The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
25 November 2018
The Last Sunday After Pentecost / Proper 29, B
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
“My kingdom is not of this world.
My kingdom is from this world.
If my kingdom were from this world,
my followers would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over
to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
Our feast today,
or our celebration,
depending on who you ask,
was the focus of a good number
of Twitter conversations this week,
particularly among episcopal clergy.
If you’ll look at the front of your bulletins,
you’ll see what I mean.
When The Episcopal Church
adopted the Revised Common Lectionary
this day became called “Christ the King Sunday”
as a feast.
However, the Prayer Book
did not change the name of this day
from The Last Sunday After Pentecost,
using the readings of Proper 29.
My friend Kara, a priest in New Jersey
originally from Alabama like me,
said that she is here for celebrating Christ the King
because it is an anti-modernist, anti-imperialist feast,
and she is here for it.
I’m here for it to for the same reason.
You’ve heard me say before
and you’ll hear me say again and again in the future
that Jesus’ reign, God’s reign,
is not of this world, not from this world.
Yet throughout the Gospels Jesus says not,
“The Kingdom of God will come some day,”
but Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Another Twitter thread
made its way into my stream this week.
People who have left Evangelicalism —
sometimes for Mainline Protestant traditions,
sometimes for no religion at all —
offering what they posited were translations
from Evangelical into English.
One that hit home is one that I quote
while saying the exact opposite thing.
It’s a reference from Paul’s writings
where Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven.
The person who shared that and offered the translation
offered the translation — there are actually two.
One was, “I voted for someone
who thinks you don’t deserve any rights,
but in the cosmic scheme of things it doesn’t matter….
because our citizenship is in heaven.”
Another translation is, “Well, we’re not going to be here for too much longer.
Climate change doesn’t matter.”
I told y’all this last week,
that people believe that.
Showed up on Twitter this week.
My response to that first translation,
that what happens around us doesn’t matter
because our citizenship is somewhere else,
is basically the exact opposite.
Our citizenship is in heaven,
so we live and we work to see
Jesus’ reign made manifest now.
The now impacts everything around us.
I say to people regularly,
“Our citizenship is in heaven”
not as a rejection of consequences
but as a rejection of how we prioritize nationalism,
finding our unity not under the flag to which we pledge,
but to the Triune God into whose resurrection
we have been baptized.
Jesus today is in front of Pilate,
having been taken there by Judeans.
I need to emphasize
that what gets translated in John as “Jews”
really means “people who lived in Judea.”
I’ll say that every time I preach on John.
John’s gospel is not meant for anti-Semitism
if y’all didn’t get that that’s what I’m saying.
Jesus is about to be killed
and Pilate asks, “Are you a king?
Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus says, “Do you believe that,
or did someone say that?”
Pilate says, “I don’t really care.
Your people have handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus gives an answer that in the first century,
in a world dominated by Rome
where might makes right —
a thought that we fight and challenge to this day —
Jesus says to an agent of the emperor,
“My kingdom is not from this world.”
Translation, “Yes, I am a king a
nd I am challenging your authority.”
But his kingdom is not from this world,
so his followers are not fighting
to relieve his captivity.
They’ve heard Jesus say over and over again
that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
They’ve heard Jesus teach turn the other cheek.
Depending on which gospel we’re in,
they’ve heard him say at least three times,
“For the Son of Man will be handed over to death.”
They never believe it.
They certainly don’t believe
that he’s going to come back from the dead,
but he does.
From not his resurrection,
but from his incarnation,
from Jesus’ birth,
the whole of creation starts being made new.
Jesus the King of kings,
the Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace,
starts to transform reality
by becoming fully God and fully human
and teaching that the kingdom of God is at hand.
Saying that our citizenship is in heaven
or that Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world
is not an excuse to withdraw.
It’s a mandate to act.
Our call as baptized people
is to be caught up in the work of the Spirit.
We wonder often,
“What is the Anglican theology of the holy spirit?”
It’s a loaded question
because what is the Anglican theology of anything
beyond what we pray?
The best I can tell you what we believe about the Spirit
is that the Spirit pulls us in to God’s ongoing work
started in Christ’s incarnation…
pulls us into that work of letting
the Kingdom of God break through,
seeing that the kingdom of God is at hand,
knowing that Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world.
Having been baptized into the resurrection,
knowing that death is defeated,
sealed as Christ’s own forever,
marked by the Holy Spirit our job
is to work to see God’s kingdom
visibly at hand.
We do that by looking for the victories.
We look for…
the arc of the moral universe
bending toward justice
however long that takes.
We do that by not losing hope
when justice is dealt blows.
We do that by coming together,
by looking at this Table
and knowing that God is here with us,
that something happens…
The spirit shows up,
Jesus leaves with us, in us,
to strengthen us to do his work.
The kingdom of God is at hand
but where? When?
When we gather together at this Table
we get a glimpse of Jesus’ kingdom.
The Prayer Book says, “A foretaste of that heavenly banquet.”
The reality that we’ve come from different places
to share a meal today.
If you look around the room
we don’t all look the same.
Christ’s body gathered together breaking bread,
remembering him, trying to live like him
is a glimpse of the Reign of Christ.
It’s a glimpse of proclaiming Jesus as Lord of lords.
The person who occupies the Oval Office,
whoever that is, is not.
As Derek Webb said years ago in a song,
we’ll never find saviors on Capitol Hill
no matter who’s in power.
Today on this day,
the last Sunday after Pentecost,
Proper 29 celebrating the Reign of Christ —
which is not a feast day in the Prayer Book —
we look around and see God’s kingdom.
We’ll be sent in peace to love and serve the Lord.
We’ll look around to keep seeing God’s kingdom,
and we’ll look for ways to make it manifest in our daily lives. Amen.