Kingdom Cross by Charles Grant
2007-11-15 by Charles Grant
On the festival of Christ the King we face a dilemma. On the one hand, the most beloved and inspirational Easter anthem is Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”. Whenever it is sung we leap to our feet in respect and sing along, “King of kings and Lord of Lords…” Many of our hymns include imagery such as “The king of love my shepherd is”. But as Americans, kings and kingdoms don’t mean much to us, in political terms. In fact, in are acculturated to RESIST king-talk. So, to a certain degree, talk of kings and kingdoms, such as we find in the Bible, don’t really speak to Americans. Except the language and notion of empire and kingdom really do shape our consciousness. We may not have an emperor, but the good ole USA is truly an empire in the Biblical sense of the word. The USA is the only reigning super power. And like the biggest guy on the playground, America doesn’t take kindly to criticism. Even so, as Christians, we yearn for the kingdom of God. But whenever we talk about kingdom, we end up using the language of power, ruler and ruled. Is that what we yearn for? No wonder in recent years some theologians have tried to talk about KIN-dom. That is, what we are really working for is a divinely led kin-dom or holy community in which all are equal, as opposed to a KING-dom of ruler and ruled. Christ the King Sunday invites us to reflect more carefully about such language and imagery, including our over-used language of “king” when “sovereign” would not only suffice but be more inclusive.
The other side of this Sunday is not awkward; it is downright difficult: the CROSS. What Christ the King is really all about of course, is that the one whom the people wanted to be an earthly king turned out to be a king of a totally different sort: a king on a cross. The king whom we follow calls us not to follow him to victory, but to follow him to death. The king whom we follow calls us to embrace a life of suffering. Christ the King Sunday – or the festival of The Reign of Christ - calls us to confess that no earthly ruler is worthy of that title or our allegiance: God and God alone is sovereign. The God we know in Christ is our only King.
Christ the King Sunday always falls right before or just after Thanksgiving – a day people run to much more easily than “the reign of Christ”. But thanksgiving and the reign of Christ can also be played together: No level of gratitude, or frankly, no level of generosity, removes from us the burden that we have more than we deserve and we fail to share as much as we could and ought: the cross is a call to offer a lot more than some of our abundance and a portion of our time and efforts: the cross is a call to give everything, not just a turkey and sack of groceries.
The sacrifice of Christ who rules our hearts and lives is a constant reminder that the meaning of life lies in a mystery outside of ourselves.
2007-11-14 by David Howell
The Adult Children of Parents support group has finally left the Sermon Feedback Cafe. They stayed a long time, but since they had issues we did not ask them to leave. But now go on in the cafe and respond to Dave's question about Thanksgiving Sermon Help. Go to Homepage, to Share It and then to Sermon Feedback Cafe. Click on Submit Your Own to post a response. Anyone, even if you suffer from Adult Child of Parents Syndrome, may post a response.
And thanks to Dave, Tom, and Charles for their helpful thoughts this week.
The Gospel Lesson
2007-11-14 by Tom Steagald
I think that this week's lesson is rich in the same kind of assertion that Charles sees in the Isaiah text. What is interesting to me in the Gospel is something I have never noticed before...a kind of tetralogue: four commandments to the disciples as their world comes apart.
The disintegration of the Temple and the cultus, the warring and redrawing of maps, the change in regimes and the consequences of that--even the deadly disruptions that come to the family--are an announcement of the failure of human institutions to sustain us or bring peace. All these things must take place, Jesus says, but the end is not yet. What happens in the interim?
There are four commands, as near as I can see: Do not be misled--by those who use the instability to their own advantage. These could be apocalyptic preachers, stylish politicions, or prosperity teachers.
Do not go after them, Jesus says. That is the second commandment. Instead, I would suggest, we follow Jesus alone,
Do not be terrified. That is the third. We are so easily frightened: a 300 point drop in Dow Jones; Putin's plans to stay in power; the "threat" of "that other party's candidate for president"; the never-ending insurgency. When all of the certainties we depend on are uncertain, the Christian's true north is faith which allows us to not be terrified.
The fourth is a bit dicier: Do not prepare a defense. But I think that is a summary of "This will give you an opportunity to testify," but it must not be canned, cliched, but prophetic in the very sense Tillich and Charles say: not announcing the doom (contra the dispensationalists) but so certain of the certainty of God that we can speak powerfully when all around us are weak.
At least, I think that is what I see there.
Grant-ed Guidance and Thanksgiving
2007-11-14 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to guest blogger Charles Grant for his wise reflection below on the lessons for Sunday, November 18. Scroll down to see how Dr. Grant incorporates the wisdom of Tillich into his entry.
I also enjoy Charles' important point that the 2 Thessalonians passage is not best used as an anti-welfare text. Indeed, one of my dear, well-meaning Bible study attendees this morning responded to the passage by saying, "There are people on welfare who shouldn't be."
She's right, but I tried to explain that the 2 Thessalonians passage is really dealing with other matters and that we are to care for people in need.
As I squint to make out the sermon forming inside me, I find myself leaning toward talking about God as the God of all times, past, future, and present.
We give thanks for the God of the past who helped our ancestors, both the wandering Aramean and the Pilgrims.
We also give thanks in advance for the resplendid future toward which God pulls us.
Finally, we give thanks for God overseeing the cycle of building up and tearing down, the cycle of leaf dropping and blossom budding.
This same God also, in various ways, allows eternity to penetrate the present proleptically, thus giving us new life even as dying envelops us.
I look forward to more entries from Dr. Grant and others, as well as to comments on Share It!
Also, I am signing up to attend my first ever Festival of Homiletics, which will be in Minneapolis on May 19-23. What a proleptic word-feast that'll be! In addition, I'll get to see what everyone looks like. ;-)
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
for November 18 by guest blogger Charles Grant
2007-11-14 by Charles Grant
First let me ask you to be gentle with me – this is my first time. J I would hate to be greeted by the blogging world with persecution and betrayal – wait, that’s part of what’s going on in this week’s Luke lection. I am not preaching myself this week, so I am working on the upcoming Christ the King (more later). But I do have some thoughts about what is going on this week’s passages – just to get the ball rolling a bit.
As the lectionary winds down for the year, the texts take on a more apocalyptic tone – reaching for those early texts of the coming Advent season. Here in America, the stern warnings of Advent seldom find a receptive audience in December – much less in November! I am drawn more to the Isaiah passage and 2 Thessalonians. The former certainly has much to say to us in these uncertain times, and the latter raises some provocative thoughts for the coming Thanksgiving celebrations.
Those opening words from the Isaiah lection, “For I am about to create new heavens and a earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Always send me back to a couple of classic sermons by Paul Tillich (available online) from that little volume The Shaking of the Foundations. The title sermon is not based on Isa 65. The tie in is the way Tillich leads us to prophetic voices. As you read the Isa and Luke texts, consider these words from (prophet) Tillich: “Why were the prophets able to face what they knew, and then to pronounce it with such overwhelming power? Their power sprang from the fact that they did not really speak of the foundations of the earth as such, but of HIM WHO LAID THE FOUNDATIONS AND WOULD SHAKE THEM; and that they did not speak of the doom of the nations as such, but of HIM WHO BRINGS DOOM FOR THE SAKE OF HIS ETERNAL JUSTICE AND SALVATION. Focusing on the God who speaks and acts - more than the anticipated actions - is certainly one entry point to the apocalyptic world.
In that same volume the final sermon is based on the Isa lection, "Behold, I am doing a new thing". The sermon is a meditation on the old and the new. Again, a potential sermon starter.
The 2 Thess lection raises a provocative point for Thanksgiving: “Keep away from believers who are living in idleness…anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Now, such words could easily be used as fodder in the anti welfare canon. But consider of whom the writer is speaking: he is warning of false prophets who prey upon the faithful, expecting the community to support them in their idleness. Ouch! We “professional” clergy need to be listening here. Remember the adage of the Didache – How do you know a false prophet? He’s a visiting evangelist who stays more than three days. I wonder who might be included in the false prophets category today... The text also sets up an interesting context for considering that for which we are thankful in these days of great abundance for some and scarcity for others. Especially if you couple this text with the gospel text for Thanksgiving Day, John 6:25-35 – “do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
Weigh in folks, and rescue this floundering blogger…My next comments will be looking ahead to Christ the King.
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