Sunday, November 24, 2019

Christ the King, 2019-C: The tender compassion of God

Lectionary: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Canticle 16; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

Note: If the above player doesn't work for you, click HERE for an mp3 audio format.

En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.

Our current book study is on Richard Rohr’s “The Universal Christ” and it continues to be amazingly inspiring. We invite you to join us after coffee hour today. Each week, some have read the text, some have not. What matters is that God raises up from the book a topic which launches us into discussion. Then we follow the path of that discussion where it leads. It’s been a very holy experience.

One of the early topics in these conversations was Rohr’s discussion of the “ubiquitous Christ,” which he describes like this: “Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God… ‘Christ’ is the word for the ‘Primordial Template’ (Logos) through whom ‘all things came into being…” (p. 13)

We affirm this each Sunday as we say the ancient words of the Nicene Creed: “Through him all things were made.” Rohr describes this as a “Christ soaked world” into which Jesus was born “so that humanity and divinity can be seen to be operating as one in him – and therefore in us!” ( p. 15)

This is where we begin as we celebrate The Feast of Christ the King, what some are now calling The Reign of Christ” citing that “King” is too small a term for the “ubiquitous Christ.”

This also is what Paul was talking about in his beautiful prayer in today’s epistle about the “who” of Jesus as the Christ: “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 invisible,… -- all things have been created through him and for him.”

Paul goes on to discuss the “when” of Jesus as the Christ, reconciling the eternal and the temporal: “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Paul continues with the “why” of Jesus as the Christ: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” and concludes with the “how;” “by making peace through the blood of his cross.” God’s redeeming love, God’s continuing participation in human experience brings peace out of every instance of violence or hate or harm.

Such is the tender compassion of God which the prophet Zechariah speaks of in his prayer sung in response to the gift of his son, John the Baptist. Recounting the promises of God made through the prophets of old, Zechariah, a priest in the line of Aaron, celebrates that his son has been chosen to prepare the way for the fulfillment of these promises in the coming of the Messiah, whom we celebrate today: Jesus, the Christ.

What trips us up, I think, is our human construct of time and our desire for closure. We want things to work like a movie or a TV show where good overcomes evil and justice prevail by the end of the story.

That’s the problem – there is no end to this story. There is no time that the tender compassion of God isn’t at work in the world. It’s a continual process that has no beginning and no end – and that’s the beauty of it, the fulfillment of the promises made. Jesus was before all things and in him (who is eternal) all things are made worthy – all things, all people, all of the created world are embraced, held together, have existence in him.

When Zechariah set out John the Baptist’s divine purpose, he proclaimed ours too. We, my children, are prophets of the Most High. We will give people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sin.

Sin separates us which leads to violence, hatred, and harm. Jesus, the Christ reunites us and makes us one again.

We believe that there is nothing that can separate us from this embrace of the Christ. Nothing. That is such good news to so many who feel lost, alone, and hopeless.

I saw a news story yesterday about a teacher in Oregon, Keanon Lowe, who stopped a student armed with an automatic rifle and thwarted a potential school shooting – with a hug. During the embrace, the student cried out that he felt alone, that no one cared about him. “I care about you,” was Keanon’s immediate reply.

"I felt compassion for him,” Keanon said, “A lot of times, especially when you're young, you don't realize what you're doing until it's over," he said.

The video brought tears to my eyes. This is the tender compassion of God in Christ, who said: Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

By our Baptism, we are all Keanon Lowe – or we could be if we, like him, allow God to use us to carry the light of God’s love to those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. The overall interview showed Keanon to be a man of faith. It was already in him. He was prepared, so when the situation presented itself to him, Keanon said, "In a fraction of a second, I analyzed everything really fast. I saw the look in his face, look in his eyes, looked at the gun, realized it was a real gun and then my instincts just took over."

His instincts – his inclination and inner prompting were the means by which the Christ acted through him. He saw, really saw, the look in that student’s eyes and his response was that this young man, as dangerous as this moment was, needed and was worthy of love. So he gave it – he hugged him – and the crisis was ended. Through him, God brought peace from violence once again.

Every story could end this way. Every story. Wherever sin separates us Jesus, the Christ, who is in us, is ready to act through us to reunite us, to make us one, all of us held together in the embrace of his love. This is the practice and protocol of the reign of Christ.

One last thing about Keanon Lowe: he believed he was placed there in that moment to save that young boy. I believe that too because I believe that about all of us.

We are the means by which the redeeming love of God happens in the world. By our very presence and preparedness, we prepare the way for the Lord. We remind that world, by our words and actions, that we are all one, that we are all embraced, held together, and have our existence in Jesus who is the Christ, the eternal forgiver from the cross, restorer of all things, and reconciler of heaven and earth.

We must be willing, however, to notice sin – to notice when we are not one, where, how, and why we are separated. We must be willing to remember that we are imperfect vessels made perfect by God alone. We are imperfect communities enlightened by the Christ who dwells in us.

Then we can trust God in us and step into any place of darkness, any circumstance of separation, even when that darkness is happening within us, and allow the Christ to do what he always does, what the prophets of old said he would do: set us free from all that separates us and guide our feet into the way of peace.


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