A Litany for Coronation

Officiant:       The King is dead
People:         Long live the King
Officiant:       Let us offer Psalm 72  ….

Some of you may recognize the pseudo-liturgical setting above. I dreamed it up to help us connect with Psalm 72 a one of the Psalms offered at the coronation of the kings of ancient Israel and Judah. [i]  The psalm asks for God to give the king and the king’s son righteousness and justice; it asks for the land to yield prosperity, for the king to defend the cause of the poor and needy and to crush the oppressor. The psalm ask for a long list of good things to come to the king, each petition beginning May he  … It follows with rational for granting the petitions For he delivers the needy and poor, has pity on the weak, redeems their lives, for their blood is precious in his sight.  The psalm concludes with a petition for long life and a second list of May he petitions. It all sounds pretty good, if the king is to be ours. But we don’t have kings. We elect leaders. 

No, I have not forgotten that Christians believe Jesus the Christ to be our King, and he is. Nonetheless, as Henry Langknecht points out, this psalm really gives us pause when we move the object of the Psalm 72 to modern day leadership. [ii] There is really no need to pray for Jesus to have such attributes, Jesus and God are the source of justices, righteousness, etc. Langknecht asks: What if  … we took the petitions at their real-world face value and ask God to deliver justice and righteousness to the world through a new, surprising referent, a tangible contemporary entity ordained into leadership by God: … our secular representative republic. [iii] 

  1. Such a request is not contrary to the Constitution, it speaks only to what the government shall not do.
  2. Such a prayer does not preclude the church from any action.
  3. Such a prayer might be inspirational to our leaders; maybe, even ourselves. 

It is Advent, a time when we prepare for the completion of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The vision of Psalm 72 is a work bearing fruit of the Kingdom’s emerging presence.

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[i] The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary, 2010, Abingdon Press
[ii] Henry Langknecht , Working Preacher, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1907 
[iii] ibid

A sermon for Christ the King

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Canticle 4 or 16, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate Christ the King!  It’s perhaps a bit strange to hear Luke’s Gospel version of Jesus’, the same said King, crucifixion. But, perhaps not. After all, all kings die, and lots of kings die violently. 50 years ago Friday our “king” was brutally taken when John F Kennedy was assassinated. If you are my age and older, I expect you know exactly where you were when you heard about JFK’s death. I was getting on the school bus, one of my classmates told me President Kennedy was killed. I  called him a liar. Fifty years ago our president our king, was assassinated, since then many things have changed, but much is still the same.

Two Thousand years ago the King of kings the Lord of lords was crucified,  and everything changed. But I don’t really think we get it.  We don’t get it because we have never lived in an absolute monarchy, where one person was absolute control over everything, absolute control over you! Oh yes, in tragic moments, like the violent death of a political leader, we form an impulsive emotional bond, but we never envision ourselves as bound to any leader; after-all there is always the next election cycle. Because of this we miss out on how viscerally different Jesus’ language of the Kingdom of God is. In truth, because of our bias to read scriptures piously we miss a lot of what Jesus does that is different from expectations. Not counting his twelve year old stunt at the Temple, when he stays behind to chat with religious leaders, during his three year romp through Judah Jesus is always doing the unexpected, like stopping to help whoever needs help; in at least one instance he is one his way to heal one person and stops to heal another. And all the healing, all the demons he casts outall the arguments are about revealing, to those who will see and hear, the Kingdom of God. And he is not talking about a Kingdom in some  secure unknown far out location, nope, God’s Kingdom is right here right now.

To be honest, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up to bad for not getting that God’s Kingdom is not like: Rome, Greece, Persia, Assyria, Egypt, or any other Kingdom the Jews know about.  Almost no one then did. God’s Kingdom is not about food to feed the urban masses, not about safe trade routes, not about armies necessary to secure all that, not about power. That’s what everyone expects; listen to the taunts while he is dying on the cross. No, God’s Kingdom is all about all that stuff in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples: it’s on earth, not in some celestial haven, it’s about daily bread, about daily life, it’s about forgiving and being forgiven it’s about God’s glory, which from the Hebrew root that means weight, and from the Greek root that mean show, both imply presence, so it’s about God’s presence, it’s about following God, not the latest imposter.

Perhaps the clearest revelation, of this difference, is the stark contrast between the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus. The first, cries out to Jesus to save himself, so you can save me!! His hope is exactly what everyone expects a messiah, a savior, a long awaited hero, to do: vanquish the enemy, and save us, well actually put us in the positions of power, wealth and influence. The other criminal admits his guilt, says that Jesus is innocent, and asks Jesus to remember him, when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Jesus tells him: …today you will be with me in paradise. It’s the only place in the Gospel ‘paradise’ is used. A little etymology, word study,  reveals its root is from the Hebrew meaning  orchard, which put me back to the preceding phrase, … today you will be with me… The promise is the criminal will be with Jesus, today!

If we work backwards from here through today’s story from Luke’s Gospel: We read of the soldiers mocking Jesus; they nail a sign above his head King of the Jews; it turns out to be true. The Jewish leaders mock Jesus they taunt him to save himself, and then to save others; after three days, it turns out to be a transforming truth.  And just before this Jesus is doing what Jesus always does, interceding with God for others, no matter their action, even when they are crucifying him, no matter their ignorance.

Knitting all this together we glean God’s Kingdom is not about splendor, it’s about being with Jesus, being with God; it is not the weight of gold, it’s the weight of divine presence; it is not about power, it’s about other’s lives; it is not even about proclaiming what will be, it’s about being a sign of what is.
In just a minute we will celebrate Little Ray’s baptism. As we do so, let’s remember this story, not forgetting Jesus dying, while placing the priority on Jesus continuing to reveal God’s weight, God’s presence, as together we: teach, break bread, share prayers resist evil, by not doing what we shouldn’t  and by doing what we should; as together we: speak and be the Good News, seek and serve Christ in others even as they make a mess of their lives and ours; and as we respect the dignity of everyone, including ourselves.

Fifty years ago Friday JFK was assassinated; to be honest I had forgotten the date, but when reminded of it, I knew exactly where I was and my response. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was crucified; I never forget the date, and I always know where I am, where you are, in the presence of God. It’s a story worth knowing. It’s a story worth living. It’s a story worth sharing.

Scott Hoezee  cep.calvinseminary.edu, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching
Next Sunday is November 24, 2013 (Ordinary Time)
This Week‘s Article: The Lectionary Gospel Text is: Luke 23:33-43

Walter Harrison Jr, New Interpreters Study Bible, Abingdon Press, 2003

Crossed up baptism?

The morning was consumed with 2nd half of the month’s bills.  The afternoon went to trimming over grown hedges. The early evening was dedicated to a board meeting. After supper was all about getting ready for Wednesday because tomorrow is the Executive Committee meeting. That includes reading Sunday’s lectionary readings, and a first glimpse at commentary wisdom.

This Sunday we will baptism the youngest child of a new family. Christ the King is a good, though not preferred, day for Baptism. Then I read the Gospel which is from Luke’s account of the crucifixion. Panic? Not after reading Scott Hoezee’s commentary [i] which focuses on the nature of God’s Kingdom, in particular that the Kingdom is not some far off starry -starry night futuristic wonderland, nope the Kingdom is right here right now. Every time a child is baptized, every time we celebrate Eucharist, every time we pray, every time we reject the values of this world and without judgment, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, heal the sick,  … every time a child, or anyone else, sees the people of God living the values Jesus teaches all the way to death on a cross.

What a great background story to begin a new life in Christ.


[i] Scott Hoezee, cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php, This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Next sunday is November 24, 2013 (Ordinary Time), This Week‘s Article: The Lectionary Gospel Text is: Luke 23:33-43

prioritize differently … live differently.

Well, I did it, I went back and read chapter 15 through 16:18, and peaked ahead at next week. I was inspired to set aside my usual and customary translation (NSRV) and read from The Message, in the hope that different words would yield insight. It helped.

So here is where I am. Beginning with NT Wright’s statement that this “…is not a parable.”Another commentator’s (sorry, I can’t find where I read it.) statement that it is not an allegory. So this is a parallel teaching, Peterson puts it: “I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, …” And that reminded me of John 9 and the story of Jesus healing the blind man, when the disciples ask who sinned causing the man to be born blind. Jesus answers “Wrong question. This man was born blind. Now see what God can do.” Which leads nicely back to Luke 16:10 ff and the whole teaching about how you act with little things reveals how you’ll act with big things, also applies to how / what you see. i.e. If you you God’s hand in little things, you will see God’s hand in big things.

In healing on the sabbath, debunking dinner seating traditions, in upsetting dinner invitations protocols,
in debasing family values, in celebrating the value of the lost and worthless Jesus has stripped away the values base from which moral and ethical decision are made. Here Jesus is pointing to a different set of values from which to make a different set of decisions.

Back in April I went to a photography conference. The sermon that followed challenged folks to intentionally to look at the world differently to see the world differently. A corollary here is challenging ourselves to prioritize our lives differently so that we will live in the world differently.

Table manners in the Kingdom of God

The other I went to a lunch featuring a speaker from our local school system. In speaking to a friend, they were invited to move from the place they had chosen to the ‘head’ table. I was reminded to two thing: attending an alumni banquet were a group of classmates chose a table on the side, but up front, only to be asked to move, the host had neglected to mark it as a reserved table, and Sunday’s reading from Luke and Jesus’ teaching about how to chose where to sit. My friend knew her scripture better than my seminary classmates and I. Only I don’t think Jesus is a 1st century Emily Post.

Scott Hoezee writes that to understand Sunday’s Gospel reading we have to include the next parable, about the great banquet. (1)  Jesus arrives at the Pharisee’s house, and immediately meets a sick man, and so he asks if it is legal to heal him. (Remember the healing on the Sabbath controversy two weeks ago.) His host and the other guests are silent, Jesus quotes the approving scripture, and heals the man, which has got to put everyone on edge, it is a rather brash thing to do. Who knows where the conversation would have gone, except that it’s time for dinner.

As everyone makes their way into the dinning room, Jesus notes the jostling for the most honored seating, a big deal in the honor society of the day, which has real life consequences. And of course he tells an etiquette parable about seeking a humble place at dinner. Our clue to the point of Jesus’ etiquette parable, is the one follows about who to invite to your next banquet, those who can not reciprocate; who can not offer an invitation in return. The etiquette busting bit, comes when Jesus tells a third parable, about a great dinner party when on the day of the party all the guest make excuses for not coming, they had more important things to do. The hosts response is to send servants into the streets to invite poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame, all those without any honor. Emerson Powery notes (2) Jesus challenges the whole notion of the social honor system, tearing down the caste and class systems, eliminating any distinction between people.

Who would have ever guessed that table manners not only reveals what you think about yourself, but about others, about God.

 

1. Scott Hoezee, Center for Excellence in Preaching, September 1, Proper 17, Luke

2. Emerson Powery Working Preacher, September 1, Proper 17, Luke