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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Reign of Christ, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 25, 2018

Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

‘The Most High is the Most Low’

Is revelation always ironic, always subversive? Our theme for today is certainly both ironic and subversive. Again and again, biblical references to God as Most High (Psalm 93 is one example) meet biblical references to God as Most Low – the sacred revealed in and through the elements, in and through a pilgrim people, an enslaved people, younger sons and foreign daughters, poet-prophets and outsiders, stranger-angels, a shepherd-king, a servant-messiah, the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, the naked and cold, the lost, last and least likely.

The meaning? The invitation? To enter a realm of the sacred – creation itself as the kin(g)dom of God – by way of loving risk, by way of loving acceptance, by way of loving adventure, by way of Christ-like loving. God be with you

At Friday’s church council meeting we read from Matthew 25 and were reminded that Jesus aligns himself with those who cry: “I am hungry … I am stuck … I am lonely … I am caged … I am estranged, dispossessed … I am tired … I am struggling to find hope and meaning … I am dry … I am scared …” “Where are you?” this Jesus says.

Faith, primary faith – perhaps it’s even pre-faith – operates at this level of call and response. Whatever “salvation” means, whatever “heaven on earth” means, has to do with epiphany and trauma – encounters with a holy other ­– compassion, connection, common ground, need, mercy, forgiveness … I say epiphany and trauma because life can be overwhelmingly beautiful and painful. It is perhaps only on reflection that we move from pre-faith to faith, to religion, to theology …

At the religious or theological level we often imagine a distinction between the sacred and the profane. At its best this is naïve, binary thinking. At its worst this is a fundamentalist concern – our books, buildings and rituals are sacred while society itself (frequently matter, culture, bodies, politics …) is profane – irreverent, secular.

Jesus humiliated – arrested, accused of blasphemy, ridiculed as a joke-king, stripped, whipped and crucified – draws us again to epiphany and trauma – his, our own – inviting love, commanding love, insisting on it ... addressed, as it were, by his voice alone – voicing our very own desires, calling us (as Mary Magdalene is called) by name.

The Franciscan writer Richard Rohr says the real distinction is not between the sacred and the profane but the sacred and the desecrated – and that we are the ones who do the desecrating; we are the ones who desacralise what is intrinsically sacred in all living beings. How? By “refusing the call of the stranger to change what is …”

Jean Vanier writes that the religious authorities “want to get rid of Jesus because he opens the door to something radically new. He brings a new love. He calls people to have confidence in him [to become children of God, to become hosts and guests like him, to follow him], saying that people will then become liberated … Above all, to accept this new message of Jesus, one must be reborn in love [we are mortal and natal]. Change is required; one must be transformed. There is something in the authorities that refuses change. They cling to the status quo, and to their power …”

We confess that Jesus is king/queen/ruler of all – that in and through the stranger, Jesus calls for food, freedom, forgiveness, hospitality, justice, rest – yes, and recognition of sovereignty, that is, respect for wisdom and kinship, connection to land and waters, language and story.

What we mean by the reign of Christ is a rule of love, unlike the rule of fundamentalists, tyrants; unlike the rule of intimidation and violence. We mean that in Christ we discern another world – or, better, that in Christ we discern this world in a different light. We see creation as the kin(g)dom of God – as good, as beloved, as broken/wounded/despoiled, as destined for wholeness.

When we say that Jesus is a king/queen/ruler, we are challenging all those who rule – and we are challenging all violent and coercive government, all violent and coercive organisational structures (especially those of the churches) – in the Spirit of One who loves, who serves, at enormous cost to himself.

When we say that Jesus is king/queen/pantocrator, we picture Jesus enthroned on the cross and wearing a crown of thorns. Epiphany. Trauma. Irony. Subversion.

And at our most faithful, at our most human (in praise of God Most High, Most Low, Most High) we show forth in our life together this same courage, the same solidarity with all the victims of violence and abuse, the same prayerful openness to forgiveness and nonviolent love.

And “even those who pierced Jesus, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn over Christ. So be it! Amen” (Revelation 1:7b).