r146.htm
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
‘Why the Church should thank the media’ by Michael
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.