Christ the King—Year B—November 25, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
The opposite of God’s reign is CHAOS.
This motif begins in back in the beginning, in the first Genesis creation story. The state of existence is described as “tohu vavohu” which is commonly translated into English as “formless and void.” And although those words do encompass much of the meaning of the phrase, they lack the verbal poetry, the movement of the words that seems to imitate the dark and treacherous waves of the chaotic water world that preceded God’s creative act.
So in creation, God controlled chaos, put boundaries on the waters of the two spheres, and between water and land. However, chaos seeped back out into creation in the garden in the form of sin. Chaos disrupted all the relationships that existed, between human and God, between the humans and themselves, and between humans and the rest of creation. Chaos impacted it all.
And continued to impact everything. Making chaos has been one of the most common ways of gaining power throughout history. You can hear the sense of chaos that the Babylonians created for the Israelites in the reading from Daniel. The oppression that came from being uprooted from your homeland, dropped in a foreign society, and expected to conform to the customs of those around you was overwhelming.
And although the Romans used different tactics to maintain their power, commonly boasting about the Pax Romana being the reason for their success and strength, it is evident from stories of the New Testament and other historical accounts that everything was not peachy. We know that Rome ultimately ruled with an iron fist, just like Babylon. Pilate was there to keep the peace, to keep the Emperor happy and rich, and that commonly meant force was used to create chaos, which kept their subjects subdued.
We do not have to worry about the chaos created by ruling powers in the same militaristic way, but that does not mean that there is not chaos all around us.
There is chaos of everyday life: growing older, making a living, dealing with sickness and injury, all around us. But there is also more directly created chaos around us too.
Black Friday is a perfect example of this human-made chaos. Every year ads come out earlier, stores open earlier, doorbusters are made to seem better—all so that we will feel a sense of urgency to shop. Even Small Business Saturday, which at first glance seems like an extremely noble alternative to Black Friday, was started and is promoted by American Express, which last time I checked was not a small business. They simply found another ploy to use to create chaos in our lives, to make us feel unsettled, unworthy, unfulfilled, so that we will go out and spend more, which makes them more money in transaction fees. By causing chaos in our sense of self, industry gains power over our choices, our money, and our lives.
In the months and months of campaign ads that we just finally finished with, the same thing was happening. Chaos was being created around us. Many ads tried to make it seem like a certain candidate winning would be the end of the world, so we better go out and vote for the alternative, so that they could control the chaos, and save the day.
But no political candidate, or Christmas present, or fad-diet, or miracle products can actual control the overwhelming amount of chaos in the world. They might be able to control some chaos, the chaos that they ultimately were responsible for creating in the first place, but they cannot control chaos as a whole. They cannot conquer sin and death, they cannot save all of humanity.
Only God can do that!
Not just any old king, only the king of kings!
Kings, Presidents, Pharaohs, Rulers come and go. But the savior of the world was, and is, and is to come. God’s rule “is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away.” Jesus never uses shows of power or creating chaos in order to gain more power. He never functions as a king in the way that we think of earthly kings. Jesus did not have to defeat, dethrone, or kill anyone in order to ascend the throne. His was the only death that was necessary. Jesus turned the concept of power on its head; he turned the world upside down.
Daniel knew that God would deliver him and his fellow Israelites from Babylonian control. He knew that God ultimately had more power and control than earthly kings. He knew that God’s dominion was different; it is one that comes from a place of love, rather than from a place of wanted more power, prestige, money, and honor. Daniel’s vision showed him how God’s throne was different from the fleeting rulers of the world’s super power because God’s “kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” And Psalm 93 echoes these exact sentiments.
But what does God’s everlasting reign mean for us, in our daily lives? It is one thing to know this truth, the truth that Pilate was going back and forth between Jesus and the people so many times looking for. We know that truth, but SO WHAT? What does that mean for you and me, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, when the chaos swirling around us makes it seem like God is no where to be found, or at least not close, possibly sitting up on a throne in heaven, paying no attention to us down here on earth?
I cannot answer that question for each of you, because each of us will encounter God’s presence in our lives in different ways. But what I can tell you for sure, is that God is present in your lives, because I know for a fact that God loves you. God claimed you when you were still in your mother’s womb being knit together. And that is the foundation of God’s everlasting reign.
God’s act of creation was not fueled by some need to feel important, or powerful, or kingly. It was fueled by love and a desire to be in relationship. That is why God gave us free will, so that we could actually be in an honest, meaningful relationship with one another. And yes, the chaos of sin is a byproduct of that gift of freewill, but chaos itself is fleeting. It too one day will pass away from existence and leave no trace of influence throughout creation. It is then that we will see fully the reign of God, the kingdom of God, “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Look! It is surely coming, just like Christ, “coming with the clouds.” It is coming in the future, but it is also coming today and tomorrow—in even the tiniest ways, Christ the King is working to control the power of sin in the world right now, controlling the chaos, guiding us towards the truth. Amen.