Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life, Sunday, November 22, 2015.
Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Welcome to Sunshine Cathedral. This is a house of prayer for all people. All are welcome here. Whoever you are and where ever you are on your spiritual journey you bring special gifts to share. And we pray that you will find spiritual nourishment for your journey here.
The Call to Worship
Our God is great!
ALL: You have redeemed Your people!
Let the heavens shout with joy!
ALL: Let all the people celebrate God’s awesome love!
Shout and sing praise to God!
ALL: For God has healed and restored the people.
Let us pray that the reign of Christ may live in our hearts and come to our world
Almighty ever-living God,
it is your will to gather up all things
in your beloved one,
reigning in the universe
in the power that is love,
that the whole of creation,
freed from slavery,
may serve and praise you
through Your Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever and ever.
John 18.33, 36-38
Pilate summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jewish people?’ Jesus answered, ‘My domain is not from this world. If my realm were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…But as it is, my realm is not from here.’
Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. I’m just here to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to what I have to say.’
Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’ After Pilate had said this, he went out to the waiting crowd and told them, ‘I find no case against him.’”
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
The Reign of Christ
This Sunday is the least favorite Sunday of the year to preach for me. Here at Sunshine Cathedral we call it “Reign of Christ” rather than Christ the King. I have a difficult time with the concept of the Christ as king. The idea of living under the rule of a sovereign is not something that appeals to me, however benevolent that king or queen might be. We’ll unpack this a little more in a few minutes. I do think that the subtlety in the wording is important even though some might argue that the difference in saying Reign of Christ is substantively no different from referring to it as Christ the King. I don’t think it’s just semantics. I believe there is a real difference.
The Revised Common Lectionary, upon which our lectionary here at Sunshine Cathedral is based, has a cycle that begins with the First Sunday of Advent, coming next week (which seems unreal this year) and ends right where we find ourselves this week at Reign of Christ. The biblical texts that we read each year cycle through and rotate through the major themes of Christian theology on a three-year cycle for Sunday services. The idea being that during this three-year cycle we touch on all the major readings in the biblical texts.
We mark these seasons with particular colors and various things like the presence or absence of the Paschal candle, the removal of altar dressing from the end of Holy Thursday services, through Good Friday until sundown on Holy Saturday. Some congregations participate in a tradition of lighting an Advent Wreath to mark the four Sundays in Advent and the “greening” the sanctuary for Christmastide, and more.
The Jewish holiday Simchat Torah literally means “Rejoicing in the Torah.” Like many of our Christian traditions, the reading of a portion of sacred text each week at worship services comes from the Jewish tradition. Each week the Torah Portion or Parsha is prescribed based on a yearly cycle of reading through the Torah, what we refer to as the Pentateuch or first five books of the Hebrew Testament in our Christian bible. Simchat Torah celebrates coming to the end and beginning again to read through the torah scroll.
On Simchat Torah Jews do not simply end with the final words of Deuteronomy, they also begin again with the first words of Genesis. Not even one week stands between the ending of reading the Torah and beginning again to study the sacred texts. This is why each synagogue or temple really needs to have two torah scrolls, so that one can be rolled to the end of the scroll for this service, and the other rolled to begin again at Genesis. If you have never seen or rolled or carried a Torah scroll I urge you to make friends with a local rabbi and have that experience. It is important that we know more about the basic Jewish traditions from which our Christian cycles often come so that we can have a richer experience of our traditions and so that we do not make the mistake of co-opting Jewish traditions.
We are not simply ending the liturgical year, we immediately move from Reign of Christ to the pregnant waiting and yearning for the light of Christ to be renewed in the world as we wind down the short days of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and begin to gain more minutes of daylight each day just before Christmastide begins. Christian holidays were also designed to mirror so called pagan holidays like Solstice as well as Jewish holidays.
Christ the King is a triumphal image of a kingdom ruled by a strong king. Many of the second coming narratives concentrate on the idea that the world will be made right when Christ comes back to claim HIS throne. This idea, much like the Doctrine of Original Sin, puts the emphasis on God making the world right in spite of us rather than God inspiring us to repair the world each day by loving each other and working for justice for all of creation.
“The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen soon, violently, or literally. The Second Coming of Christ is what will happen when we Christians finally accept that the First Coming was the Only Coming and start to cooperate with its divine presence.”
( - John Dominic Crossan in God and Empire)
Crossan very eloquently describes the Kingdom of God echoing the idea that Jesus repeatedly tried to get through our thick skulls, namely that the Kingdom is here, already, among us. We don’t need to wait for it to arrive with the return of a human form descending on a cloud. Expecting the kingdom of God to begin with the so called second coming of Christ is, in my opinion, the ultimate co-dependent theology. If we commemorate this Sunday by fueling the expectation that “daddy” Christ is one day going to come back to save us from evil deflects responsibility that we have for making justice love in the world.
The website Patheos.com has an blog called “Preaching ‘Reign of Christ’ Sunday as a Progressive Christian” posted November 11, 2010 by Carl Gregg. Here’s a quote from that blog.
“…[On] Reign of Christ Sunday, we are invited to remember that the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God” — to which Jesus constantly pointed — is as fully available now and always as it was 2,000 years ago. The question that remains each Reign of Christ Sunday is whether we will choose to live as if the one who reigns is not Caesar, but God.”
How does is the Reign of Christ different from the Reign of Ceasar? Here are some examples: Power over, top down vs. the Reign of Christ – Power with and collaboration. The Reign of Ceasar is invested in control, manipulation vs. freedom and liberty. Oppression of the poor is part of the imperial mindset. It usually masquerades in saying to the poor, “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps.” But the Reign of Christ tells us to care for the poor, help them. Support them. The Reign of Christ does not blame the victim of imperialist oppression for their plight. The Reign of Christ is not based on self interest but on love of neighbor. One of the best examples in the news these days is politicians who are hiding behind the skirts of “security” to deny welcoming the stranger.
If we turn away the refugees of the war in Syria, we succumb to the terror that the radicals perpetuate. We turn on each other and secretly in our hearts believe that we are not like them, that they are “other” than misguided humans who have forgotten their own humanity. We elevate ourselves above the terrorists who do the same to us in their radical fundamentalist rantings. We cannot use the tools of war to dismantle war. We must find something better, something that works.
This week I saw a French father and his son interviewed on television. The little boy was afraid. He talked about men with guns. He asked his father what would they do? His father said they may have guns but we have flowers. The boy questioned his father, Will the flowers keep us safe? His father assured him that the flowers and the candles set up to commemorate those killed in the massacres in France would, indeed keep them safe from the people with guns. So beautiful. I want to believe it’s true that the flowers and the candles will overcome the guns and bombs. But I may be a bit more cynical I fear.
We must be carful to harness our anger in the service of justice. And to do this we must take care of ourselves. This week I came across a poem that lifted my spirits and I want to share it with you here. It is a poem by Wendell Berry called The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. Amen