St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church
Diocese of New Westminster
Anglican Church of Canada
Wednesday 7:00 pm
November 25th Advent 3, The Reign of Christ 2018 John Marsh
Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-12; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
What is the reign of Christ?
Is it like other imperial reigns – triumphal and expansionist, mighty and powerful?
Or is the reign of Christ, a surprise, an unexpected reign?
Unexpected, if we have eyes to see, ears to hear, in the way that the way of Jesus is unexpected…
From the beginning, in the birth narratives, his was a way purposefully contrasted with power, might and domination…
His was a way set as a counter example to the way of Caesar – power and glory is contrasted with vulnerability and poverty…
As Jesus says in John’s gospel:
‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ (John 18:36)
As the singer sings:
Don’t you know, they’re talkin’ 'bout a revolution
It would seem that the reign of Christ demands an alternative way of living, another way of seeing and being in the world…
If we were to seek clues as to this alterity, this ‘otherness’, we couldn’t go too far wrong in checking out the parables of the kingdom which slip, slide and collide shattering conventional expectations…
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
What kind of kingdom is compared to a treasure hidden with joy, not dug up, not cashed in but valued for its own sake?
The economics of the kingdom are discovered to be disturbingly radical. (see Matthew 20:1-16). Given the systemic injustice of ‘business as usual’, the parable of the labourers shouts “workers deserve a living wage”…
And then there is the parable of the separation of the goats and sheep (see Matthew 25:35-46)²; the parable puts a premium on that co-operative ‘shalom spirit’ which counters the culture of competition and predation; it would seem that in the reign of Christ we are to ‘flock’ – to gather, to congregate, to conspire (literally ‘to breathe together’), to collaborate in the name of a just love…
We are to ‘flock’ together in order to attend to, to relate with the ‘ger’ – the stranger in our midst – perhaps including those who are ‘burrs under our saddle’…
The ‘ger’ expresses that radical Jewish valuing of the ‘stranger’ as the eternal ‘other’ – always beloved of god, always demanding of us.
The parabolic images of god’s reign - the feast, the embrace, weddings, endless singing and dancing, togetherness with the ‘ger’ – suggest that those many avoid, judge or condemn are essential to the program.
And so it seems that no matter how pious we are, or strive to be, our love of god cannot save us from the demands of the god of love (justice stirs, lures) …
This is to say that there is a cosmic significance to the reign of Christ but not the one we are tempted to embody…
The reign of Christ is not imperial despite our pretentions and hubris; the reign of Christ involves us and calls us; there is a disturbing ‘open-ended-ness’ to the reign of Christ in its call to co-operative work with ‘the other’.
So perhaps we can lose those triumphalist notes and sing songs of Jesus’ reign in which we celebrate a Jesus who is none other than ‘the other’ – the ‘ger’ – one strange in our midst…
Perhaps we can lose those exclusivist notes and with humility open to the unfolding of the holy in our midst.
Because it was for this alternative vision that Jesus was executed…
It is for this alternative vision that we are called to shoulder the cross…
And so shouldering the ‘cross’, perhaps we can sing the old hymns ‘Jesus Shall Reign’ or ‘Lo, He Comes with
Clouds Descending’ with an alternative vision and new hopes…
Talkin Bout A Revolution
Don’t you know, they’re talkin 'bout a revolution
While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Don't you know, they're talkin 'bout a revolution
Don't you know, you better run, run, run, run, run
'Cause finally the tables are starting to turn, talkin 'bout a revolution
While they're standing in the welfare lines
Don't you know, they’re talkin 'bout a revolution
And finally the tables are starting to turn, talkin 'bout a revolution
by Tracy Chapman
¹ From the song ‘Talkin Bout A Revolution’ by Tracy Chapman.
² Admittedly the parable in context requires hermeneutic suspicion, necessitating careful work.