22 November 2017
November 21, 2004 CK Reign of God
Jeremiah 23: 1-6, Colossians 1:9-20, Luke 23: 33-43
Sybil, a missionary in a Moslem Country for many years, shocked me when she counselled the Muslim student who had been staying with her and who now was returning home, not to be baptised as a Christian. Why might this faithful Christian woman, who was indefatigable in her support of missions overseas, do this? This is a Question I have pondered for many years. It is in the light of this today We look at What Christ the King means for us.
What do we mean by Christ the King? Christ the King Sunday was instituted in December 1925. At the time, it was a powerful symbolic action. Europe was facing an uncertain future. Mussolini and were rising.. Pope Pius XI asserted that, despite all of these dictators and false values in the world, Christ was King of the universe..
Fine, However I?m not sure we should use it anymore - it is too easy to get sucked in to put Jesus? power against earthly powers in a direct battle in human terms. Then even talking about the reign of Christ becomes a dangerous symbol for us to use. It sucks us in to use our model of leadership power and not Jesus? own example.
I also wonder if the description of Christ as King has any real significance to us, here and now? Especially as Kings and Queen today are usually figureheads.
King of Kings was one of the titles of the Roman Emperor and many of the Middle Eastern rulers had something similar. . A title of absolute power, the sort of power which Jesus rejected. A King of Kings does not end up dying a criminal on a cross. Pilate?s sign King of the Jews, was seen by the early Christians as an ironic twist. This King had a different power which was to outlast the Roman emperors the power of love, compassion. Jesus is rejected kingship for himself.
The problem for us as we look at mission here and now is that we bring with us the baggage of our past cultures when the church came to be understood as being the kingdom with Jesus as its King
So maybe we need to be weaned off using these King titles. Too often in the history of the church and especially in mission, we pick up the worldly aspect of kingship in referring to Jesus.
We lose the challenge of the Anti Kingness of Jesus and impose the values and structures of a human kingdom.
A King has a kingdom which needs to be defended, Is this what Jesus tells us to do?
Its is certainly the way in which many of us have been taught understand about mission. Being sent, mission, meant establishing colonies, like the Romans, The British, French, and now the United States of America, indistinguishable from their foreign policies..
"The Christian church exists, so it is believed, to convert "pagans " to christianity. To evangelise the world and make all inhabitants Christian.
A militant mission in which Church and culture is integrated together using methods in which the gospel message of Jesus becomes at times a tool for earthly powers to colonise . Christianity colonisation and civilisation were the key words at the time New Zealand was colonised. We all know the saying when the people opened their eyes from praying they found the land had gone.
It is just as well the Spirit of God is free to move and works despite our mistakes.. However when analysis of who became followers of Christ is looked at it has been found that where coloniser and Missionary were seen as one the gospel was often rejected or very slow to be heard.
Lesson one : the gospel of Jesus cannot be used as a means to obtain benefits for those bringing it. It must come with the same unconditional freedom which Jesus brings. Because the Christian faith is a way of living, methods of mission must be consistent with the message.
If Jesus?s Power is evaluated in the sense of an earthly King, we have to say it has not worked. The percentage of Christians is very small in some countries where mission has been established for many years..
There are still Christians today both in the East and West who believe they have the mandate to save the souls of all people outside the Christian church, they work on this kingdom model. Their faithfulness to Jesus is measured by faithfulness to this mandate. They go about their missionary work as if the salvation of the entire world depended on their ability to reach the unreached as if God had turned over to them the entire responsibility of saving the whole human race. As if God had not left any other witnesses to God?s saving activity through out all of creation.
If you have Jesus in the earthly ruler mode you should be out fighting for your King to claim his kingdom. I?m challenging our Culture now.
Is this assumption that we are the sole agents of God?s saving will, what Jesus taught in his life? The Jesus who was astonished by the faith of others outside his own community and affirmed it?.
Would Jesus identify his own missionary zeal for the Reign of God, with generations of Christians for saving pagan souls.
There is of course mixed up with this a fundamental question related to salvation. " Most zealous Christian evangelists understand salvation almost totally in the sense of saving the souls of unbelievers and believers of other faiths. the promise of heaven coupled with punishment in hell. The message they proclaim where the world to come, is described so graphically that one wonders if they have seen it for themselves and hell is described in such a way it is indistinguishable from the hell that Buddhist believers do their utmost to avoid. The stress on being filled with the Spirit and their obsession with ecstatic expressions resulting from that often shares many of the characteristics of Shamanism, which they are quick to condemn as a pagan and evil practice.
Is this the kind of salvation Jesus meant when he said Zaccheus, Today salvation has come to this house? Is this the salvation Jesus set out to practice when he announced his mission saying the Lord has sent me to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and sight for the blind, to let the broken victims go free?
Is to pursue salvation for one?s soul, to be after ones happiness in the afterlife, or to safeguard one?s peace and security in this world of sin and evil - Is this what Jesus? mission is about? [Song]
The gospel of Jesus is good news of God?s saving activity in all places. including a Roman centurion and a Cananite woman. His gospel demands repentance not from the outcasts but from his fellow believers who exercise religious power and authority over people. What they have done is turn the good news of God?s saving love already contained in their religion into a burden imposed on helpless men and women. The bad news must be replaced by the good news. Come to me all who are weary and whose load is heavy.."
Also what is meant by the command in Matthew to make disciples, what other meaning can this have than to convert others to Christianity?
Matthew pictures Jesus as a teacher, a rabbi teaching people about his father God, telling us what the reign of God is like.
The disciples were told to go and do as Jesus did and practice what he said. To continue and expand Jesus? ministry of God?s reign through all nations, the testimony to all nations - The Testimony to God?s reign.
Jesus himself is the testimony to God?s reign, he is the reign of God. His presence allows the reign of God hidden in the world to be seen .
The risen Jesus give this charge to his disciples is to be like him. Becoming testimony of God?s reign among people whether Gentiles or Jews. Through this those who believe in the cause of his reign the community of like minded believers will grow.
But that growth is not to be worked for as the main reason for the mission. The human style Church kingdom, The mission is for the growth of God?s reign , the development of what God?s reign stands for. The increasing awareness of God?s saving presence in the world as seen in Jesus and implanted in the kind of people among whom Jesus lived and worked. This is our mission here and now.
Sybil was wise,. The awareness of God?s reign was implanted in those girls. They would never be the same, they had been encountered by the risen Jesus, in their encounter with the stories and actions of a christian community .the rest was in God?s hands.
So often it happens, despite us, despite the models we use , our mistakes and misunderstandings, God works. when faced with real people, in real situations despite everything a person reacts with love and compassion in a situation where they might normally condemn or be convicted of needing to turn around in their actions The reign of God we are assured will have the last word, and already has, in life, in death and in life after death. Our mission is to be the sign of the reign, For the kingdom of God is near, right be side you, among us and in our community. Go find and tell.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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