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Monday, November 16, 2015

Christ the King B November 22, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think

"In the end, Pilate attempts to crucify the Truth. He places a placard nearby mockingly announcing Jesus as The King of the Jews. The irony is thick, of course, because Pilate has unwittingly announced the truth."

Commentary, John 18:33-37, Jaime Clark-Soles, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"Jesus spoke unashamedly of the impending reign of God and embodied its reality in his ministry through his behaviour. Visionaries, particularly those who let their visions be the agenda for their lives here and now, inevitably confront the forces which want to control the present and mostly resist change."

"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Christ the King, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

Lord God almighty, you have anointed Jesus as the Christ not to rule a kingdom won by violence but to bear witness to the truth, not to reign in arrogance but to serve in humility and love, not to mirror this world's powers but to inherit a dominion that will not pass away.  Freed from our sins by the blood of this faithful witness, shape our service of others after the pattern of Christ' self-sacrificing love.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on John 18:33-37

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

As we come to the last Sunday of year B's cycle of preaching we arrive with Jesus before Pilate.  On this Christ the King Sunday we are given an opportunity to proclaim faithfully what we believe and to be challenged by what we say.  We hover on the edge of a season of expectation.  Who is it we await and prepare for?  This is the purpose of this Sunday's lessons.

Jesus arrives at the praetorium and is immediately confronted with the question regarding his reign.  This title is at once connected in context with a liberator; someone who has arrived to set the Jews free from Roman rule.  Jesus responds asking where does this questions come from, and Pilate tells him from the people and religious leaders of the day.  Jesus then answers the first question by saying that the kingdom he has been preaching about, teaching about, and leading people into is not of this world.  We are reminded immediately of last week's prophecy that the kingdoms of this world are passing away as the kingdom and dominion of God takes root.

In the end Pilate will call him king and Jesus will say, "You have said so" or "You say that I am" depending upon your translation.  The reality we face in John's Gospel is one where we see Jesus again and again testifying to the truth.  In these final words and throughout this brief conversation, regardless of translation, we see that what is taking place is the revelation of Jesus as Christ the King.  It is a prophetic and revelationary moment brought by the Pilate (a ruler of this world).  Even the kingdoms of the world will end up confessing the faith of God in Christ Jesus. 

In John's Gospel we remember that the trial itself is a statement that brings forth the truth of John's theology.  In the beginning of this conversation Jesus differentiates between worldly kingdoms and the religious implications of the kingdom of God.  Then we discover what is the kingdom like. Jesus' kingdom, according to John's Gospel, is a kingdom which affects the world.  The kingdoms of the world will fall away as those who follow Jesus transform the world through their faith and proclamation of the truth.  (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol 2, 869) This kingdom of God will not be of this world but will be from above.  It is a kingdom of the spirit rather than one of the body.  It shall be a kingdom ruled by love and truth.

Pilate misses the point.

But the point is not missed on those who sit in our pews this Sunday nor by those who will dare and proclaim this fact.  We are Christians and we proclaim a unique Jesus and a unique kingdom. This is our work this Sunday: to clearly state the faith of the church in a God who is God of all, his son, and the Holy Spirit.

We are called to preach the gospel of good news of salvation: that the kingdom of this world is passing away and that a kingdom of God based upon love and truth with one another and God is taking root. We do this in all places and in all times. Sometimes our church has done it well, sometimes we have not.  We are to positively engage and dialogue beyond a tolerance of others.  We offer a view of the social and human condition that locates all humanity in the embrace of a loving and caring God.  A God who is revealed corporeally in the person of Jesus; and so incarnationally in ourselves and neighbors.

We are to, on Christ the King Sunday  especially  (and all the rest of the time as a matter of fact) to offer a vision of a new familial order which is rooted in our faith in a Trinitarian God, the outward sign of baptism, and discipleship based upon what we believe - our catechism.  We are Christian and unabashedly Episcopalian on this matter. 

Does this mean we do not have questions? Of course not. Who has not found themselves in Pilate's seat trying to understand?  No, we are to engage in a society of friendship and build a community of relationships where by the wealth of our common searching AND our common faith helps us to understand the singularity of message: God loves the world, so much so that it is not judged, but embraced and drawn closer into God's bosom by the ministry of Jesus and his followers.

This is a great Sunday to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus, particularly through the reality of this new dominion not of this world, but of heaven and the holy spirit, which is even now taking root.  This is a most important Sunday in which the preachers of faith may stand up and proclaim boldly the reign of Christ and at the same time show that this truth engages with the world and all its Pilate like questions.  This is the community of faith which is uniquely Anglican and Episcopalian. This is a dominion where all questions are welcome and truth is proclaimed.

Revelation 1:4-8

"These are living words of great theological depth too often neglected by some Christians or poorly interpreted by others."

Commentary, Revelation 1:4b-8, Eric Barreto, Preaching This Week,, 2013.
"Charis recalls the patronage system of the early Roman world, in which a patron displayed generosity to his clients, and expected loyalty in return.Eirene reminds one of the Hebrew shalom, the notion of wholeness and peace that is often associated with a deep and meaningful relationship to God."

Commentary, Revelation 1:4b-8, Valerie Nicolet-Anderson, Preaching This Week,, 2012.
"The elaborate imagery about Jesus comes from the world of courts and kings, and the rituals which accompanied them. It was a way of saying: God has underlined that this Jesus really was the valid exponent of what God's being and doing, his going and his coming, is about."

"First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

Oremus Online NRSV Text

Here is what is about to happen: we are about to have a series of lessons from the Book of revelation. This is it; there is nothing this long or this sequential at any other time in our preaching cycle. I am not yet sure I am brave enough to make it the topic of my preaching for the next couple of weeks but I am beginning to think it is worth it.  

The background is the tradition that this is written by John on Patmos and it is addressed to the "7 churches".  Of course this means that it is written to all churches (as he is at the time writing to all the churches).  A number of good commentaries will make this and other observations about the context.  
In the introductory verses we have a words quoted from Isaiah 44.6, "who is and who was and who is to come." This God is the Alpha and the Omega.  The seven spirits are from Isaiah 11.2ff.  The author bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead and ruler over all the earth.

Then there is the witness that Jesus loves us, that he frees us from sin, that we are made into a new community, and that we are (like priests) to serve him.  We are being, even now, drawn into a worshiping community which eventually will move from the world of time to everlasting glory forever and ever. 

These are the very themes of the whole text.  They make the mission of Jesus upon his return the event which will bring all of this to pass.  Upon his return all shall be transformed. "Amen.  Amen." This is the way it is going to be folks.  It reminds me of that Duck Dynasty picture I saw last week.

God is God and he has come, he is coming back, and he intends to bring about the recreation of the world.  

Walter Taylor, of Lutheran Seminary, writes:
"The Revelation lesson gives us an opening to talk about Christology in ways we may not have had on Easter. All or any one of the many titles of verse 5 could be explored. Taken together they outline a full Christology that includes life, death, resurrection, and present lordship. The Christological emphasis continues with the love of Christ and his freeing action by means of his death (verses 5b-6), and in verse 7 we look forward to the coming of Jesus as the final judge."

This is a great opportunity to think about with the congregation who this Christ is that we worship and what does he have to do with our living of lives in this particular world.

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