On November 22 Kerlin Richter preached the gospel at St. David of Wales.
God, we thank you for your kingdom of mercy and disarming love. May we gaze into the eyes of your son and pledge, “the truth does not belong to me but I belong to the truth” may we listen always for the voice that came to testify to the truth, and may we have the courage to not only hear but to respond.
Today is Christ the King Sunday, where we celebrate the kingship of Jesus. And while Jesus used kingdom metaphors quite often when he was trying to explain in terms we might understand what it was about the nature of God, and God’s vision for the way the humanity could live together, I am not convinced that he was particularly fond of king language for himself.
In contrast to Peters turn playing “Jesus’ true identity” where he gets it just right with Messiah, Jesus is a bit under whelmed with Pilates “King of the Jews” entry.
this is the name he gets crucified under, and there is little doubt why. A king without obvious power and glory is apparently easy to mock. We praise, and love, and fear and despise power and those with it.
This is a new feast, relatively its only been celebrated since 1925. When pope Pious XI seeing the shape of increasingly fascist Europe and the rise of Mussolini, come up with the idea. It seems a bold statement, especially in his increasingly oppressive political climate to say “brothers and sisters, lets remember that this world is not our true home, Let us remember to whom we owe our allegiance, and what kind of king it is that we are following.”
It is also the last Sunday of the liturgical year and the new year’s eve of the church.
We are here at the pivotal moment in the liturgical year when we shift from the green and growing days of ordinary time in to the purple twilight and deep blues of advent, We are ready to move the markers in our prayer books back to the beginning of the readings, and wait for the birth of the child that will turn the whole world inside out.
It is not a bad time to reassess what we have been up to since Pentecost. Do we think that any of our neighbors and friends would have noticed that the holy spirit came and has perched on our heads like tongues of flame since May?
Do the folks around us think- “wow- there is somebody on fire for justice, peace and reconciling love?” and if not, why not?
Do the people who encounter us in our daily lives say to themselves, you’re not from around here are you?
How is it that you can tell where someone is from, perhaps it is the way they talk or the peculiar way they do things.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a passport proclaiming ourselves citizens of the truth. Here we are in this world hopefully a little confused hopefully a little disoriented. Because this world that we live in is nothing like our home country, the kingdom of our hearts. We hear the one whose voice echoes to us and sings to our deepest heart about our homeland we can hear it if we remember what kind of kingdom we come from and what kind of kingdom we will be going home to someday.
In the gospel reading today Pilate is trying to figure out where Jesus is coming from. He obviously has the expectation of Jesus grasping at earthly power, and when Jesus questions his question Pilate answers I am not like you He says “I am not a Jew” Your Nation and the chief priests handed you over. and Jesus says Oh No! This is not my nation. this is not my county those are not my leaders. My kingdom is not of this world.
Pilate asks “so, what are you, the KING??
and Jesus says “no, I am the voice of truth. I will testify to the reality that is love and that you in you your visions of power cannot see and I am here to proclaim The Truth, and you sweet Pilate are going to kill me for it.”
Maybe this is our Advent invitation–to be a follower of Jesus. is to be from a kingdom not from this world to be obedient citizen of the truth. We don’t like to belong to anything outside of ourselves, so much of our religious language is acquisitional.
I have done it,
I have owned it.
but rather by asking by what and by whom are we owned? Where is our allegiance, who is our authority, where is our citizenship, and who is our king?
In the Baptismal covenant we have laid out the terms of our kingdom. It is, if you will, our pledge of allegiance, our charter. In it we pledge in to
- renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
- renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
- renounce all sinful desires that draw us from the love of God?
- turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as our Savior?
- put our whole trust in his grace and love?
- promise to follow and obey him as our Lord?
- continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
- to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
- to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
- to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves?
- to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
When I was in Catecumenate last year I found it interesting that of all these mad impossible vows it was obedience that caused the most anxiety. I think there a number of people for whom the very idea of obedience is a threat. to some to obey is to follow blindly the authoritarian commands without thought.
It is of course very wise to mistrust this kind of abusive power, This is I think exactly what our dear friend Pious was trying to say back in 1925. But lets not let our fear of the twisting of obedience make us close ourselves off from any voice that is not our own. The roots of the Greek word we have as obedience are to be under and to hear. “Sit down and listen” if you will.
Obedience to Jesus is a following kind of obedience a, listening humble intent awareness. We cannot be obedient to Christ and not pay attention to what he says, not only through scripture but whispered in the stillness of our hearts.
Two days ago, down in Eugene the Diocese of Oregon elected its tenth bishop, Michael Hanley. In our tradition we have a special relationship I think to obedience. Being Episcopal means having Bishops, and in ordination priests and deacons vow obedience to those bishops, but they are not kings and they are elected in the midst of an invitation to the holy spirit by people who have promised to listen to his voice.
We need to listen carefully to the voices of those around us, not only the bishops, but also the children, and the poor and the hungry. We must listen carefully for the voice of Christ. He told Pilate that everyone who belongs to the truth will.
This is not our true home, we are all in exile here, and we can sing in strange lands because we are fully poised and ready for the sound of the voice of the one who testifies to the truth which is our true home. So lets enter into Advent and get very quiet and listen for the voice of our King.