Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
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Just as the historical Jesus experienced the reign of God in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, and the imprisoned, so his followers are expected to experience the risen Jesus in those same people.
NOVEMBER 23, 2014: CHRIST THE KING
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
We always run into problems when we deal with biblical titles. We often have our own definitions for them. Yet, as students of Scripture, it’s essential we make an attempt to surface the meaning the original sacred authors gave them.
Though, for instance, Ezekiel is referring to kings in today’s first reading, he defines a Jewish king in completely different terms than his 6th century BCE pagan contemporaries defined their kings. For this exilic prophet, the first prerequisite of a king is his ability to shepherd, not dominate his subjects. Imitating Yahweh’s concern for his people, a good Jewish king rescues (his sheep) from every place where they are scattered; he pastures his flock and gives them rest. He brings back the strayed, binds up the injured, and heals the sick. Concern for his people’s well-being always trumps concern for his own well-being. Ezekiel is convinced there are kings, and then there are Yahweh’s kings.
When Paul, in today’s I Corinthian’s passage writes about Jesus “reigning,” he’s concerned with just one aspect of that reign: the life it offers to others. Presuming Adam’s sin opened the door to death, the Apostle shares his conviction that Jesus’ resurrection opens the door to life. “For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”
If, like Paul, we symbolically look at the risen Jesus as a king reigning in our everyday lives, then we have to be certain what this particular king is trying to accomplish by that reign. The answer is simple “that God may be all in all.”
Teilhard de Chardin taught that when that event finally happens, we’ve reached the “omega point” of the universe’s existence. For this well-known theologian, all creation is geared not only to God being all in all, but also to our discovering God in all.
Matthew’s Jesus tells us at what point that process begins.
In announcing an exam to our students, we teachers always know the first question they’ll ask us: “What’s going to be in it?” They logically want to know on what they’re going to be examined. Jesus leaves do doubt on the subject matter for which we’re responsible at the end of our lives. He simply expects us to report on how we’ve found God in all. Of course, as the risen Jesus, he/she is God in all.
The great Hans Walter Wolff frequently remarked that if Israel had no poor or helpless, Israel would have had no kings. Jewish kings only came into existence in the 11th century BCE because the country’s poor and helpless couldn’t live fulfilled lives without their assistance. That’s why, as Ezekiel mentioned above, Jewish monarch were committed to building up their people, not themselves.
Following that logic, if we’re other Christ, and Christ is our king, then we’re expected to reign as he reigns. We have to put people at the center of our lives, especially those people whom we can easily run roughshod over, those individuals who constantly face every day from a position of weakness. Just as the historical Jesus experienced the reign of God in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, and the imprisoned, so his followers are expected to experience the risen Jesus in those same people. Our final heavenly exam will revolve around how we, like Jesus, treated and related to them. God only becomes all in all when we’re convinced God actually is all in all.
If we dare employ the title Christian – other Christ – about ourselves, we’d better be certain how that title is defined by the biblical first Christians.
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