Reflections for Sunday, November 24
Psalm 46: Be still and know that I am God
This morning’s psalm follows well on our discussions over the past few weeks about finding security amidst the apparently interminable tumult of the world. The psalmist assures us that, though it may not always seem that way, God has all things under control and exerts that control as God chooses. We have nothing to fear. “God is our refuge and strength ... therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved and though the mountains be toppled...” (verses 1-2). Notably, the proper response to God’s mighty sovereign presence is perhaps one of the most overlooked divine admonitions in the entire bible: “Be still and know that I am God...” (verse 11).
Luke 23:33-43; Jeremiah 23:1-6
Jesus’ Kingship of kinship
This morning’s Gospel may seem a bit jarring.
Over the past weeks we have been reading about Jesus verbally sparring quite ably with the leaders of the Jewish community. We have seen him blessing, healing and teaching on his way south from Galilee, through Jericho and up to Jerusalem.
Now, suddenly, without any of the intervening narrative, we find him crucified and hanging between two thieves—a story we might usually associate with Passion Sunday and Good Friday, but not so much with the last Sunday of Pentecost, Thanksgiving and Christ the King Sunday.
But there it is. For Christ the King Sunday, our lectionary compilers evidently needed a verse from Luke’s Gospel that mentions the Kingship of Jesus. And, indeed, if we look past our surprise and discomfort, we can glimpse from this scene something of what Jesus’ kingship looks like.
Jesus the King maintains his dignity and generosity even in the most outrageous and appalling of circumstances. Jesus the King, even in his own extremis reaches out to the most marginalized of people—a thief crucified at his side—and offers the one thing he has left to offer—his divine blessing.
If we look at the portion of Jeremiah that we read this morning, we learn more about the nature of God’s King. God’s King is wise, just and righteous. He protects and leads his people just as shepherd protects and guides his flock.
A passage a bit earlier in Luke’s Gospel also gives us an idea of what it means to be a ruler in God’s Kingdom. “The Kings of the Gentiles,” Jesus says, “lord it over them; and those who exercise authority call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest and the one who rules like the one who serves ... I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:25-26, 27).
In the world today, as probably the world always and without going into details here, some of us may see the disruption and devastation that occurs in communities and nations when leaders and rulers who may even think of themselves as benefactors of the people act out of self interest rather than a desire to serve the people under—(or perhaps receiving would be a better word)—their authority.
As we saw as few weeks ago when we lost the word bosom in a our translation of the story of the poor man Lazarus being carried up into heaven, translation can be a complicated process that often mars the very text that it hopes to elucidate. But occasionally, translation gives us a gift of understanding. Just so, as I hinted at last week, with the Greek word from todays Gospel basileus that we translate as king. Revealingly, in English, the word king come with its cognate word, kin. Jesus’ Kingship is all about kinship. Jesus’ kingship is all about kinship: lovingly embracing those close to us as mother, brother, father, sister, child, etc and also reaching out to and embracing, as Jesus did even on the cross, those who may be on most distant margins of society—the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill, the prisoner. Kinship, as Father Boyle said, is God’s dream come true.
On Thursday, many/most, perhaps even all, of us will join our kin for a feast of Thanksgiving. We will rightfully celebrate our bonds of kinship with those we love, just as so many of us have placed leaves on our gratitude trees over the past weeks with the names of spouses, children, siblings, parents, and community sisters and brothers. This is as it should be. Kinship is God’s dream come true. And we give thanks for the gift of living into that dream.
In the days, weeks, months and years to come may we also reach out to those who may seem different from, even somehow frightening to, us—children of God all—so that the bonds of God’s love and kinship might spread further and further out into the world and Jesus the King and his Kingdom of service, his Kinship of justice, peace and plenty might come soon. Come soon King Jesus. Thanks be to God.