Reign of Christ Proper 29 (34) Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary 22 November 2009

Reign of Christ the King Textweek 22 November 2009

2 Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132:1-12, Revelation 1:4-8, John 18:33-37

In the name of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This image is one of the Western icons from the church; we’re fairly familiar with some of the Eastern Orthodox icons - the Greek icons, the very ancient ones - but in the non-Roman Catholic church we’re generally less familiar with the Westernised icons of the church. The image doesn’t really belong in the feast of Christ the King because it’s an image of the infant Jesus, which actually makes it slightly more strange to see that the infant Jesus, the baby Jesus, the one we’re going to meet at Christmas, is standing there in an…. unusual outfit, with a crown…... strange. It does ask us though, like all icons do, it asks of us ‘what do you see’, ‘what do you seek’, what is the window that we look through, and so it offers a window for us to look through, raising questions, raising doubts, confirming or denying some of the insights that we already have.

The readings today from Samuel and from the Book of Revelation both refer to the place of Christ. What is the place of Christ? The book of Samuel speaks through the oracle, the priest, the prophecy of David and is really talking about and introducing us to the seed of Christ’s lineage. Christ is the one that is spoken of way back in the early books of the Old Testament, the one in the line of David, David the king; there will be a king who walks in your footsteps who will rule forever.

The Book of Revelation is quite a different writing. It’s a writing that speaks about the end times. Now the end times, as opposed to Hollywood’s rendition of the end times, really are seeking to understand what is the fulfilment of life, what is its fullness and wholeness, and how will that be made manifest? Those two readings therefore open up for us a framework of perspective and the perspective that they open up is beyond the life of Jesus. They’re seeking to talk about the place of Christ and yet the perspective is from way before, so going right back to grandfather, great grandfather, great-great grandfather and so on, and also the perspective of way is way after Christ, the very end times. In using those extremes, it’s saying in this perspective look at the place of Christ. Then we have the Gospel and what the gospel seeks to give us is an account of the life of Christ. So we have a framework of before and after and then the gospel sitting in the middle, speaking of the life of Christ.

The gospel is quite clever, because the ruler of Jesus’ world asks Jesus for some clarification. It’s a stunningly interesting conversation – not that particular conversation, but if we could have that conversation. If we could be asked by the rulers of our world for the clarification that Jesus was asked for. And the question is a question of power and it’s in response to that question that Jesus reveals his place, the place of the Christ: “For this I was born and for this I come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." So what happens if we could do the same thing and could look beyond our own lives; it’s stunningly hard to do. But it creates a new framework for looking. See, what we use for the scope of our vision actually gives shape to what we see. So if we stand outside and look at the world we have one perspective, if we go up to Monument Hill and look at the world we have another perspective. The amount of vision we have will actually give shape to the world we inhabit. So what if we can open ourselves to see beyond the smallness of time between birth and death? To see ourselves as a part of something much, much bigger and broader? And then we might also engage in a conversation about our place in the world. ‘For this I was born,’ Jesus begins his sentence. What would our sentence sound like: For this I was born?

The depth of what we read more often than not escapes us and it escapes us because the power of this world deludes us into a false truth and a false understanding, and our tradition, the church’s tradition, the teaching of the church I think has followed the same delusional path and it’s done that by so often forcing onto us images of Christ that are shaped as a worldly king. As we worship Christ the King, do we become the feudal subjects of the king? Do we become disempowered - the very opposite of what Christ is revealing? It’s an interesting one – the teachings of the church might well be holding us back, even driving us back, to a view of the world in which the king rules and we have no power.

We’re called to belong to the truth - For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." We are called to belong to that which Christ testifies, to belong to that which Christ reveals – not to be listeners; we’re not called to be hearers of the word, we’re not called to be subjects of Christ. There is nothing in the gospel that portrays Christ as someone who wants to be treated as a king and we the loyal subjects, relying on the power of the king to save the day. We are called to belong to the very truth that Christ reveals. Christ is the word made flesh; that is our place of belonging.

It is very easy for us to be distracted from the power that is there in the scriptures, from being empowered, because we do inhabit a world that gives us so many more messages to distract us from an underlying truth that is a truth, not just for us but for everyone, a truth that draws us and hold us together. A simple example of how we can get taken away from our contemplations and reflections on scriptures: forty six years ago, 22nd November. What’s he talking about? is the look in the eyes. When I tell what happened your minds will go away immediately: John F Kennedy was assassinated. All of a sudden our minds are filling up with other things – see what I mean?

The world is a very powerful voice. The word of God is a more powerful voice. Let those who have ears, hear the Word.

Amen
Peter Humphris