When the King you want to follow with your life is crucified. . .
The author of the book, Where The Hell is God? came to some haunting conclusions as a result of the things people said and wrote to him when his sister was rendered a quadriplegic after a tragic accident. He wrote:
I have come to see that some people believe in a tyrannical God. The usual modern idea about human tyrants is that they are absolute rulers who maintain their power through fear and death, torture and oppression. Understandably, most of the population do not take on the tyrant, not only because of their fear, but also because the primary task is just to try to survive the regime.
This Sunday, the church celebrates Christ the King Sunday, or The Reign of Christ Sunday which is becoming more widely used these days. Perhaps the new title is better if for no other reason than it might help us to move away from seeing Christ as that stereotypical king whose regime we try to survive.
I see this image of God so very often when I’m called to be a pastor in the midst of tragedy. When someone is losing or has just lost a loved one, they will often wonder, sometimes out loud and sometimes silently in the back of their minds, why their prayers didn’t manage to make it to the palace above them, why their knee-mail wasn’t read, or if it was, why it didn’t make a difference.
It is very sad, and it is very hard to pick up the pieces. What we really need to see for ourselves, and to help others to envision, is a Christ who runs to meet us in our time of need as the father runs to meet his lost son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a Christ who is enfleshed within each of us, and ever present and easily accessible. In other words, an incarnational understanding of Christ. We need to begin to see Christ as the eternal sustainer rather than a Mr. Fix-it.
As someone so aptly put it, to be Christian is to cease saying, Where the Messiah is there is no misery, and to begin to say, Where there is misery, there is the Messiah.
The church could have chosen a gospel other than the account of the crucifixion of Jesus for Christ the King Sunday, and I’m certain that there are preachers out there who wish that had been the case.
What is the church really trying to help us remember on this last day of the Christian year before we begin our Advent preparations next week for the birth of the Christ into our world? Could it be that someone wants us to remember that normally kings die with royal dignity and with great monuments erected in their honor, but that Jesus was left to die hanging on a cross in the dump outside of town between two thieves? Could it be that someone wants us to know that Jesus reigns beside us and not over us, that he suffered the same consequences that you and I would have suffered if we had dared to carry the same message of total inclusive love into a world where boundaries and borders were exalted?
What kind of king is Jesus?
Jesus is the kind of king who would comfort someone even from the hardwood of a cross. Notice what he says to the thief beside him: Today you will be with me in paradise.
Jesus seems to be rather fond of the word TODAY.
When he reads from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue about healing and giving good news to the poor, he closes by saying, TODAY, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
Jesus says, Give us TODAY, our daily bread.
Jesus calls out, Zacchaeus, come down immediately, for I will stay at your house TODAY.
The Reign of Christ Sunday only has meaning if we realize that Jesus Christ wants to stay among us. . . TODAY.
It will only have meaning if you can find the Christ of reckless love reigning in your lives in the present moment . . . even when you crawl out of bed on a gloomy and depressing Monday morning. That’s when you’ll need to remember that Christ is not up there someplace waving a scepter, but right beside you as you worry about your family, as you worry about your finances and your retirement, as you worry about your health insurance and your health, as you worry about whether you’ll ever find love again.
Inclusive love is the crown that Jesus wears!
Being fully human, Jesus couldn’t or wouldn’t clap his hands and command an army to save him. I know that’s hard to consider for those who hold to a Superman view of Jesus. But I have come to believe that such a view of Jesus actually diminishes him.
Jesus wasn’t SUPER human. Jesus was SUPERBLY human in that he loved to the fullest extent; he loved as God loves. We need to remember that, especially when life is difficult and cruel. We need to remember that the real scepter of Jesus is the human hand, and that the same hand that reached out and touched people who were considered unclean, and who were rejected as unforgivable sinners, desires to reach out and touch that part of you that hurts and feels unclean and rejected. . . TODAY!
Now, lest I forget, Christ reigning in our hearts, as comforting as it is, is also a call to mission. Christ’s modus operandi is to seat us in the throne and hand over the scepter to us.
We are called if not by the virtue of the gift of our humanity, then certainly by virtue of our baptisms to let Christ rule in our hearts such that we are willing to reach out and touch our fellow sufferers. That’s what it means to let Christ reign in us!
There was a young woman in a hospital emergency room who had just lost her husband in a terrible accident. She was being held in the arms of a close friend as she cried and sobbed relentlessly over her tragic loss. As she looked up, through her friend’s embracing arms, at the chaplain who was standing there, with tear-filled eyes, she asked, Where is God in all of this?
To which the chaplain replied, Right there, with her arms around you.
Christ as King means that Christ will always be in the midst of our need even if he can’t always fix things for us. Christ the King also means that no matter how bad things might get, we can still hold on to the hope that God in Christ will always have the last word.
Things may not happen as fast as we would like them to happen. Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement and death will always be part of our journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all of those horrors. No evil can resist grace forever. If we can truly believe that, then, and only then, will Christ be our King and truly reign within us
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