Here we are at the end of our ecclesiastical year – reflecting on the end of Jesus’ earthly life. And I have this question rolling around in my head: What do we think that the Reign of Christ looks like? What is it based on? What do you think of when you hear ‘Reign of Christ’?
With the direction and help of Tracy, as many of the prayers as I could find are hung for you to see as you enter our worship space – recalling all of the people, the places the offerings that have been made here since Easter. We have lit candles, sat quietly, poured water, held stones and written on pieces of paper, to offer to God our intentions, concerns, our supplications.
Tonight as we hold silence and offer prayer to mark a day of remembrance for Trans people everywhere, for whom this world is still not a safe place.
This afternoon with the vision of Douglas and the support of others, tea was poured and you held conversations with seniors down the road, not to do anything but begin to build relationships.
When I think about the reign of God, I pray that it is based in actions such as these. That when people look at what the church does – it is in solidarity with, holding space for and offering ourselves in love.
Even at the end of his life – Jesus is offering words of comfort to the man beside him – even to the end he’s not saying condemning things to those who are taunting him and offering him sour wine, he offers a place in Gods kingdom to those who ask.
When we think about the reign of God – I believe that is in in our actions that Gods kingdom will be recognized. It is how we live in following Christ for those of us who claim him that the reign of Christ will be judged.
AND I know that I talk about love a lot – like pretty much every time I have the privilege of standing up here. But that is because I honestly don’t think that we can remind ourselves of it enough. It is because I think that you deserve to hear it over and over again – that you are loved.
When some of us were helping out with the William Paul Young event, we were asked at the end to hand out these little cards that said: “Beloved”, which I will admit, I thought was completely hokey.
I kept asking Cassie if she had Be-loved people yet. But that ‘Beloved’ little piece of paper is sitting on my desk and it has been since that night and now I’m kind of attached to it.
It makes me smile to see something as simple as Beloved, when I come in, in the morning, or when I head home after a long day, it’s nice to see that word reminding me.
Beloved. We are beloved. And when we know that, I don’t think we can do anything other than act it out in our lives – or at least that is my hope – and that it what I want the reign of God to be like.
We are reading the end of Jesus life tonight. What do we think his friends said as they gathered at his tomb?
What do we say about him as we gather here and consider the texts that tell us about his life? Because that is how we live out Gods reign, we base it on what we know in scripture about God and about the life that Jesus lived.
So we say prayers, we hold space, we make meals, we pour tea, we remember and we love one another. Thinking about Jesus death, forces me to think about his life. It forces me to remember who he had time for, the forgiveness that he offered, the teachings that he gave.
It continues to be our work to realize those things in our lives today. Our scriptures aren’t just a one off – those scriptures continue to live through our reading and wondering and through our actions.
I’ve spent this this week looking at different theological understandings of the crucifixion from the view of Peter Abelard an 11th century philosopher and theologian, whose view of Jesus’ death, writes author Tony Jones, ‘arouses us from our slumber, awakens us to the love that God has for us and drives us to love God and one another more fervently. ’
This is a very simple overview but as I understand it, Abelard believed everything about Jesus should be viewed through the lens of love, including Jesus’ death on the cross, where God did not even spare his own son because of his love for us. So that our sins are forgiven because of God’s love for us in Jesus.
He notes that Jesus forgives sin all through the Gospel accounts. And there are problems with this view point, but I have to admit my own attraction to the notion that God’s love for us and our own love for God, is at the heart of everything including our own ability to overcome sin.
Or Rene Girard, who believed that Jesus sacrificial death was one that mirrored the many sacrificial deaths that people have offered at the direction of Spiritual rulers in order to satisfy an angry God and because of our own hunger for violence.
These sacrificial deaths pre-date Jesus but I think we could argue that people continue to die sacrificial deaths as examples to others of the danger that could befall those who do not fit within a particular worldview.
Girard understands Jesus’ own senseless death as one who is innocent, was to show us how senseless these scapegoating/ sacrificial deaths truly are. It turns our acts of senseless violence on their head. It holds up a mirror for us to see ourselves through.
There are other understandings of Jesus death on the cross that help to translate our experiences of it – to help us make sense of what happened on the cross and help explain why this continues to be important to us today. Theories that help us see how Jesus death might be understood by people of colour, by women, by Orthodox Christians, by people of Asian descent – there are many, many theologies of the cross.
All of the many ways of seeing the cross might offer clues – they all answer particular questions. They all point us toward God and our understanding of God in some way. Some images of God sit better for some of us than others and before we can be reminded that the image of God is offered to us through the book of common prayer, I want to say that that is indeed one way to understanding God – but even it opens us to a conversation, I think rather than offering an ultimate understanding.
Because as much as they tell us about God in Christ, they also tell us about us – about humanity, about the ways in which we see each other.
I think that we understand God ultimately through the world around us, through our interactions with one another, through our experiences of our own bodies, through our experience of the church and the community that we find there, through the ways that we experience our political system and power and authority, through our experience of nature – through our experience of all of these things, we tell each other we experience ourselves, something about our understanding of God. Why?
Because in the very beginning of our Bible we are told about the creation of the world in which God breathed – the breath of God was unleashed and creation began, including humanity. And from there we have centuries of being together in ways that are both beautiful and terrible. And through it all we seem to be searching for meaning and for God.
And so I go back to the crucifixion – the death of Jesus on the cross and I have to wonder about the life that he lived that got him there – and what the stories about him tell us about how we are meant to live. Because that is what I am interested in – I am interested in figuring out how to live – how we are to follow Christ in our lives. How we do this together because what we do in Christ’s name – that is what the reign of Christ looks like.
We can see the cross through the lens of love, to help us see how senseless our thirst for violence is, as payment for our sin; always though I think that we have to see it as a result of the life that Jesus lived.
Jesus pushes the boundaries of who is in and who is out. Jesus hung out with all the wrong people and seemed to regularly do what his followers weren’t expecting – listening to a woman, inviting children to come close, touching lepers, turning over tables in sanctuaries.
All of these actions so far as I can see – are based in love – we are beloved. And so we mark this day of remembering our Trans sisters and brothers because they are beloved of God and there must be room for them here in God’s world.
We pay attention to the lonely because we know what community feels like and how important it is. We offer prayers regularly because we know that prayer works.
It means that allowing couples to love one another regardless of gender, without judgement, because straight, cis people do not have the monopoly on love. It means taking time out for strangers and it means upsetting the power that many feel over others – it means taking the teachings of the Gospels seriously.
The Reign of Christ looks like this. It looks like God’s people doing Gods’ work here on earth, following the lessons that we learn in Christ because even to his death, he was teaching us how to live. Amen.