Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
This is the Sunday we make explicit what is true every Sunday and every day: Christ is King.
Jesus is Lord of all. Proclaim this truth unequivocally because for far too long we Christians have lived as if Jesus’ reign is partial. We cede small amounts of territory in our hearts, churches and lives to Jesus’ rule – but only those spaces and places of our choosing. We hand over our pocket change on periodic Sundays and think God ought to be darn thankful we showed up at all. Think of all the other places we could be! We are busy. We have demanding jobs, multiple responsibilities, options, so many options, for how to spend our time and resources. You are welcome, Jesus, we are here! Oh, and let me see what’s left in the bottom of my purse to put in the plate.
We forget with ease the radical and total demands of the gospel. Jesus is Lord of all. Christ is King. There is no aspect of our lives or our world that is not subject to his rule. Jesus bids us come and die. Die to your old self. In Christ you are a new creation. Die to your dearest connections. Whoever does not hate mother and father cannot follow me. Die to your most cherished possessions. Sell all you have and give it to the poor. Die to your professional identity and the status, community and money it brings. Drop your nets and become a fisher of people. Die to your sense of righteousness and all the religious rules you hold so dear. Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice. Die to your need to win. The first will be last. Die to your desire for vengeance. Love your enemies. Die to yourself. Those who lose their lives will save them.
Jesus bids us come and die.
Total and radical, the reign of Christ is no four years or for a few hours on Sunday morning. Christ rules all, forever and ever. And yet we think Jesus should be pleased with us for our sporadic worship attendance and leftover gifts of time and talent.
The Gospel text for this Sunday won’t let us get away with those fallacies. It is a snippet from Luke’s passion narrative. We go to the place of the skull this week. Jesus bids us: Come and watch me die. For you. For the world.
This week we see bullying, mocking, derision and cruelty. God, how I wish it didn’t feel so familiar. The humiliation of the vulnerable, the smugness of those who think they’ve won, the deafening silence of the good people who don’t want to get involved – this is where Luke’s Gospel takes us this week. The King is crowned with thorns. The road to victory goes through the gates of hell and the grave. God, how I wish it were otherwise. I wish the King I profess to follow, worship and imitate had a red carpet, an ornate palace and a big wall that kept out those I don’t wish to see or, God forbid, care about and love. But my King hangs on the cross, between two criminals.
My King says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
My King grants paradise to the convicted criminal who simply says, “Remember me.”
My King is spat upon, beaten, bruised for my transgressions, standing in the breach and taking the abuse he did not deserve in order to spare me, a sinner.
My King lays down his life for his friends and for those who crucify him, too.
Jesus, my King, bids us to come and see him die so we know the extent God will go to bring redemption. My King’s administration is one of a love so radical that the glory of heaven is traded for the derision and death of an earth filled with those who side with bullies. My King demands that I choose whose reign I will pledge alliance to: the one where might makes right or the one that intervenes on behalf of criminals, sinners, outcasts and the least of the world.
Jesus bids us to come and die. Take the abuse directed at the vulnerable. Sit with those the world despises. Pray for the ones who taunt the weak. Call out the ones in power who destructively wield it or wash their hands of the responsibility required of good shepherds. Lose your life, go to the cross and the grave with the one who died for us, and be saved.
Let Christ the King reign fully and be saved. Be saved from fear. Be saved from endless acquisition of power, money, status, possessions. Be saved from purposelessness. Be saved from constantly comparing yourself to others. Be saved from the guilt of your sin. Be saved from the weight of your burdens. Be saved from the divisions and derision that erodes the souls of the abused and the abuser. Bow down to the One who holds all things together and be saved.
Opera singer, Joyce DiDonato has a new album called “In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music.” As part of her work on this album she posed a question to a wide variety of people. The question was: “In the midst of chaos, where do you find peace?” She was recently interviewed on “All Things Considered” and was asked about the responses to her question.
You’ve received so many answers to this question. Is there one that you keep coming back to?
It belongs to a man named Joseph Wilson, who I have met. He’s many things — one thing he is is a composer; I have sung two of his pieces now. Another thing that he is is an African-American male who happens to be incarcerated at Sing Sing prison. And he said in the brokenness, we become symbols of peace.
He begins his answer to this question — in the midst of chaos, how do you find peace? — by referencing the opening line of the Bible, “God said, let there be light.” And he writes, “One would then have to reason that God himself was dwelling in the darkness.”
That gives me chills every single time I read it. And it’s true. And I think that’s also a big source of comfort. There’s a lot of people who feel the darkness very strongly, and if somebody in that situation — in a real war, internal war and external war, can go towards the light, anybody can.
In the midst of chaos, personal, political, spiritual, we are given the gift of the peace when we submit to Christ’s reign. When we follow Jesus, the one in whom God rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us in to the kingdom of his beloved, we can go towards the light. We can let the light of Christ illumine our path. We can let the light of Christ shine in and through us. We can heed Christ’s call to “Come, follow me,” knowing full well where he is going, who will be coming with us and what will be required.
Jesus, our King, bids us come and die. Christ’s reign is radical, eternal, total. Are we ready to lose our lives and be saved?
- How do we trivialize Christ’s reign in our own lives and in the church?
- If we let Christ truly rule us, where is it we will go? Who is it we are to stand with and for?
- There are several references to Psalm 22 in the Luke text for this week. Read the entire Psalm and let it inform your reading of the Luke passage.
- The phrase “fullness of God” is found in the epistle lesson for Sunday. Where else do you find that phrase in the New Testament? What does it mean?
- Take a look at Genesis 40:14 and then at Luke 23:42. What does it mean to be remembered to someone? Remembered to God?
- Is the language of “king” and “reign” problematic? How can that language resonate (or not) in our current context?
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