Homily: November 22, 2015

Christ the King, YEAR B; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar They were a hardy band of believers,

besieged, surrounded by trouble.

 

Times were tough, and getting even tougher.

It looked like they had reached a dead end in their search for a better life.

How did this small group of believers respond?

Like their invisible leader, King Jesus,

in their weakness and need they demonstrated truly radical openness,

 

The early Christians in Asia Minor faced major league problems.

They were being persecuted,

picked off one by one and in small groups,

by the Roman authorities.

 

To the Romans

these Christians were a strange, new and dangerous atheistic cult,

because they refused to worship the old pantheon of Gods and Goddesses

 

Worse yet, the early Christians refused to offer incense to the Roman Emperor.

To do so was a requirement for full participation in Roman life-

like getting a social security or ID card.

Those who refused to worship Caesar were shut out of society.

 

So when in our second reading this morning

John calls Jesus the ruler of the kings of the earth,

he is punching his readers in the gut

with a term which would bowl them over.

 

This Jesus is Lord, or Caesar, or King…

but unlike any ruler this world had ever known.

 

Seventy years earlier

Pilate had asked Jesus at his trial

what kind of a king ARE you, anyway?

 

Jesus didn’t look much like a king to politically saavy Pilate-

the Roman procurator had been used to rubbing elbows

with the royal court in Rome.

 

Jesus looked even less like a king

as the next day he hung on the cross,

bleeding out from a beating and harsh death sentence

inflicted by Pilate’s own troops.

 

So, Jesus’ followers have an answer.

This is the kind of King Jesus is.

 

Jesus’ power doesn’t come from politics or religion

or money, or social position,

or even his family tree.

 

Christ’s power as King comes from his surrendered life…

his radical openness to whatever may come his way.

 

That doesn’t mean that Jesus was a pushover…

Or simply resigned to an unavoidable, aweful fate-

“Ok God- whatever!”

 

John understands what Jesus went through on our behalf

and that Jesus deliberately chose to do so.

 

And so he writes:

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,

and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father,

to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

How do we understand the ideas of rulers and kingship

In the twenty first century?

 

I struggle with the idea of bowing the knee to somebody,

being subservient,

following their rules, their wishes, their direction.

 

But King Jesus exercises his influence in a different way-

from below,

from underneath,

from a stance of radical openness to life.

 

That openness is never more evident

than when the followers of Jesus Way live their own lives

of service and self sacrifice.

 

Thousands of Christians in Asia Minor went to their deaths,

at the end of the first century a.d.

 

Feeding the poor,

comforting the afflicted,

they never raised a hand

to openly defy the powers of King Caesar.

But they did fight-

using the radical power of openness.

 

It took another two hundred years before Christianity finally

became legalized in the Roman Empire.

 

This verse and this scene in Asia Minor were a tiny beginning-

followed by centuries of set backs,

defeats, persecutions

-all done with radical openness to God.

 

That radical, peaceful openness to God

Slowly, gradually but thoroughly defeated

the powers of ignorance, violence and hatred.

 

That was the revolution King Jesus came to earth to bring to pass.

 

I can think of three places in our world

where we desperately need that same radical openness today.

 

First, as we Americans face the events in Paris and Syria,

Europe and the Middle East.

 

It is incredibly hard right now not to circle the wagons,

and close our borders,

as well as our minds and hearts,

Especially when faced with senseless, radical violence

like what we are seeing from ISIL and their kind

 

I don’t pretend to have an answer for the world’s problems.

But I do have an answer for us-

So we are not consumed by that same violence and hatred

which we see around us.

 

It’s the radical openness of King Jesus-

The one who kept giving and giving and giving

of himself until the end-

not a passive resignation to an inevitable death

but a powerful self sacrifice based in compassion for the whole world-

for those who hated and despised and killed him,

as much as for those who loved Christ and follow his way.

 

I’m not saying I’m there now-

But like it or not, Jesus’ way leads us there.

 

A second place where that radical openness can help us cope

is right here in Minneapolis.

 

We are all dealing with aftermath of last week’s police shooting….

And the frustration and anger it has surfaced on many fronts.

 

Again, there are no easy political answers

or social structures to help us here.

 

In fact, I feel pretty darn helpless

and caught in the middle today around this issue.

 

Some of you may feel the same, or differently.

 

But I do know this one thing-

if we follow King Jesus

or for people of all faiths-

if we simply follow the guidance of our compassionate consciences

we will find a way forward.

Together.

 

The third place we need that openness is right here at Gethsemane.

 

We’ve been talking to you for a few weeks now about our In-Gathering-

the need for us all to make two significant commitments-

to our buildings and to our ministries.

 

The day has come for us all to look within and ask ourselves,

how can we demonstrate that love and compassion here at home?

 

Today, I ask you, please demonstrate that radical openness

by making a fresh, new or increased financial commitment

to this, your church family.

 

We are small in number here at Gethsemane,

admittedly. but we are a giving people, a loving people,

like our leader King Jesus who gave himself for us.

 

We are small, but let us continue to be mighty

in our commitment and our compassion. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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