The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s201g07 Sunday 34 Christ the King 25/11/2007
'King .. save yourself .. and us' Luke 23.37,39
Here was a forlorn hope if ever there was one! Saved from crucifixion in the nick of time, because of Jesus hanging there beside him!
Over the past few weeks I have been led to think about the fact that God often acts in ways we consider unrighteous. More recently I have been thinking about how so much of the Bible is concerned with precisely this question. The classic book is, of course, Job. His righteousness is unquestioned, yet God seems not to reward him. Much of the book of Psalms is about pleading for God to act for his righteous servant.
But when I began to think about Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah the issue here is the same. Does God act to destroy the wicked and save the righteous?
Much of the prophetic literature ponders why God acts for the ancient people of God, when they are no better than their neighbours.
And if we are to take St Paul's lovely saying: 'We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose' (Romans 8.28) we at least need to recognise that this was certainly not true for Jesus!
If God does this in some attempt to make people acknowledge the Godhead, as Psalm 107 repeatedly suggests, really God could be more consistent! So the demise of Herod: 'immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.' Romans 12.23 If acknowledging the Godhead were a condition of continued existence then one wonders just how many people would actually be alive today, and not 6,631,849,114 (According to the International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of the World, projected to 11/18/07 - http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html)
Today we end our journey of Sundays after Pentecost / or Ordinary Sundays with this feast of Christ the King. Next week we turn to Advent, the beginning of the retelling of the story of his coming, birth, ministry and eventual death on the Cross. It needs to be said that Christ is an unusual King, in that as he did not get it all his own way, it is likely that those who follow him will also not get it all their own way. 'Justice' is hidden both from Jesus and from us.
One of the difficulties is, of course, God's seeming hatred for Egypt, drowning the pursuing armies in the Red Sea. However it is worth remembering that the first people that God saved were not the tribes of Israel, but the nation of Egypt - from famine, through the hand of Joseph. Now Joseph would I am sure have chosen an easier life for himself, given the chance! Justice was denied him for much of his life. While the Egyptians seem to have forgotten Joseph and their salvation, it behoves us as Christians to remember and realize that, even then, God first acted to save the Egyptians.
Where then does humanities inhumanity towards others originate? We may not be able to answer this positively, but we can certainly say that it does not originate with God and God never intends inhumanity towards others to be perpetuated, especially if done in his name. Right throughout the Old Testament God has been on the side of the orphan and the widow, not necessarily because they deserved this attention, but because, so often, they were, and are, the butt of other peoples' inhumanity.
So on our Christian journey, our concern for the poor, the marginalized and the alienated will be characteristic. We will not perpetuate marginalisation of women nor will we perpetuate the alienation of gay and lesbian persons, for this is just another form of institutional inhumanity towards others and done in the name of god.
One of the examples I started with was that of Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is a classic example of the inhumanity of the powerful against the weak.
The Cross of Jesus is all about the religious institutional inhumanity to someone other than themselves. It is surely important that we don't fall into the same trap and persecute others in the name of our god.
The Cross of Jesus resulted from Jesus being for others. He associated with tax collectors and sinners to the chagrin of those who saw themselves as above these others.
Christianity therefore is being for others, which is its (only) glory and also why it provokes enmity. We are for the poor and marginalized, we promote women and gay people, we recognise the spirituality of others who do not worship and do not worship like us.
Today we celebrate Christ the King, and as we do this we recognise that just as the Cross did not stop Jesus associating with others, so Christ reigns not just over those who acknowledge him, but over all. That purpose, being for others, all others, will never be defeated.
It is worth pondering how much we, as the Church are actually noted as being for others. More often than not the Church is seen as being against sexual intimacy when not done on their terms. Again, the Church is seen as being against any form of birth control. More recently the Church has aligned itself against global warming, which cause I might personally prefer to support. But this is still against things. When will we be seen as for things and for others?
The feast of Christ the King also takes my thoughts to the book the Revelation to St John where the victory of God is described. So often in this book the victory is aligned with the Lamb of God a reference to the Cross.
The Resurrection and the Final victory (if they are in fact different) are not victories to fix what is broken but an affirmation that living for others is what God has in mind for those who would follow. There will be opposition from the powerful, just as Jesus was opposed, but that sort of power, even in the hands of 'christians' is never the final word.
'King .. save yourself .. and us'. No matter whether we acknowledge Jesus as Messiah or not, King or not, second part of the Holy Trinity or not and no matter how much or how little we deserve to be saved; Jesus is not on about our salvation, but on the salvation of all people from inhumanity perpetrated on one another, whether in the name of god or whatever, and thanks be to God that this is so!
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