The Rev. Ann Dieterle
Christ the King Sunday 2012
In the name of the one who is and who was and who is to come. Amen.
If you haven’t yet been in our small chapel- off to the side and through the doors behind the lectern, I hope that you’ll take some time to do that sometime soon. You’ll notice that a stained glass window dominates the space, and when you’re there during the daylight hours, you see that the book the angel is carrying has two symbols on it, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. ‘The Alpha and the Omega’ is a common way to speak about God and Jesus, and it’s so familiar to me, that I hadn’t realized that there are only three mentions of it in the entire Bible- and they are all in the book of Revelation- one of those sections we of course just heard.
Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and when applied to God means that God is the first and the last; the beginning and the end. In the Bible whenever an author names the extreme ends of two poles- alpha and omega, for instance, or east and west, north and south, they are using a common technique- referring not only to the beginning and the end, but to everything in between as well, not unlike our expression ‘from A to Z.’
There are moments in time when it’s easy to feel God’s presence and know that there is something greater than us at work, like birth & death- or first things and last things, and other momentous occasions.
Maybe the big moments lend themselves to an experience of God because they overwhelm us with joy or grief or another powerful emotion. Because we know that we are not in control of when we are born, or when we die. It’s those spaces in the middle where it can be hard to perceive what God is up to, or if God is even there. Sometimes it’s because we are stuck; sometimes it’s just because life seems kinda boring and normal and monotonous.
Author Lauren Winner wrote a book called “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.” It’s about the middle of the spiritual life, a phase of the spiritual journey where one often feels stuck or lost. It’s something that caught her by surprise and a stage of her life where God seemed to be hiding. She wrote a book about the ‘middle’ because basically- there weren’t any out there. There wasn’t anything out there that talked about the middle of life, and how God is active in the ‘middle’.
Maybe the middle of life- all of those things in between the big moments- is a bit under-rated. After all, it’s where we spend most of our life. It’s where history is made, even when that is tedious or even downright ugly.
I saw Lincoln over the holiday weekend- definitely a thumbs up if you had any doubt- and I’m pretty sure that there’s a shot or two of our steeple in it. I promise this won’t spoil the movie for you- there’s a scene where Lincoln wonders with another character why God would choose to use- of all things- the House of Representatives as the stage where he works out an important part of history.
It’s fair to wonder how God could possibly be present, let alone at work, in things like our political system, or even the daily grindings of our own life.
And yet Jesus says, I am the Alpha and Omega, the one who is and was and is to come.
Meaning, I brought the world into existence, I will bring it to its completion and see its purposes fulfilled. And what’s more I am present in the times and places in between. God promises that his Good purposes for creation will be accomplished.
What does it mean to say that, in the midst of the world that is full of war and starvation and tragedy? What does it mean to refer to Jesus as Alpha and Omega. Or as we say on this particular day: Christ the King.
This is Christ the King Sunday- a celebration that hasn’t always made a lot of sense to me, I must confess. I believe that when we say Christ the King we are talking about God’s activity in the world. Jesus is concerned about the middle, the in-between parts of life where history happens. Jesus is concerned about the way life is lived right now.
The writer of Revelation writes about Jesus as the one “who loved us and freed us and made us a kingdom, priests serving God.” He’s describing who Jesus is and he’s also describing who those early followers are & how they should live.
And he’s talking about us, too. We are the ones whom Jesus loves and freed and made into a kingdom, priests serving God. And priest is a general designation here- it’s not meant to describe a particular role in the church.
To be a follower of Jesus is to be a citizen in his Kingdom. Sometimes that doesn’t look the same as being a citizen of the 21st Century western, civilized world.
What does it mean for us to be citizens of God’s kingdom in this time and place? This is not a question that I expect you to answer between now and when you walk out the doors, by the way. Actually, I think that this is one of those questions that we are meant to ask ourselves over and over again. And the answer comes not instantly and dramatically- but by daily prayer, and a simple commitment to do the next right thing. And when you’re not sure what the next right thing is, maybe ask yourself this: what is the next loving thing that I can do? The answers come from working out the questions in our daily life- though I often wish they came in moments of instant revelation.
A contributor to the Christian Century made these suggestions: Begin every day for a month asking the question: ‘What can I share today? What do I have that might be given away?” She also suggested talking on the phone w/ someone who may be lonely for 15 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week, or hosting a dinner and documentary night to discuss public problems with a view to finding and working at solutions.
And you may have your own way of both asking and trying to answer the question- how do we live as citizens of God’s kingdom?: maybe a rule of life- much like the brothers at SSJE, or the community at Richmond Hill have. Maybe you’ve found the questions and answers in a 12-Step Program, or a small group of people at church who help to keep you faithful and accountable to your values, and the life that you feel called to live.
Jesus is the alpha and the omega- the one who is and was and is to come. And we are his people: loved, freed, and made a kingdom- to serve God and one another.