Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Are you a king?"

Notes for a sermon on the Feast of Christ the King 2006 (John 18 33-37)

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a
king. 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." (18:37b)

The end of the story is the beginning of the story.

The Gospel of John is full of irony. Even as they mock Jesus, the soldiers truly
crown him. At the moment of his defeat, came his victory. He is the real king of
the only real kingdom, the reign of God, of justice and peace.

Pilate asked, "Are you a king?"
Jesus answered, "I came to bear witness to the truth."
Pilate responded, "What is truth?"

The truth is that you see before you, the king of the only real kingdom, the
first man of that kingdom.

Accepting freely death on the cross, the death of a common criminal - or one
more troublesome enemy of Rome - Jesus bore witness to the truth of God's
kingdom - whose foundation is goodness and justice and truth. This is the
kingdom of Shalom, God's peace.

Jesus Christ is:
1. the faithful witness,
2. the first-born of the dead, and
3. the ruler of the kings of earth.

(Revelation 1.5a)

The end of the story is the beginning of the story -

As we come to the end of the Christian year, and anticipate Advent, we celebrate
the feast-day of Christ the King. We see him as the one seated at the right hand
of the Father, to whom will be given - is given - all glory and dominion and
power, in a scene beyond dreams.

But how did he get there? How did it begin?

It begins with a child: helpless, poor, and defenseless. God sent his Son to the
world as a Baby. And in this Innocent already was the King. So tender, meek, and
mild, yet such a threat to the powers that be, that Herod the Great tried to
stop God's kingdom from breaking in on him, that he had the male children under
two years old killed - the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

A Baby - God came to us first not on clouds of glory, but simply, humbly, and
humanly; in something so ordinary and yet extraordinary as a Child in a manger.

He comes to us, every Sunday, in ordinary things - bread and wine, oil and

On Thanksgiving we gave thanks for the bread and wine,
Remembering at the same time,
That other bread and other wine,
That at other times,
Becomes other than bread and
Other than wine,
And yet still remains - to all appearances -
Bread and wine.

And so he sustains us through
Ordinary things in
Ordinary times,
That our lives may become
Through the common everyday witness
Of our lives
to the Truth.

The end of the story is just the beginning of the story.

In Jesus' free acceptance of death lay his victory,
And the seed sown then
Became his vindication,
as the first-born of the Resurrection.

Because he accepted the ultimate consequence of life spent bearing witness to the Truth,
He ushered in the Kingdom of God that he thereby proclaimed:

The only real kingdom, the reign of God, in justice, mercy and peace,
That he took part in from the beginning of life
- that Baby again -
And when he passed over into the larger life of God,
He took a step that he was prepared to take,
- in fear and trembling, perhaps sick to death -
in the knowledge that what awaited him
he had already experienced
in his own person:

the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, November 26, 2006 St Timothy's, Gridley, Calif. JRL+

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Widow's Mite

"Did I say that out loud or just think it?"-Bumper sticker.

I made a lot of people laugh this morning. At diocesan convention I suggested that clergy new to the diocese be asked to stand and be recognized. They went one better and also asked the newly ordained to introduce themselves. I found myself at the microphone - in front of the assembled bishops, clergy, and laity of the diocese - announcing that "Jerry ordained me bishop in August" - and after the laughter died down, revising that to "Bishop Jerry ordained me in August" - priest.

I tell you this story to illustrate how easy it is to - even unconsciously - seek after position or fame or glory.

But the story in our gospel today is different. Jesus admonishes his followers not to seek glory or fame, and certainly not to follow the example of the scribes - big shots who give themselves airs and graces and show off their ostentatious generosity and piety in front of others (all the meanwhile acting the melodrama villain, foreclosing the mortgage on the poor widow).

Instead, he says, be like the poor widow - whom he watches put all of her savings into the temple offering she makes. She makes her offering to the Lord - not to keep up appearances but really to throw her life away, to depend wholly on God and his mercy. And Jesus praises her! He says this is the way to live.

Extravagant poverty in the face of extravagant wealth - I don't think he is telling his disciples to throw away every thing they have and depend on the kindness of strangers. I think he is telling them to put their - our - whole lives into the hands of God and trust to God's providence to take care of us.

Our job is to be obedient, to worship God and him alone. He is the source of all we need, all we ask for. All that we need, we receive without grasping... from the grace of God.

Where is Jesus in the story? He is the poor widow, giving his life away for the love of God. All we are asked to do is to follow him. To depend on God. And to acknowledge that it is from God that we receive everything we need.

The psalmist puts it another way: "Unless the Lord builds the house, their labor is in vain who build it." Faith in God is the foundation of our life. Amen.

JRL Pioneer House, Sacramento: Evening Prayer Sunday 12 November 2006

Sunday, November 5, 2006


Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
Gospel hymn #560: Matthew 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes)
John 11:32-44

All Saints' Day November 1, 2006
All Saints' Sunday November 5, 2006
Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento

In the name of God, source of all being, eternal Word, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The only tragedy, in the end, is the tragedy of not becoming a saint.

Originally All Saints was a remembrance of, and a communion with, Christians martyred under the pagan kings. Over the years its meaning has expanded, and we remember all saints. What is a saint?

• A witness to the resurrected Christ.
• An example of a godly life.
• A believer.
• An intercessor, an absent friend whom we can ask to pray for us.
• Someone who reminds us that there is another dimension to reality.

A mother of teenagers recently remarked that her son lives much of his life in Flatland. That is, he spends an inordinate amount of time on the computer, the iPod, the PDA, emailing and IM'ing his friends. Most of the conversations consist of, "I'm so bored...." He is living an existence that seems to be lacking a dimension. And so, without grace, are we.

Into the plane of Flatland, the revelation of God in Christ arrives precipitously from above, revealing the existence of a vertical dimension. This forms a crossroads, a thin place, in which the reality of heaven breaks into our one-dimensional, spirit-impoverished Flatland.

Thin places are places where heaven and earth come close together. You might think of a place like Iona, or Lindisfarne, soaked in centuries of prayer. Or you might think of a saint's shrine.

Saints are people who recall us to the divine. They are, in a sense, thin people.

You may have your own gallery of saints - witnesses, martyrs, exemplars of godly living, intercessors, friends who have gone before.

One of my teachers had pictures of his favorite saints pinned up on the wall across from his desk, or his bed.

We meet them in a thin place that is closer than you might think: we meet them in the Eucharist. When we participate in communion, we take part in the communion of saints.

In the communion of saints, we are connected through Christ to all who have gone before, all who witness to his resurrection, all who have remembered him in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers, all who have testified to the reality of God revealed in Christ.

These are the mysteries of our faith: we proclaim them openly, on billboards and radio, in bedside Bibles placed by The Gideons, in our thoughts and words and deeds. And we affirm together our common faith, in the words of the Nicene Creed ...

Flatland: a romance of many dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott

See: and