21 November 2011

Reflections on Christ the King Sunday

"In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1 11 & 12

Today the church celebrates the last Sunday after Pentecost. Next week begins Advent. Many liturgical churches, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Moravian denominations prominent among them, celebrate this week that Jesus is "Lord of All" as Paul often put it.

The churches have not lost their collective minds. Yes we know in a secular world, with an ongoing challenge from Islam, and various other religions, that it is hard to point to that portion of the world that recognizes Jesus as king. None-the-less, the church has a single message -- He IS Lord. And it is precisely by living as that is true, that we make a difference.

If Jesus is Lord, if Christ is king, in our lives, we act in particular ways. We forgive as we are forgiven, we care for the widows, orphans, imprisoned, and the poor. We work for justice. We seek to expand the number those who live in that way every day. We seek the ultimate redemption of the earth. We are not smug, judgmental, or exclusive. The poor, weak, and outcast messiah and apostles set that example and we are called to follow. In short we are really, really out of step with the world around us.

So where are those people who live as though Christ is King? I fear they are few. The people in the pews of most churches do not seem to me to fit the bill. We do invite people in - people who either are like us or want to be like us. We then work hard to "make them welcome," by which we mean we try to fit them into our pattern.

This is not merely an Episcopalian thing, this drive to conformity, the tendency to want people like us. I have heard it said that the most racially segregated hour in America is between 10 and 11 on Sunday. We routinely refer to the, "black church." No one would refer to the "white church." but we know it exists. This week the diocese of Chicago was told that 92% of all Episcopalians are white. That leaves 8% for all minorities, which is less than the percentage of African Americans let alone, Asian, Hispanic and First People minorities. I would expect similar if not identical numbers for other denominations.

Part of this of course is the reality of American society. We tend towards local congregations in a highly segregated housing market. Part of it is history -- when in the days of slavery, whites kept blacks out of their churches, they created a separated, community oriented church that would eventually lead to the emergence of Martin Luther King, James Farmer and other leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Part of it though is an excuse.

We like our segregated churches, else we would not have them. We could create churches that considered their community differently. We do not do that. We are among the freest people in the history of the world. Nothing stops us from creating an integrated, just, open society. Instead we defend obscenities like, Prop 8, and DOMA as "God's will."

In the entire Hebrew Scripture ("Old Testament") my favorite scene is Nathan, a prophet of the Most High, calling David to account, crying justice to power for the murder of Uriah the Hittite. Nathan, unarmed, confronts David in his hall where David can call on his solders. He brings David to repentance. That is living in the kingdom, that is what we inherit from the saving action of Christ the king. That is what we neglect to do far to often.


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