Homily, 25 November 2018: Christ the King
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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the UniverseDaniel 7:13-14; Psalms 93:1,1-2,5; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37* * * *Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed; holiness befits your house, O Lord, for length of days.For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.* * * *I’d like to begin by reading you a fable. It’s called “The Kingdom of the Lion.”The book of fables from which this particular fable comes, is illustrated. But you, of course, can’t see the illustration, so let me describe it.It’s a drawing of a rabbit (actually a hare) and a dog. As animals often do in fable illustrations, the hare and the dog are walking side-by-side on two legs as people do and they are dressed in human clothes. And it seems as though they are carrying on a conversation. The hare is speaking, while the dog looks quite grumpy as he listens.Keep in mind that this illustration is the artist's interpretation of the fable, but I think it's a fair one. Now that I’ve set the scene, here is the fable:When the Lion reigned over the beasts of the earth he was never cruel or tyrannical, but as gentle and just as a King ought to be. During his reign he called a general assembly of the beasts, and drew up a code of laws under which all were to live in perfect equality and harmony: the wolf and the lamb, the tiger and the stag, the leopard and the kid, the dog and the hare, all should dwell side by side in unbroken peace and friendship. The hare said, “Oh! how I have longed for this day when the weak take their place without fear by the side of the strong!”In the imagination of the illustrator, the words of the hare were addressed to the dog. Keeping in mind that fables aren't really stories about animals, but are meant to illuminate particular human situations, why did he give the dog such a crabby expression?It would seem that the dog didn't like the lion's vision for his kingdom or his laws, for dogs do prey on hares, just as the powerful often prey on the weak. But although the lion was a just and gentle king, he was also a king of great power and might. This was the reality that confronted the dog. The dog couldn't live by his own reality, his own laws, his own decrees or there would be consequences. For the dog to find happiness, he would have to learn to find his place in the Lion's kingdom.* * * *Jesus Christ is King of our Universe. We know this by faith … and we know it to be the truth.In the old Testament reading, Daniel wrote of seeing in a vision, one like a Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. In the Gospels the nature of this divine vision becomes clear, particularly in the Prologue of the Gospel of John: 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. … And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.The Gospel reading today ends with Jesus telling Pilate: For this this I was born and for this I came into the world: to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. The next verse, which isn't included in today's reading, is Pilate's response to Jesus. He says, “What is truth?”Pontius Pilate, like the dog in the fable illustration, is not happy. He wants to make his own reality, his own truth. Though Pilate possesses some worldly power, he is simply blind to who it is that stands before him: 'through him all things came to be' and, 'his dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away.'There is a proverb, which needs to considered by those who think like Pilate:The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord,and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.* * * *God the Father, through his Son, created all things visible and invisible, and he set over all creation a natural law. And over us, who he created in his image, he has set an additional law — a moral law. It is wisdom, therefore, to find our place in creation rather than resist it – by obeying both the natural and the moral laws.We seem to do all right with the fundamental laws of creation. To challenge the laws of physics is folly, though we don't always keep that in mind. As Jesus noted – and as any civil engineer will tell you – you shouldn't build a house upon the sand.Indeed, we have give much more than just respect for God's natural laws: we delight in them, we study them, and we learn how to work with them to benefit others and improve the common good.We delight in beautiful sunrises and sunsets, when, following the laws of nature, light from the sun diffracts and scatters coloring the sky with hues of red and pink and orange and even green.We marvel at the complexities of life as scientists learn more and more about the workings of the cells in our bodies and about the interconnectedness of life in the world.And we apply what we learn to solve problems in our world: growing food, treating disease, building safer homes, even forecasting the weather!When we find our place in the natural world, when we work with the laws by which God sustains creation, we are happier and more content, even when the natural world presents us with trials and challenges.* * * *Can we say the same for God's moral laws? Do we respect them? Do we delight in them, study them, and learn to benefit from them?Do we heed the Proverb: The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.Do we take note when Jesus says, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."?Do we study and understand what he has taught us in the moral law, with the same attentiveness and reflection that we give his natural law? Are we willing to find delight and joy through discipleship?When we cuddle a little baby who smells so warm and new, or listen attentively to the wisdom of our elders, do we understand that we must respect life in all it stages?When we applaud the couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary, do we remember to honor chastity and fidelity in our own lives?If we rejoice in the blessings of a good job and a measure of security in our lives, do we remember the poor, the sick, and the hungry?In our professions, in our businesses, do we work for the common good?Do we forgive as we ought to forgive? Do we pray as we ought to pray? Do we worship as we ought to worship?Do we listen as we ought to listen, to the voice of Christ?Do not be like Pontius Pilate, or even like the dog in the fable illustration, dis-gruntled that there is a law and a truth that is not of your own creation which binds you none-the-less.Delight in all the Laws of Lord. Study them. Ponder them. Live them.And find your place in creation, in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.