What does the reign of Christ look like today?
Pentecost 26, Common Lectionary Year C
Luke 23:33-43; Colossians 1:11-20
Â©2013 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
Who was he? This crucified one? This young manÂ called Jesus? This Son of Mary, Son of God?
Paul calls him the first born of creation, the image of the invisible God. John, the Divine Logos, the Word withwhich God made and makes everything that is or shall be. Â Or we have our Gospeller Lukeâ€™s image of Jesus Christ; weâ€™ve listened to it unfold all year, showing us a wise man, a sage, a spirit-filled mystic with an acute vision of a religious-social- political upheaval of the Roman empire by what he called the kingdom of God. Lukeâ€™s Jesus was found among those at the margins, healing on the Sabbath, touching the untouchables, eating with the outcast, breaking barriers right and left with word and action to bring about the healing, saving, life-restoring reignÂ of a GodÂ whom Jesus described as the deeply loving Papa ofÂ every prodigal child; as a widow throwing a party for a found farthing; as a mother hen gathering her brood under her wing; and a net large enough to catch everything in the sea to bring all home.
For which world-turning dream, he now hangs on a cross.
While ink and blood have been spilled over just who Jesus Christ was, and is, the question for today, this Feast of the Reign of Christ, is this: What difference does it all make?
Because if this story, this man, this cross, make no difference to the way we live our lives, then there is no reign of Christ. There is no point to all this (point to church).
This story either lives on, resurrected in those of us who bear his name, or it dies the death of historical irrelevance.
Now, let me take a side bar for a moment. Many in the Christian fold believe that the reign of Christ is a vision of some future, far off moment filled with angels, trumpets, and separated sheep and goats. But reading these Gospels, year in and out, I keep hearing Jesus say â€œThe Kingdom of God is among you, it is at hand, it is here and now. It is like yeast in the flour, hidden in the midst of daily living yet working its lively transformation. It is like seeds cast upon the ground, burrowing into the soil of daily living. It is like light upon a hill, casting a beacon of home out into the darkness.â€
The reign of Christ is not just a set of metaphors, though! I want to know what it looks like today. I want to know what difference the reign of Christ can make in a world where we have become rightly cynical about any form of governance, reign, or kingdom. I want to know what difference the reign of Christ can make in a world just as racked and pockmarked by war, fear, hatred, disaster, as the world of Jesusâ€™ day.
And thatâ€™s probably the key. The reign of Christ today would look like it did then, small, burrowing, a tiny light in huge darknessâ€¦. It would look like followers of Christ being found in the hurting places with gifts of healing, compassion, truth and a passionate quest for justice, wouldnâ€™t it? Â In fact, I think it would look a lot like thisâ€¦. (hold up the binder). In here are the Time and Talent forms you have just filled out. I am not stretching a point here, what we chose to do with our time and talent forms is nothing less than a promise to God and to one another to live the reign of Christ, as best we can, here, and in the everyday world God has given us to care for.
In here we have the promises of the citizens of the reign of Christ at Cedar Park United who are choosing toâ€¦ prayÂ and sing together, worshipping God so that we can remember together the marvellous works of God, to offer our talents in worship so that together we can encounter God as the Loving Heartbeat of Creation, offering abundance, grace, hope, justice.
In hereÂ people are offering their skill and talent to create community a safe space to search, to seek,Â to disagree respectfully, and to be honest in our search for truth together. A community where the broken can mend, the lost can be found, the grieving comforted, the lonely befriended.
In here,Â reign of Christ looks like talents of leadership, service and practical skill usedÂ toÂ serveÂ the needs of the least and last and lost beyond our wood and stone, Â – working with the care apartments, Â -working at the CAC foodbank, Â -supporting the West Island LGBTQ Youth and Seniorsâ€™ Â centres, Â -volunteering time and talent for Nova, or Dix Mille Â Villages, Actions Refugies, City Mission, Â -writing cards, visiting the sick, the super-Seniors, Â -working with families in crisis, Â – supporting mental health and addictions ministries Â – beginning the generationsâ€™ long work of Â Â reconciliation with aboriginal peoplesâ€¦..
In here, the reign of Christ can be seen in those who choose to teachÂ and learn alongside our children and all who come here,Â about the Dream of God, the reign of Christ, and to pass on those identities and values we claim as ours that reflect the reign of Christ in our neighbourhood.
In here, people are signalling their willingness to live the reign of Christ by -choosing to work to protect the planetâ€™s resources; -choosing to work with others to uphold a tolerant, inclusive, just society, where the rights of all to live the values of a life-affirming faith are protected.
As I read this, it becomes a living testament, a newer testament to the enduring reign of Christ, passed on through the generations to ours, and Iâ€™d like to end there, on a high note, but the ScripturesÂ for today have one more thing to say to us.
We sit today in the shadow of a cross. A reminder that the hard work of justice, truth, hope,Â forgiveness, healing, and love the work of the reign of Christ, will not always met with blessing, or even benign indifference. In societies where power for powerâ€™s sake, lies, retribution, pettiness, fear and despair are the rule norm, this reign of Christ will be greeted with as much suspicion, as was Christ himself.
We need to be aware that our odd habit of living the reign of Christ may be met, not with benign indifference, but outright ridicule and worse.
But then, given the choice between living for justice or its opposite, abundance, sustainable, equitable life for all, or its opposite, hope, forgiveness, healing wholeness, or their opposites, which you work for, live for, spend your life for?
Me too. Iâ€™ll pick the reign of Christ over any other option, any day.
â€œMay we be made strong with all the strength of the Risen Christ, may we be ready to endure with patience, and even rejoice, giving thanks for the inheritance we have as citizens of the reign of Christ, the saints in light.â€Â Amen.