Christ the King C2016
November 20, 2016
In the summer of 2010, I took a small group of youth on a mission trip to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeast Montana…
I thought that I would never feel as stuck as I did that night we were mired in muck on the top of the buffalo jump. But today, I feel stuck, and while of course I don’t know if this is true for everyone, I am guessing that most of us feel stuck. We feel stuck in unjust systems, stuck in racism, stuck in sexism, stuck in heterosexism. We feel stuck in the way health insurance works and the way we buy and sell houses. We feel stuck in family systems that don’t feel healthy or loving. We feel stuck in the ways we live that speed up the progress of global climate change. I know I felt stuck by the election; I honestly was not a fan of either of the two major party candidates. We feel stuck in free market capitalism, the way money works in our culture. I think sometimes we don’t even realize how stuck we feel, especially when it comes to money. I don’t think most of us can even imagine a world where money is not used; I think most of us forget that God didn’t create money—people did. And we can’t begin to imagine a different way of getting what we need and want in the world, whether that is food or health care or education or religion. What we have right here, right now is the limit of our imagination. We feel stuck.
The good news today is that we are not stuck. We are not stuck in a world where things must stay the same, day after day, year after year, generation after generation. We are not stuck in a world that necessarily creates and supports injustice for Jesus laid a path for us to a different world.
In today’s gospel, Jesus does three extraordinary things. He is on the cross, and in this place of ultimate humiliation and suffering…
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
He does not rush to defend himself or save himself but instead stays the course, knowing that God has called him to walk through this death and eventually into new life.
“Truly I tell you, today, you will be with me in paradise.” Instead of walking the way of punishment, Jesus promises this man convicted of a crime that he will live with God eternally.
The way of Jesus, the dominion of Jesus on this Christ the King Sunday is a dominion not stuck in racism, sexism, heterosexism, a dominion not stuck in revenge, punishment, violence, injustice. The way of Jesus is forgiveness, responding to God’s call despite its challenges, and love even in the midst of brokenness and sin. We glimpse this dominion of Jesus wherever and whenever we extend forgiveness, wherever and whenever we respond to God’s call in our lives, wherever and whenever we reach out in love. While we may feel stuck, Jesus is Lord, and Christ is king…really. That means that forgiveness, our sense of God’s call, and love trump revenge, defensiveness, or punishment. Jesus is Lord, and Christ is king. I know we feel stuck, but we aren’t. God has called us to live in this dominion of Jesus that is mixed up with the dominion of this world. God has called us to embrace forgiveness and love and to walk the way of Jesus ever asking ourselves: what gifts do I have? How might I serve? How might I live so as to reveal Jesus’ dominion?
I’ll leave you with an example. I share this not to proclaim my goodness, not at all, because I have very much struggled with this, and to be clear, I am not telling you that this is something you should do. Everybody has their own things they’re working on. But this is a place where I felt stuck and now no longer do. Several months ago, I borrowed my mother’s bike because I wondered if I might be able to bike more and drive my car less. My experiment went pretty well, so I purchased my own bike. And slowly, slowly, I have been changing my lifestyle so that I am biking as much as possible. If I am going someplace within six miles of home, I will almost always bike there now. It has meant changing how I schedule my time because biking takes longer. It has meant changing how I dress because it’s sometimes difficult to bike in a skirt. It has meant I am more thoughtful in general about how I use my car. A year ago, I thought: I could never bike most places. I want to. I want to reduce my carbon emissions. I want to be healthier. I want to be more connected to my community. I want to respond to God’s call to live more simply. But I can’t do it, I thought. Well, I am doing it. This past week, I didn’t even get in my car four out of seven days. Some weeks are better than others, for sure, but I am not stuck.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, we are not stuck in a dominion of hate. We are not stuck in a dominion of revenge. We are not stuck in a dominion of punishment and violence towards anyone or the earth. Jesus has laid a path for us, a path that is different than the world’s path. It is different, but it has been laid for us. And when we start to walk down that path, we will know the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, making it possible to forgive, to respond to God’s call, to love. We are not stuck in the dominion of this world for Jesus is Lord, and Christ is king. Thanks be to God! Amen.