Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Christ, all things hold together

Proper 29 C Nov, 21, 2010
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 16 (Luke 1:68-79)
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

There’s going to be another Royal Wedding. Prince William, heir to the British throne, announced his engagement to Kate Middleton. Now we in America are not monarchists – we got rid of them long ago! – but we do love to watch a good Royal Wedding. Or Royal Funeral. Or Royal Anything, when the Queen trots out in that golden carriage and the streets of London are filled with cheering throngs.

This last Sunday of the church year is known as the Sunday of Christ the King, when we celebrate that this world really is under the reign of God – a rule of justice, mercy and abundance, a rule of the world as God created it to be.

But what do we see when we think of “Christ the King?” Is our image “one surrounded with the art and beauty of a tradition [like that of the English royal family] that is more antique than active? Do we see this figure of salvation as hopelessly outdated and practically mute in these postmodern times?”i Our first lesson today uses the image of the shepherd-king David as the model of the good king; that is even further away from our imagination, in this landscape of the urban mean streets which we inhabit.

I was stunned when I read in The Enterprise that heroin costs $5 “a dose.” What IS “a dose” of heroin? Is it a “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” kind of a dose? Could someone overdose with a “$5 dose?” Would that $5 dose cost someone his or her life? Is a life then worth only five dollars?

I know that legions of state and city police rounded up dozens of drug dealers this week, and many of them were caught here on the streets of Brockton. There is hope, among police and the families of drug victims, that this will make it better, at least until ever-resourceful criminals find new ways to deal. There is hope that
no one will die of heroin this week, on the streets of this city, that this week at least no life is worth as little as five dollars.

Our gospel lesson is another story of criminal intervention – only in this case it is Jesus who was executed along with the equivalent of drug lords and petty thieves of first century
Jerusalem. Yet in the peculiar, upside-down understanding of the world that we Christians have, Christ realizes his kingship in his death. At his death they mock him, “This is the king of the Jews.” Even then the dying Jesus turns this idea of kingship on his head, offering salvation not only to his own people, the Jews, but even to these criminals on either side of him.

Our longings for the rule of a just king are longings to bring the chaos of the world around us into order. We can celebrate the reign of God today, and tomorrow wake up in this same city, where heroin costs $5 a dose and, oh, yes, this church is still closing.

As the Episcopal Church leaves this neighborhood, we do so with the pang of knowing that God’s work here is unfinished. But isn’t that the human condition? God’s work with each of us is unfinished. God has much more left to do with us, just as the City of Brockton has a long way to go before it shines with the glory God intends for it. We live in the in-between time: we have heard the Good News, that God’s promises will be fulfilled, but we wait, still, for when that will be completed.

Our second lesson, from the letter to the Colossians, are powerful words for those of us who wait. It encourages us to be strong, to give thanks that darkness has been dispelled and assures us that we truly live under the reign of Christ – the image of the invisible God.

Remember this phrase, when things get disjointed or confused in your life, or when the city sidewalks are still covered with weeds and drug dealers lurk around your corner, or when the new church you choose doesn’t quite yet feel like home; remember this phrase: in Christ all things hold together. In Christ, all things hold together, and that includes you. Christ, holds all of us, all the fullness of God and all the broken, unfinished-ness of our own lives, together, all of heaven and all of earth, waiting in hope, for the dawn of the new day.

i Mary W. Anderson, “Royal Treatment,” Living by the Word, The Christian Century, Nov. 15, 2003, p. 18

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