November 18, 2019
King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I'd love thee,
truly I'd serve thee,
light of my soul, my joy, my crown.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #838]
The assigned lectionary readings for November 24, 2019, Christ the King Sunday, are as follows:
Luke's account of the Crucifixion, the Gospel reading for this Sunday of Christ the King, is the only one in which we hear any dialogue between Jesus and the two others who were crucified alongside him. In Matthew and Mark's gospels they are identified as "bandits," John simply mentions "two others," but Luke describes them as "criminals."
Many of us use the terms "bandits" and "criminals" interchangeably, but as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan point out in their book,
The Last Week, "The Greek word translated 'bandits' is commonly used for guerilla fighters against Rome, who were either 'terrorists' or 'freedom fighters,' depending upon one's point of view." [p. 147]
The book gives a gruesome description of the crucifixion process, which was reserved specifically for those who systematically refused to accept Roman imperial authority. It went far beyond the bounds of what we would today call "cruel and unusual punishment." It was state mandated terrorism, designed to shame and discourage anyone from voicing or taking part in any form of dissent against the oppressive Roman government.
It's inconceivable to me how two people would find the strength to do anything but scream while undergoing that much pain and suffering. Yet here is Jesus, having a conversation with a criminal.
And it is the only time Jesus promised paradise to anybody!
I remember so distinctly the first time that point was driven home to me. My home congregation had an evening to familiarize us with the work of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, one of our best-known social service agencies in Cleveland. I was sitting at a presentation by Charles See, now retired, but at that time Director of the Community Re-Entry Program at LMM.
He spoke about second chances for individuals who had been incarcerated and were now returning to society. These persons should have an opportunity to work, to go to school, to put their past behind them. After all, they have paid their "debt to society," to borrow a worn-out phrase.
See called it a restoration to right relationship. What's the right relationship of a person returning to the community after incarceration? That person should have a second chance, an opportunity to move about in the community without having to bear the burdens of their mistakes.
Years later, in my second call in ministry, the congregation I served had a wonderful opportunity to welcome back a member who had been incarcerated for nearly fifteen years. The first person I called was Charles See. He helped us put together a Resettlement Team and walked us through the steps to welcome back the man and restore him into our community.
In the Gospel lesson the criminal asks, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
As we look ahead to Christ the King Sunday, it is helpful for us i
f we reframe our manner of thinking and imagine of Christ's Kingdom, Paradise, as something other than just a place, but rather, a restored relationship with God
When Jesus replies, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise," those words take on a new meaning. When
our relationship with God is restored the kingdom becomes real and it is real now.
That's why we, as the ELCA, are a publicly engaged church that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work. We do God's work in the world, the work of restoring and reconciling communities. We go to whatever lengths to pursue justice and seek peace. Because we are grounded in God's love and forgiveness, we are well equipped to live and serve here and now, in the world, with all its complexities, tensions and ambiguities.
elebrating Christ as king, means believing in his kingly power, even when he is on the cross and unwilling to save himself.
When the Son of God came to this earth, he announced the arrival of the kingdom. It's not pie-in-the-sky and far off in the future in the sweet by-and-by. It is now.
I have nothing on my schedule other than routine meetings this week. It is unusual, to say the least, but I welcome the respite as we wind down the year.
This week and always, may you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God's glorious power...while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. [Colossians 1:11-12]
+Bishop Abraham Allende