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Christ the King (B)
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Readings for Christ the King Sunday, Cycle B

 

1. Daniel 7, 13-14

  • As the visions during the night continued.  Let me situate myself.  I need to take my time on this first phrase.  These are Daniel’s visions, they are nocturnal, and they progress one after the other. 
  • We are listening to the final ‘Son of Man’ vision that the church has always applied to Jesus.  Another version says: “I was gazing,” and that is what I want to do today: let my voice be faithful to what the prophet is seeing.
  • I saw one like a Son of man.  On such a vast stage – we can imagine a big sky or a mountaintop like Everest – a tiny cloud forms and expands until it catches our attention.  Ah, now it is someone, a human like us.  Let me recapture the discovery in my voice.  First I see, and then I recognize what I see.
  • He continues: Coming on the clouds of heaven.  I won’t pause at the comma, but I will lift my face and my voice a little.
  • And now what will happen?  He reached the Ancient One and was presented, and all onlookers fall silent as God makes the award. 
  • Dominion, glory and kingship; that is to say, not some honorary title as we usually bestow here, but real authority like the investing in Latin America with the presidential sash.  Let me fill the words with a certain awe.  How would I act in the presence of, say, a president, a prime minister, or a pope?  All peoples, nations and languages – do I really believe this?  How can I show it?
  • An everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away.  We speak the Gettysburg Address, and especially its peroration, with firm conviction: “shall not perish from the earth.”  If I give such homage to a political system, what more can I do in the name of God’s Peaceable Kingdom?
  • Climax: The Son of man who is, like any good leader and most of all like Jesus, a child of the people and the people’s overwhelming choice.
  • Message for our assembly: Do we pray to a Christ who identifies himself with all peoples?
  • I will challenge myself: To project gratefully a regime of peace rather than an oppressive evil empire. 

 

2. Revelation 1, 5-8

  • I hear a series of four short songs in praise of Jesus, and I will read them lovingly so that my listeners will remember. 
  • Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of earth.  I hear an echo of Daniel’s vision here, and I build my voice from one title to the next until I reach ‘ruler.’  It is precisely as witness and firstborn that he is acknowledged as ruler.
  • To him who loves us and has freed us  Again I begin softly and build a crescendo through blood, kingdom and priests until I reach the glory and power. 
  • There are two places where the people’s response of Amen! are written in.  If I speak them too quickly our assembly will act in confused afterthought.  We are not used to seeing responses in the Bible, but here they are.  I will let them take part, showing them by my own vigorous affirmation that I invite them to repeat the word after me.
  • Behold, he is coming amid the clouds.  Straight out of Daniel, and for that reason I don’t have to shout it.  I want to dwell on the small additions here that make the vision universal in nature.  Every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him.  Once again I behold Jesus the humble servant, and announce a universal lament from all the peoples of the earth.
  • Yes.  Amen.  Do I really believe it?  How much enthusiasm will I show?
  • Finally, I am the Alpha and the Omega.  All that I have said to now is wrapped up in God, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.  I definitely will not shout but affirm in summation. 
  • Central point: In all these poetic images we tell about the Son of God whom we worship today.  He lived among us, he suffered death, and he will come again.
  • The message for our assembly: What seats have we reserved for his coming?
  • I will challenge myself: To share the enthusiasm of these visionaries as I read.

 

Gospel. John 18, 33-37

  • I begin with stage directions: Pilate said to Jesus.  I will make sure everyone hears the name ‘Pilate’ and becomes situated in that interrogation scene.  Then I will let the dialog proceed naturally. 
  • The evangelist begins with Pilate’s secular question: Are you the King of the Jews?  Since this was the charge made by his executioners, and was put as the inscription above the cross, we almost need as much as Pilate to hear how Jesus answers.
  • The next exchange also clarifies the relationship.  Do you say this on your own? means that Jesus attempted to do a little evangelizing with an unfamiliar governor, and was forced to return to the trial setting.  I am not a Jew means that Pilate is acting as an imperial officer, with no interest in being a closet believer. 
  • My kingdom does not belong to this world.  First we get a negative.  My attendants would be fighting.  It doesn’t have to do with surviving and fighting fire with fire. 
  • Then we have the description of the kingdom.  To testify to the truth.  And everyone who enters the kingdom belongs to the truth and listens to my voice.  Unfortunately, too often in our church that word ‘truth’ is reduced to historic formulas in a catechism.  According to the evangelist here, truth is a way of life that needs to be affirmed anew every day.  If it is real it can get us in trouble, into the dock there with Jesus, on trial before the powers of the world.
  • Climax: I was born to testify to the truth.  This is the positive reply. 
  • Message for our assembly: Where are we?  Are we able to listen to him?
  • I will challenge myself: Not so much to get the dramatics right, but to work on Jesus’ profession of his faith. 

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