Sunday, November 25, 2018

Living Divine Truth

Today we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King.
Lectionary: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

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En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

How many of you have ever seen a 3-D movie? I saw Avatar in 3-D and it was amazing. It was amazing to me that I could even share in the 3-D experience.

You see, growing up, I could only see in two dimensions due to a congenital issue with my eyes. I wasn’t able to see in 3-D until 2004 following some eye surgery. Up until then my world looked pretty flat, like a picture or a photograph.

I remember once chaperoning a school trip to Disney’s Epcot Center where we took the kids to one of the first ever 3-D showings. I watched as the kids would reach out toward something that they said looked like it was right in front of them. They would back up in their seats when it looked like something was coming at them quickly.

To me, everything just looked like two blurry images, one mostly red and one mostly green, sitting almost on top of each other. Looking through the 3-D glasses with 2-D vision made me feel like my eyes were crossing, so I took the glasses off and watched a flat but enjoyable show.

When the surgery gave me three-dimensional vision I had to learn to “see” my world all over again. Stairs were the best thing I re-learned. They had always looked like stripes to me and if there were shadows on them, it really very hard for me to see them at all.

With my new new-found ability to see depth, I finally understood what I was looking at, when it came to stairs, and they became much easier (and safer) for me to maneuver.

Many people had tried to explain depth to me over the years, but it was simply outside of my ability to comprehend until the surgery opened my eyes to it.

This is kind of what it was like for Jesus as he tried to answer Pilate’s questions about kingdoms and kingship. Pilate asks a question from an earthly experience – one bound by place and time, kind of a 2-D question: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (which would be the crime of sedition).

“Am I a Jew?” (which would be the crime of treason). Your own people have handed you over to me. Why? What have you done? Pilate needed a reason to put Jesus to death.

Jesus answers with eternal truth… a 3-D answer, you might say, and it’s something Pilate simply can’t comprehend: If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would be fighting to save me because that’s how things work in the world.

“But, as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate hears Jesus’ reference to his kingdom and asks, “So you are a king?”

There was just no way for Jesus to answer that question. “King” is too small a word, too small a concept for God, the Ancient One, the Alpha and the Omega who stands incarnate before him.

“King” is your word, Jesus says, not mine. I came to testify to the truth. Those who belong to the truth listen to me and obey me. Pilate did neither, nor did the religious authorities. Do we?

Some people prefer to call this day the Feast of the Reign of Christ. What I like about that name is that it’s more in keeping with Jesus’ life and teachings.

Jesus never sought titles or privilege while he was among us – quite the opposite. He arrived as a helpless baby born to a poor, unmarried girl. His ministry leadership was comprised of some fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, a zealot, and some women – hardly a powerful or threatening group.

Jesus’ ministry was about bringing in a new age – the reign of God – the reign of love a love focused on serving the other yet never devaluing the self; and Jesus spent his time focused on the poor, the sinful, the excluded, and the powerless even as he went to those quiet places to pray.

The reign of love Jesus ushered in is different from anything on earth. Rather than gathering up the things earthly rulers did to secure their reign, e.g. armies, riches, and lands, Jesus spent his time giving things away, e.g., food, healing, forgiveness.

Yet, something about Jesus and his followers threatened the authorities and caused the religious leadership to tremble. That thing, I think, was truth.

In his presence, everyone knew that Jesus was the embodiment of truth and whenever we are in the presence of real truth we know our bubbles are going to burst – bubbles we’ve carefully and collectively constructed to make ourselves feel safe and in control. When those bubbles burst, we feel nervous and insecure because we realize how small we are in the presence of so great a truth as God.

That’s why so many religious leaders – then and now – break God down into small, comprehensible, controllable bits. But there is nothing small or comprehensible or controllable about God. And there is nothing to fear about that. It’s the truth. We can expect it, trust it, and count on it. We can surrender to the truth that God is God and we are not. And thanks be to God for that!

The reign of Christ isn’t about power, or glory, or privilege for a deity. It is now and always has been about reconciling all who have been separated or lost back into the unity and presence of Love, who is God.

That’s why everything about Jesus’ earthly life and ministry kept catching the earthly authorities by surprise. They knew how a zealot would act, or a would-be warrior king. But they had no way to understand or respond to someone who acted out of selfless love, someone who would die in a moment in time so that all people could live eternally.

“For this I was born”…Jesus says…”for this I came into the world.”

By his life and ministry, Jesus redefined kingship. His leadership had nothing to do with garnering power, or riches, or anything for himself. And he never used force to get his way. The reign of Christ always was and always will be about love. We who hear this story today are witnesses of Jesus’ testimony, and we are invited to listen to his voice.

Listen, as it is being used here, is not just about using our ears to hear. It’s a practice of living in accordance with divine truth. (The New Greek Lexicon, Wesley J. Perschbacher, ed., Hendrickson Publishing, 14.)

In Greek, the word for “listen” and the word for “obey” have the same root and it refers to a way of being, not to something we do. And the way of being to which we are called is found in the testimony of Jesus Christ: his life and ministry.

His is a testimony of humility, faithfulness, and obedience to God’s will, even in the face of injustice and suffering. His is a testimony of walking non-violently toward what may, at times, seem like certain death trusting that is actually the path of life and truth for us and for the whole world.

“For this [Jesus] was born…for this [he] came into the world.” May we who belong to the truth listen to his voice and follow his way of being in the world.

I’d like to close with a prayer from Marjorie Dobson:"Go as far as you dare, for you cannot go beyond the reach of God. Give as extravagantly as you like, for you cannot spend all the riches of God. Care as lavishly as you are able, for you cannot exhaust the love of God. Keep moving on for God will always be with you."


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