Christ the King

By Bishop Gulick

How do you understand – how do you hear this Gospel?  What do you make of this horrific scene focused in on three men suffocating together under the cruel and repressive authority of Rome and in Jesus’ case, under the oppressive combination of the marriage of political and religious authority?

Many of us have heard this story a thousand times.  What do you see and hear?

I see the deepest part of Christmas.  I see King Jesus as Emmanuel – God with us in the pain, despair and disappointment of human experience.  I see Immanuel present to a tortured cynic – who in his own moment of suffering is so full of despair that his cynical words of disappointment possess his lips and invective, not mercy, defines his words.  Jesus is beside him and Jesus listens to that pain-filled and pain-hurling speech.

Jesus listens to the words of sympathy with their concern for the injustice that Jesus is receiving and after listening to this word of justice – this word of empathy – hope is kindled in Jesus.  Pinned down in pain and rejection, in fear and despair – suffocating under the weight of it all somehow hope breaks into the moment – God’s power – God’s preference for the powerless is remembered and Jesus proclaims to his companion – that presence will continue – presence is the promise – presence is the hope – presence is the result of the prayer to be remembered…remembered into a sustaining Presence beyond our imagination.

Jesus listens and then Jesus is advocate for the one who speaks justice in the midst of his own agony.

Two thousand years later, we are here singing praise to this King whose majesty is revealed in profound solidarity.  We worship a King who listens and who advocates.  We, his disciples must listen and we must advocate.

Our national divide is a chasm that must be addressed by bridge people – by the followers of King Jesus.

We must be present to, and hear the pain of unemployed and underemployed rust belt citizens who feel their pain has not been addressed.  We must pray that the president-elect will be a faithful steward of the hope he has awakened in them.

We must also hear the legitimate fears of those in our immigrant community who fear deportation, of our gay and lesbian community who fear for the legitimacy of their marriages, we must hear the pain of women who have been exploited by men more powerful than they who are literally suffering PTSD as a result of the election of Donald Trump, we must hear the pain of our African American brothers and sisters whose cry for equal justice in the Black Lives Matter movement will be outshouted by those who cry to drain the swamp.

Never have listening and advocating Christians been more necessary.

To empower our advocacy I remind you of the words from a declaration of confessing Christians in Germany in 1934 – it’s pure King Jesus stuff:

“Jesus Christ is the one word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

He is God’s mighty claim upon our whole life.

We reject the fake doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other Lords.

They shall not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain says the Lord.”

As one in solidarity with King Jesus listening from his cross, I offer a prayer Frank Wade prayed after the election:

Lord God who has made all manner of people

       wonderfully and disturbingly different

       hurl us into the differences that beset us

Grant us the cross-hearing patience

       to listen when we would rather speak

       understand when we would rather proclaim

       and draw near when we would rather push back

That we might make harmony out of discord

       trust out of skepticism

       and community out of conflict

In Jesus’ name we pray

                                                                     Frank Wade