24 November 2019
As Year C closes this week, we are invited, once again, to celebrate the reign of Christ. The readings, though, make it impossible to get too triumphalist about it. The message is clear: this King is no power-monger, no tyrant, no self-aggrandising leader. Rather, Christ embodies what the Scriptures call the Good Shepherd to God’s people, the servant leader, the self-giving Messiah. This vision of God’s reign is both challenging and inspiring in a world where religions try to claim God’s kingdom for themselves, while warring on each other, and where power is all too often abused and hoarded.
May we be challenged to live under the authority of the Servant King as we worship together this week.
Jeremiah 23:1-6: A prophecy of judgement on the unrighteous rulers of God’s people, and a promise of a new, righteous leader from David’s line.
Luke 1:68-79: Zechariah’s song proclaiming God’s fulfiment of the promise tt send a righteous ruler from David’s line, and celebrating his son, John, as God’s prophet.
OR Psalm 46: A celebration of God’s protection and shelter, God’s presence and awesome works, and a call to silent and humble recognition of who God is.
Colossians 1:11-20: In Christ, who is supreme over all, and the visible image of God, we have been transferred from the realm of darkness into the realm of God’s reign.
Luke 23:33-43: While dying on the cross, Jesus assures the penitent thief that he will be with him in paradise that day.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
This final week in Year C brings together two central aspects of Christ’s life and activity. On the one side there is the proclamation of Christ as the incarnation of God, the supreme ruler over, and creator of, all things. This transcendent vision of Christ (primarily from the Colossians reading) is reflected in the praise of Psalm 46 which proclaims God’s awesome works and concludes with the exhortation to “be still and know that I am God”. In a similar vein, Both Jeremiah and Zechariah proclaim the Coming One who is God’s righteous ruler, in the line of David, who will judge the unrighteous leaders of Israel and replace them with a just reign. The cross narrative from Luke 23, offers the other side of this reigning Messiah. God’s reign is most profoundly expressed and revealed through the cross. It is in the self-giving, gracious, life-bringing act of dying that Jesus wins the nations and establishes God’s reign in the world. This is radically different Monarchy – and it is one that the world desperately longs for.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: The celebration of the rulership of Christ is a significant one for our interaction with the world and its power systems. On the one hand it reminds us that no human power, however it may pride itself on military might, wealth or global influence, is truly in control of the world. All human empires ultimately fall. On the other hand, it reminds us that we are called to work within – and also in opposition to – the systems of this world to bring the values and justice of God’s reign into being in our human reality. This is a complex and difficult task, although an inspiring and rewarding one. It engages our best energies on all levels of our participation in society. In so far as we are involved on a national level – be it in some form of leadership, or simply through participating in processes like voting, petitioning and lobbying – we are called to be accountable to Christ’s standard of sacrificial, servant leadership, rejecting the corrupt leadership against which the prophets spoke. On a community level, our leadership in Church, in our neighbourhoods and cities, in our schools and organisations, must similarly reflect the leadership values of Christ. And on a personal level – in our conversations, in our families and homes and in the ethical and moral decisions we face, we are called to act as leaders – reflecting Christ’s reign in the way we live under Christ’s authority. In these ways, God’s reign begins to influence the affairs of the world through small, significant groups of people who are committed to living differently, and to reflecting Christ in every situation. Make no mistake, when God’s reign is revealed like this, it has a massive impact on power dynamics and justice issues on a global scale.
LOCAL APPLICATION: At it’s most basic, the reign of God is manifest when those who, like the thief on the cross, recognise their brokenness and need to change, open themselves to the influence of Christ, and invite God to be the frame of reference for their lives. This does not just apply to those without faith, or those who have not made a conscious decision to follow Christ. It is a daily choice that must be made by all – especially those who are committed to the way of Christ. God’s reign will only be seen – Jesus will only be recognised as King – when we who are called by Christ’s name begin to live as true disciples, true followers of the sacrificial, life-giving Gospel. This requires two simple, but difficult, tasks to be undertaken. The first is to examine ourselves and our lives in the light of Christ’s teaching and example, allowing God’s Spirit to reveal where we still need to come under the rulership – the Lordship – of Christ. This must then lead us into a life of repentance and change which allows Christ’s character to be revealed in us a little more each day. If our faith doesn’t change us, then we’re wasting our – and God’s – time. The second task is to allow the change which God’s reign brings to us to filter through everything we think and say and do. Every interaction, every decision, every moment and every place we find ourselves in must be submitted to the influence of Christ, and must be received as an opportunity to experience God’s reign in our lives, and to share the blessing of God’s reign with others. This is not about evangelism in the “tell them about Jesus” sense. It’s about turning our faith into a life-transforming practice, rather than just an intellectual assent to some ideas about God. Ultimately, for Christ to truly be Monarch in our world, Christ must be Monarch in individual lives in such a way that God’s peace and justice, God’s love and grace, constantly flow through God’s people into the world – one moment, one interaction and one step at a time.