This is the last Sunday in ordinary time, before we start Advent next week. This is the day that the church has set aside to remember that God’s power is bigger than any human power, and how God’s universe is so much bigger than ours. This is ‘Christ the King’, or ‘Reign of Christ’ Sunday.
We start out with the words of the most beloved king in the history of Israel. King David. David is living in a desert, where rain is very scarce. When a good soaking rain comes at night, grass and grain can sprout from the earth in the morning. David is talking about a good king. He says, “One who rules over people with justice, living in the fear (awareness and obedience to) God is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” (2 Sam. 23: 4)
A good ruler is one who nurtures the people, who brings forth new life.
David was beloved and famous because he did three major things for Israel. He consolidated the tribes of Israel, re-establishing their unity. He brought the Ark of the Covenant, which had been carelessly given to someone’s relative over the years, to Jerusalem, and he established Jerusalem as the political capital of Israel. When he brought back the Ark of the Covenant, (which they believed housed the presence of God), it made Jerusalem not only the political center, but now also the religious center of the re-united Jewish people.
But as great as David was, we also know he majorly screwed up. He’s the one that lusted over Bathsheba, and sent her husband, Uriah the soldier, out to the front lines during wartime. He killed a good man just so that he could get his wife. Later, his descendants lost kingship of Israel when Nebuchadnezzar defeated them and forced them into exile in Babylon.
The Reign of Christ, Christ the King is about more than wartime victories and ‘winning’ political situations. It’s more than historical kingship. That’s why when Pilate asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus asked, “What do you think?” “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” He wants to know why Pilate is asking. Does he really want to know for himself, or is he just trying to judge him politically, to get the job done?’
Jesus is different than the kings of history and rulers of governments, who are concerned about winning and losing their various political agendas. Jesus is only about the Kingdom of God.
One of my friends said, “Jesus never tried to win. By the standards of the government, he failed miserably. But that wasn’t his goal. He didn’t try to win. He only tried to be faithful.” That’s our job too. Our goal is not to win something. Our goal is to be faithful as we go along.
That’s why the Kingdom of God is different than historical kingdoms or countries today. We have a different goal. And it’s not heaven. Yes, we will undoubtedly live with God after we die, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to be faithful now, and let the dice fall where they may. I’m not worried about heaven. I can leave that to God. I trust God to figure that out. My goal is to be faithful.
Most of the time, when we read Jesus saying something about “The Kingdom of God,” it is here on earth. Our faithfulness to God helps establish God’s Kingdom here on earth.
I have been very lucky in my marriage with Carol. I know not everyone is so lucky. But once, long ago, I was having a discussion with my neighbor who was a single mom. Both of us had small children, and she had just found out that her husband had another family that she didn’t know about. I said I completely trusted Carol, that I knew that I could trust her. She said, “Well, you don’t really know that. No one can really know that.” But I know Carol’s values, and I know what kind of person she is, and I said, “No, I know that.” That’s the Kingdom of God.
Where people can trust each other without having complete proof. Where we live the values we believe, and we make the kingdom alive here on earth. We were almost living in two different realities. Hers was rational, and based upon what she thought you needed to do to look after yourself. Mine was based on trust, not blind trust, but earned trust, and because of that I didn’t need to prove it, or to figure out strategies to protect myself. We all have ways in which we live in the kingdom of God now.
I’ve seen the Kingdom of God in this congregations’ care for Tommy, for Percy, for Terrie. I have heard from many relatives, “You don’t know what a difference your congregation made in her life, in his life, in my life.” Not everyone lives in the Kingdom of God. We do.
Sometimes, we do things differently. I told the story before how a church I worked for was selling a house they had used for office space. The secretary, who was a single mom wanted to buy it. The parish administrator wanted to sell it to her cheap, because she needed the house, but the trustees said, No, they needed to sell it at market value, because their job was to look out for the finances of the church. They were doing their job. So, our administrator decided to promote the secretary, give her more responsibilities, and more money, which coincidentally enabled her to afford the house.
The Kingdom of God. It runs differently than rules of financial security. Or rules of political gain. Or rules of winning. It runs on rules of trust. Generosity. Faithfulness. We are called to strong and active stewardship of creation in the threat of global warming. We are called to protect and speak up for the poor and vulnerable in our country, and in the world. In this season of great consumerism, we emphasize relationships over things.
The values that Jesus taught us are counter-cultural. They are not the values we see in advertising and they are never based in fear. Our values are based in the strong love God has for us, (and our trust in that), and in the strong, active love of caring for one another. Amen.