Peace. Shalom. Salaam.
Christ the King B-18
Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago
Peace. Shalom. Salaam. It was apocalypse now last Sunday. People of faith throughout Edgewater streamed to the throne of God as foretold in the book of Revelation for the annual ECRA Thanksgiving Service. Looking out at the large, diverse, happy crowd assembled at the Ismaili Center, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky read the Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and said, “I haven’t felt so at peace in a very long time.”
Let we who were there testify. At the-end-of-days people of God sat on metal folding chairs. Among the Saints of God are some who sing well and many who don’t. There are some that are concise and articulate and many who are long-winded. For the apocalypse, worship will run long but there is guaranteed to be a spirit of joy, generosity, and thanksgiving. As modeled by our hosts at the Ismaili Center, at the end times, there will be a dedicated and devoted attention to hospitality. Each and every person will find a welcome to rival the Prodigal Son.
Could the world be about to turn? Could it finally be the end of this old tired world? Could the reign of hatred, fear, and division ever possibly end? “Peace. Shalom. Salaam,” we sang. These words are like a prayer that echoes an ancient gospel long forgotten and seldom proclaimed anymore from tens of thousands of Christian pulpits, and ten thousand times ten thousand Christian communities. Christ our king does not build a wall to separate us from people different faiths or no faith at all, but a bridge. Christ our king reigns from a throne not in heaven but here on earth. The end-of-days is now. See! The kingdom has already come like a child waiting to be born in us. These are the days of the birth pangs. The evidence is all around us.
Midway airport was mostly quiet last night in stark contrast to the crush of holiday travelers and the approaching winter storm expected to hit there today. I went to meet Leah who flew home alone after spending Thanksgiving with family in Los Angeles. I remembered a time, not so many years ago, we watched together as the first snow of the season gently fell across Chicago. Leah was thrilled –and in that remarkable way a young child sees the world—she said, “I can’t believe how God makes every snowflake different. I get tired cutting out paper ones.” We both agreed. We’d stop making new patterns of snowflakes at about twelve.
The first three verses of the gospel of John read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him, nothing came to be.” (John 1:1-3) Snowflakes, trees, blades of grass, and people—each one unique for all time—this is the kind of king we have. Standing under guard before Pilate, we must admit he is not the sort of king we expected. Mocked, abused and crucified, he’s probably not the kind of king we wanted. Jesus wields power made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) Jesus rules with love, justice and mercy, and forgiveness. Again and again, we are tempted to doubt his power. [Yet] What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1:4) Peace. Shalom. Salaam.
The ancient gospel proclaimed by early Christians in the Book of Acts declare the same thing. They preached “Jesus is the [Eternal] Christ” (2:36, 9:22) and therefore the deepest pattern for everything that preceded and followed him. Jesus is God’s divine Logos, the blueprint by which the universe was made, and through which it is now being sustained. As the Book of Revelation puts it, the Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega” of all history and of all creation (1:8, 21:6, 22:13). Let the end times begin with us.
Many of us are taught Christ is God’s plan B. Jesus came into the world to solve the persistent problem of human sin. We were taught that is was God and not us who demanded Jesus had to die. Yet as he stands in the Roman Praetorium, ready to take the throne of his cross, now we see the full truth. Christ is God’s plan A. From the very beginning, Jesus the Christ is the very meaning, purpose, direction, beauty, joy, goal, and fulfillment of the whole divine adventure. (Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, 11/2/15) Jesus is the revealer of the One “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)
Peace. Shalom. Salaam. We will have to radically expand our idea of king and ruler to take in what this means. “With this perspective, Christianity need not compete with other religions; rather, authentic Christians can see and respect the Christ Mystery wherever and however it is trying to reveal itself–which is all the time and everywhere, and not just in my group.” Martin Luther said whatever preaches Christ is the gospel regardless of who said it or where you encounter it. For the apocalypse to be now all tribalism becomes impossible.
In Another Turn of the Crank, the Kentucky sage, Wendell Berry, writes, “I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”[Wendell Berry, as quoted in Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, ed. (The Golden Sufi Center: 2013), 77.]
Christ our king leads the way. We will not know God, ourselves, each other, or anything else that exists except by entering into communion. To try to know something without first loving it is not to know it very well at all. Our failure to understand Christ our King in this fundamental way has made much of the Christian search for truth brutal, arrogant, divisive, the possession of a few, and confined almost entirely to our heads. I take joy in the fact that as we move deeper into the 21stcentury, Christians seem to be re-discovering the way of Christ our king is the way of incarnation, the way proclaimed by the very name of our dear congregation. Immanuel is the way we become a living sanctuary of hope and grace.
The French-born author Anais Nin famously once said, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” We must be changed, renewed, refreshed, refashioned, reformed and resurrected. In Christ, the old world is passing away. See! A new kingdom has begun. We join our prayers with those of every place and generation. “Let your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven! Let our eyes be opened, our ears be unstopped. Let our hearts of stone be replaced with hearts of flesh starting now. Peace. Shalom. Salaam. Let the apocalypse begin right here, right now, among us. Yes, this Jesus is a different kind of king. Let the people say …Amen!