Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christ the King

Christ The King, 2012

The imagery in all of today’s readings is of the Kingship of God. The First Lesson from the Book of Daniel envisions One like the Ancient of Days as he takes his place upon his throne room in heaven. The Psalmist likewise describes the splendid apparel of God and his mighty work in quelling the raging chaos of the seas. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus exalts us to be a Kingdom of Priests, and Pilate wonders if Jesus is the King of the Jews in today’s Gospel reading. And to top it all off, at the end of today’s service crowned children from the Atrium will lead us into the world where we may continue our work learning and doing the work of Jesus.

It is the will of God that all things shall be restored to unity in God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by our Lord Jesus Christ and for our Lord Jesus Christ. In this manner we are called to exalt him as King and enthrone him within our hearts as the sovereign Lord of life.

And yet we are in a world divided and enslaved to sin. Palestine and Israel are poised toward one another as divided and enslaved by sin. The body politic in these United States of America finds itself divided and enslaved by sin. And too, within our families, friends and even within our own inner lives we often find ourselves too often divided and enslaved by sin.

The scripture calls us to unity in God as does the Collect of the Day.

Are Palestinians and Israelis likely to do so? Are Democratic Liberals and Republican Conservatives likely to do so? Can feuding families and inner battles within ourselves likely to be reconciled?

Isn’t it interesting that even at our Thanksgiving Tables we often set aside our gratitude for differentiation, conflict and disagreement. 

At least that was the way it was growing up in our home. The large New England kitchen table was the gathering place; the setting for the great debates of our family. Oh and what fun that was. My grandmother pleaded with us; “Please, no talk of religion or politics today, I beg of you!” 

To which my uncle replied; “What else is there to talk about?” How I loved those debates as the uncles flushed with red faces debated their points of view. It was as if freedom of speech was enshrined in our home as the highest treasure of all.

The union men agreed with the working men and women and the few management folk we had in our midst argued that point of view. We had Protestants, Catholics and atheists in our home. And there was more vigorous debate.

But still we were one family. And as we gathered at the door to say our good byes, there were tears of love and fond embraces as we lingered long and then went on our separate ways. I believe it was because of the love we bore for one another that common decency and respect were crowned like Christ our King in the midst of our family.

And yet something seems to have changed. The love we once felt seems now to be less than loving. This is particularly so in our national discourse. What was once the fireplace and the Eucharistic Table in our Dining Rooms and kitchens is now the Big Screen TV. The nature of our gathering seems to have changed.  We seem to have forgotten the art of conversation. Social media, Facebook and texting is posing a challenge to our methodology for interaction.

There is a well recognized method for debate;
Thesis- You express your point of view
Antithesis- I express my point of view.
We then debate the points until we develop a Synthesis of the two and more points of view. 

This is at least the idea behind a Parliamentary form of government. You can see how well that works in Britain, the US Congress and the United Nations. It was Winston Churchill who once quipped; “Democracy is the worst form of government in the world except for all the others.”

There is something intractable in the air, something unwilling and unable to come to terms with compromise. The pragmatic has given way to the ideological.

By doing so we insist on being divided and enslaved to sin. This is profound disobedient to God. Being this way leads to hatred, violence, and death. We Irish know how to do that very effectively. The Palestinians and the Israelis sure have mastered that approach to their history. And we are all in danger of falling into the same snare of evil and sin. 

Allow me to suggest two strategies for mitigating the situation. The one I learned years ago as I worked on my own listening skills. It is called the LAPS strategy. LAPS is an acronym for; Listen, Allow, Probe and Support.

If we make a commitment to listen actively to what we are saying using this methodology we may indeed discover a pathway toward accommodation to our differing points of view. The first thing to remember is not to react but to listen.
Listen by checking with the speaker that you in fact are hearing what he or she is saying correctly. Listen by repeating in your own words what you think has been said.
Then allow it; simply let it sit out there on its own merit. Listen as it reverberates between the speaker and the listener and within you.
Then probe what the speaker is saying. Demonstrate more than a passing interest but a genuine curiosity into the nature, background and basis upon which the speaker builds his or her conviction.
Then show support even if you disagree. Find something you can support in what the speaker says.

Then and only then, can you respond. By modeling a method for listening you and I can build bridges between ourselves and those who hold vastly differing points of view. Such a method can lead into respectful and artful conversation. And if ever there were a time when respectful and artful conversation were needed this is it.

The other image I have is that of the soaring Eagle. I think I have mentioned this image before in this place, but I will mention it again.

For an Eagle to soar, it needs both wings. So, if I’m a left winger and you’re a right winger you and I both need each other, not just to get off the ground and fly, but by working together we can soar.

Now to tell you the truth, while the eyesight on an eagle is keen, its brain is still the size of a bird.

To me this is why the scripture urges us to put on the Mind of Christ. Notice the imagery in the day’s first lesson. One like the Ancient of Days takes his seat in the throne room. His clothing is pure white and the hair of his head is like pure wool. Fire issues forth from his throne. And ten thousand times ten thousand served him. Then one like the Son of Man appeared and into his hands is given all the peoples and all the nations on earth that they might serve him.

This is wisdom, obedience, and the love of God; namely, that we shall serve Jesus. We are called to learn and do the work of Jesus. Only by doing so is there hope for you and me, the Arab and the Jew, the  President and Congress, and our own inner struggles to come to the Peace and Joy of Jesus. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

“So are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks Jesus in the Gospel.
“For this I came into the world; to testify to the truth. And all who belong to the truth listen to my voice.”

Listen to Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Fr Paul

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