The Reign of Christ
November 20, 2016
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Canticle 19; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
(This sermon was preached in the context of the aftermath of Brexit in the United Kingdom and Europe; the election of Donald Trump in the USA; the nationalist groups in Europe fighting against immigrants and refugees; the widespread migration of people because of civil unrest or economic pressures; and the rise of what is being called the ‘Alt-Right’, a new name for a virulent form of White Supremacy.)
In the midst of unsettling times – whether personal or national or global – who do you trust?
Our scriptures this morning give us some direction on this – not only about who we should trust and follow, but also about how we reflect those characteristics in a world that is worried.
Jeremiah tells us that a shepherd – one who is entrusted with the care and safety of the flock – does NOT scatter the flock, does not drive people away.
Through this dour prophet, God promises that the coming descendent of King David – the one who will make all things right – will ensure that people will live in safety. That is the broadest reading.
After the events of this week, right here in Ottawa, we might be allowed to be more specific as Jeremiah was (“and Israel will live in safety”):
… and Anna Miranta a Jewish Rabbi will live in safety
…and the congregations of established Jewish synagogues will live in safety
…and Parkdale United Church with many black members and a black pastor will live in safety
…and Muslims worshipping in their mosques will live in safety
…and refugee families will live in safety
…and homeless people living on the streets will live in safety
The list could go on for a very long time.
Paul, the early Christian evangelist, church planter and spiritual director claims that the work of Jesus is to reconcile all things and all situations with God, the divine entity of the universe. To be reconciled to God does not mean that I say I am sorry, then am administered some punishment, then having earned my way back into God’s good books, go on my way hoping no one remembers.
Reconciliation is learning how to walk in step with each other again, facing in the same direction. To do this involves a recognition of what interrupted our walk together, so it is not naïve, but it is not about punishment. It is about making relationships whole again.
The one to be trusted will always be inviting people into the sacrament of reconciliation – with themselves, with each other, and with God. The one to be trusted will also be practicing this spiritual discipline in their own lives. Watch for it.
The Gospel reading today seems misplaced – the telling of the crucifixion. And yet, as I read it I thought, ‘is this a person I would follow?’ Would I follow someone who would sacrifice their own life for the sake of a principle? Would I follow someone who could in a moment of extreme personal circumstances reach out to another? Would I follow someone who at the end of their physical life knows that the kingdom of God is present right now, not only in the God/man (Jesus), but also in a criminal struggling towards reconciliation?
In unsettling times, who will I follow? In unsettling times, who do I want to be?
- A person who collects people instead of dividing them;
- A person who cares for others, particularly those on the edges;
- A person who, depending on God’s grace, practices reconciliation in their own relationships, and invites others to do so as well;
- A person who will take a stand on the inclusive nature of God;
- A person who knows that the presence of God continues in and among us, no matter what else is happening around us or to us.
Jesus, remember us in your kingdom. Jesus, help us to remember that we are your kingdom.