Tuesday, November 17, 2009


At our church we lay ministers get a monthly opportunity to deliver the sermon. This month is my month, and this Sunday is my preaching Sunday.

I've preached on Christ the King Sunday before, so between the lessons and the experience I'm on pretty familiar territory.

Sunday's lessons are rich in irony, from the "God is on our side" Psalm identifying the king's earthly reign with the Reign of God to that dramatic text in the Gospel of John where the rabble seems to fall away in the periphery as Jesus and Pilate, the representatives of heavenly and earthly authority, confront one another; where God With Us speaks truth to power not in the person of the prophet Daniel's awesome vision but in the battered and bloody person of a tortured prisoner in an occupied land. The festival day is itself ironic, born at the ascendancy of fascism, a nationalism worse than the nationalism that had just laid waste to much of Europe.

But this is tricky stuff, in a local culture where God and country are often knotted together in ways that make conveying the subversive nature of the Gospel sound like treason to all that is right and good. I briefly thought about sketching out a swastika on a sheet of typing paper and taping it to the pulpit as an illustration of what happened in our own faith tradition when Church let itself be coopted by State, but reality-checked myself shortly thereafter. There has to be a good way to communicate the implications of "Jesus is Lord" to people who love their country, who in many cases have served their country in the military, some of whose kids are off in the Middle East fighting a war of dubious wisdom on behalf of that country, who on some levels feel beseiged by outside forces challenging their beliefs and practices and presumptions about many things. The good news that Caesar isn't Lord of All may, on some level, sound to them like the bad news of one more brick being kicked out of an increasingly shaky wall that keeps them on the other side of chaos.

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this whole thing yet. But I'm going somewhere with it.


kg said...

Love to hear more as you chew your way through it!

Tom in Ontario said...

My sermon is not so much about kicking bricks as it is about pointing out the difference between Christ's reign and the world's reign. It's the difference between being a servant and giving up your life (Jesus) compared with being a ruler who holds others under his thumb (Pilate). God's kingdom is not like "the world's" kingdoms.

The difference is also that while the world's kingdoms make promises and claims that they would save us through their might, the one who "gave his life for his friends" is the one who really saves us.