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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Christ the King Year B November 22, 2015

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13 (14-19)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the day when the season of Pentecost comes to an end and we prepare to begin the season of Advent. This week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Our opening reading describes King David, and all great leaders in these powerful and beautiful words: “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” David is the shepherd-king. Though he had flaws, the people of his kingdom had far better lives and a more just society than did the people in surrounding cultures. Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, is descended from the House of David.

Our second reading is from one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Revelation, singular, not Revelations. One of the ways in which this book is misinterpreted is to think that it was written to foretell the future. This book is not to be applied to today or to any future time or events.

Bruce Metzger, the scholarly and careful editor of The New Annotated Oxford Bible, writes, “…it is probable that the author, whose name is John, put the book in its present form toward the close of the reign of the Emperor Domitian (A,D, 81-96. It was then that Domitian began to demand that his subjects address him as “Lord and God” and worship his image. For refusing to do so, many Christians were put to death. Others, like John, were exiled, and all were threatened. One reason for the author’s couching his teaching in mysterious figures and extraordinary metaphors was to prevent the imperial police from recognizing that this book is a trumpet call to the persecuted, assuring them that, despite the worst that the Roman Empire could do, God reigns supreme, and Christ, who died and is alive forevermore, has the power to overcome all evil.”

To summarize, this book was written in code, and the imagery of evil refers to the Roman Empire.

The book opens with a prayer of praise to God and Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, who will come to complete the creation, restore the creation to wholeness, and bring in his reign, his shalom of peace and harmony.

In our gospel, we meet our King, and he is on the way to the cross. He is being interrogated by Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks. Jesus asks him whether this is Pilate’s own question, or whether he is asking because those above him told him to ask. In other words, Jesus is questioning Pilate’s authority. Pilate replies scornfully, “I am not a Jew, am I?” He says that Jesus’ own people have handed Jesus over as a criminal.

Finally, Jesus makes a statement: “My kingdom is not from this world.”  In the gospel for this day from Year A, he describes the nature of his kingdom. He tells us that when we feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty or welcome the stranger, we are feeding him and welcoming him.

His is a kingdom built on concern for others. He calls us to care for our brothers and sisters. Our Lord says to Pilate, “Every one who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The truth is that God wants us to love each other. God is love, God is not hate or worldly power. God is not the conquering of empire. God is not the acquisition of power or possessions or lordship over others as the Emperor Domitian and so many other world rulers have thought.

When Jesus says this wondrous thing, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” he is calling us, his faithful flock, to follow him and to help him to build his shalom.

What does this mean for us today?  How can we best follow our King? Well, it strikes me that these times are not very different from the times of John and the times of Domitian. Paris and Mali have been attacked. Christians are being persecuted.

When Jesus is interrogated by Pilate, our Lord does not operate from a place of fear. Pilate, the representative of the world’s greatest empire of that time, is grilling Jesus, and our Lord never loses balance. He questions Pilate’s authority, and well he might, because Pilate is part of an oppressive power structure that wants to preserve its control at all costs.

But Jesus’ power goes so far beyond anything that Pilate or Domitian or anyone else could ever muster. Jesus has already conquered evil in all  its forms. He has conquered death itself. His kingdom is not from this world. It is so much larger and full of light and love that it would blind someone like Pilate.

Jesus tells Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Everyone who belongs to his risen Body, everyone who responds to his call to care for our brothers and sisters, everyone who is knit together into the  risen body of his love and his new life, listens to his voice.

As we listen to his voice, he tells us not to be afraid. He tells us not to operate from a place of fear.  He calls us to center ourselves in him. He calls us to seek his kingdom and to live from the values of his kingdom. He calls us to be strong in his strength, and he calls us to look at the world and at other people with his eyes and his heart.

Our King is the direct opposite of Pilate and all the Caesars and Domitians and tyrants of this world. He calls us to seek first his kingdom.   Amen.

 

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