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Of Kingdoms and Dreams

Pentecost 27, Common Lectionary Year C

Luke 23:33-43

©2016 Rev. Elisabeth R Jones

Does it feel a bit odd?
Listening to Luke telling us about the crucifixion, in November?
And on a Sunday when we’ve gathered folk from the West Island
to celebrate, for goodness’ sake!

Well, we can cast the blame squarely on Pope Pius XI,
who introduced the Solemnity of the Reign of Christ
into the Christian Calendar in 1925,
and from there it came into the ecumenical lectionary
as the culmination of the Christian Year;
one more chance, before we begin again the Advent Waiting Season,
to be reminded of the peculiar kingdom Dream of God
for which Jesus was born,
and for which he died.

It’s certainly not lost on me,
standing in front of our resident politicians,
that this festival has everything to do with how we,
followers of the Way of Jesus Christ,
are citizens of two kingdoms.

Luke’s Gospel leaves us little wiggle room
for a privatized, spiritualized faith
that has no impact on our daily living.
From the outset,
Jesus declared that his life would be spent
proclaiming in word and deed
a Gospel of good news to the poor,
upheaval, reversal of fortune,
where the lowly are lifted,
the mighty called out for hording their privilege,
where the prisoner and the oppressed are released,
right up to, even at the hour of his death!
At the moment when he could be forgiven
for giving up the work of the Gospel,
here we see him proclaiming their salvation!
As I stand in awe at this dedication to the Dream of God,
I’m reminded how difficult it is for us ordinary folk,
most of the time
to really identify ourselves and our lives with Jesus,
and what he’s doing, saying.
Whenever we hear a Gospel story,
we look around for our place within it.
When he’s talking to the crowds by the lakeshore
we shuffle in among the fishers and mothers
to be inspired and encouraged by his weaving of God’s Dream.
We want to be one of ten lepers who were healed.
When he’s talking about the pray-ers in the temple,
we stand beside the humble one,
we want to be Zacchaeus, called down from our lofty trees to eat with him!
But most of the time, if truth be told,
we’d rather be with him, than be him.

But Luke puts us on the spot in this text:
Are we keen to be among the proud leaders,
who scorn this weak, vulnerable Jesus
whom we’ve put on the cross?
Are we any more keen to be a soldier,
echoing the leaders who paid us to put him up there?
Which criminal do you want to be: the derisory one,
or the repentant one?
Neither of us get to come down alive from our cross, so not really!
In the end, literally in the end, we may as well be hung with Jesus.
It sure beats standing to the side, helpless, or scornful.
We may as well, like Jesus,
be found with our last breath,
proclaiming God’s Dream,
setting another oppressed one free.
giving another dying one new life, new hope,
don’t you think?

Now that’s Sunday talk.
How do we bring this one out into the real world?
No prizes for guessing that the illustration
has to do with Dix Mille Villages!

Let’s see if it works:
1992-3 or thereabouts,
two pastors of S.Columba by the Lake,
Ian Fraser, Paul Scott,
sharing this kingdom dream of God
with a congregation who are saddled
with a building that’s draining resources.
They are shaped by this Gospel
they dream the Dream of God long enough
to imagine a new way of being Jesus’ people.
doing what Jesus did:
proclaiming in action a Gospel of good news to the poor,
upheaval, reversal of fortune,
where the lowly are lifted, empowered, set free,
the mighty called out for hording their privilege,
and the systems of oppression are undone,
if only ever so slightly
by our actions and commitments.

Dreams and reality are not often identical twins,
the failure to sell the building became
the seed for a new vision;
to get partners to share
in the high-street public witness to the Dream of God.
Enter Beaconsfield United and Peter Short,
Cedar Park United and Paul Evans,
and folk like Murray McAuslan, Terry de Linden, Nancy Walsh,
Janet Cheasley, Judith Quinn, and Aileen and Terry and Wendy, and Lauren,
and Paul, and…..
all wrestling this crazy Gospel Dream into real life…

Twenty years later, two stores later, an economic downturn later,
staff and clergy retirements later,
we’re here.
To celebrate, yes,
but what?
Not our store’s apparent success,
not our economic viability,
not making good on our three churches’ investments of time and money,
that’s world kingdom success.

No, we’re here to celebrate Gospel happening,
like seeds burrowing in the ground,
like yeast in the loaf,
like flashlights, pinpricks in the dark,
like knots in a carpet,
like women being paid a fair wage,
like children not working in sweat shops, but going to school,
like men dignified with meaningful livelihood,
like Cambodians making jewelry out of landmine casings,
like Muslims and Hindus and Christians working to build community together.
So what if this Gospel living we’ve been committed to
for twenty years impacts the global economy only by 1%?
God’s Economy, God’s Dream, God’s Kingdom
is about the life that is given to the one who had none
the hope that is seeded in the life of one in despair.

That’s what we’re here to celebrate and to commit ourselves to,
like Jesus, for as long as we have breath and life.

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