Readings for Reign of Christ the King Proper 29 (34) 25th November 2007 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

For the Lectionary and other reflections, check out Christ the King / Reign of Christ 25th November 2007 Textweek

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Song of Zechariah; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

Feast of Christ the King

Today could be the turning point, it could be the start of a new chapter in Australian history, a new beginning in a time of great opportunity. Some will appreciate and celebrate the change, some will not, most will be unaware that an opportunity even exists, and it’s not about the election results, it’s actually about the feast of Christ the King. This is the end of the liturgical year; it is the end of one cycle, one lifetime in our reading of the scriptures. And next Sunday, a new year begins, a new opportunity opens up. Today, as I said before, is also the time of year when we celebrate the ministry that we have. However, as was mentioned over and over again during the vote counting, we need to be clear of what our future orientation asks of us. And forever in today’s world there will be others informing us what that orientation is or should be. It is very clear I think during an election, that the future is not something that can be peddled by someone, it is not something that can be sold to us. Rather, it is something that we’ve got to find within ourselves.

In order to make today a turning point in history, we might reflect during the week, and prepare ourselves to come to Advent, to the first Sunday of Advent, with a new sense of direction - not with a destination in mind, just with a new sense of direction: to what will I look? We’ve got a good start: our faith and our belief. The question is, in what do I place my trust? Because as we go through Advent what will happen is our theology, our understanding of the divine will get confused with Father Christmas. We will be drawn back to a childlike understanding of what the true meaning of Christmas is. Our faith and our belief in God should not be a handing over of the power that has been gifted to us. Our faith and our belief in God can only be realised through our faith and our belief in each other and in ourselves. We con ourselves if we think by having faith in God, all will be OK. Without finding faith in ourselves we will never glimpse God.

As we reflect on the week, realise the part that understanding will play in the unfolding of the future, can we at least grapple with a new understanding of Christ? Christ is not like Kevin Rudd, he is not the new Messiah, he is not going to make everything OK. Rather, that is what is asked of us.

‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people…. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."’ - our righteousness. ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel …. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ Words of prophecy and the delight of Zechariah. These can easily be read as the celebration of Christ, but they point to even more, to the divine presence within humanity, to that which is within ourselves. Too often we read scripture, we interpret prophecy in the light of Christ and then we dress Christ up as the one who will save all, just as one party dressed up John Howard and another party dressed up Kevin Rudd: ‘they will do it all for us’. The revelation of Christ is, that the gift of bringing birth to tomorrow is within. It is the gift that is the divine in all life.

In the reading from Colossians we have an understanding of Christ that becomes, from the author of Colossians, it becomes a prayer for all: ‘May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you… may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you… enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.’ It is your inheritance, not Christ’s inheritance, it is your inheritance to share with the saints in the light. These are carefully chosen words that underline the spirit of Christ. The author goes on, ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--all things have been created through him and for him.’ Very easy to ascribe everything to him through whom ‘all things have been created’. The carefully chosen words are, ‘He is the image of the invisible God’. Maybe we need to be reminded that we, humanity, is also made and formed in the image of God. And without taking anything from the election results, we should hold onto the truth that Christ, He himself, is before all things, and in him all things hold together. ‘He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead’. Behaving as if the God in all life matters is the opportunity to bring about change in the history of our lives and so in the history of our common humanity.

The Gospel reading, ‘When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.’ It’s amazing: we contemplate the end of the church year with an Easter narrative from Luke’s Gospel and it gives us much more than a reference point for the ‘king’ in Christ the King. During the week as we look towards Advent, hold onto the image of the crucifixion at the place of the Skull. ‘They crucified Jesus’ – (‘He is the head of the body’) - ‘there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.’ On the right and the left of our heads are our hands. In what ways is the work of our hands like criminals? How much of our doing is or is not, aligned with the glimpses of the divine that we have seen and that we understand?

It’s an amazing image, two criminals, one on his left and one on his right. And yet there’s a truth in the middle, a truth that is glimpsed and a truth that deeply is known: the divine is incarnate in humanity. If the work of our hands does not reflect that truth, then are not our hands like the criminals’ at the place of the Skull? ‘The leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself!"’ Little did they appreciate that the only way to save oneself is give one’s life for the many.

While I was away I was reading a book of essays on the Gita, the Hindu scriptures, and I came across this lovely little Easter truth:
‘For existence is one, and its divisions must found themselves on
some law of mutual dependence, each growing by each and
living by all. The mutual giving and receiving is the law of
life without which it cannot for one moment endure.’

The Lord be with you.
Peter Humphris