Thirty-fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Reign of Christ
Sunday, November 25, 2012
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
I pulled another Doogie Howser last night.
After a full week of Thanksgiving activities that included a blessing at a preschool in Kīhei, a Thanksgiving Day service and potluck and two weddings, I was finally able to sit down at my computer at 8:00 p.m.
I realized very quickly that I was exhausted from the week’s activities and could barely stay awake when I sat down in front of my laptop at home. That’s when I pulled my Doogie Howser.
If you have ever had the opportunity to watch any one of the 97 episodes of Doogie Howser, MD from 1989-1993 you know that it was a comedy-drama about a teenage doctor who also faces the problems of being a normal teenager. Doogie had a way of sitting down at his computer late in the evening to record his thoughts and observations for the day. It was his way of keeping a journal.
Whenever I feel at a loss at what I might say from this pulpit on any Sunday morning, I just start typing whatever comes to mind and once that happens the rest seems to fall in place. The first line I typed was: “I pulled another Doogie Howser last night.”
The rest is what followed:
“He was three months old when you baptized him in 1995,” she said to me as she pointed to her son. Cowboy was one of nine groomsmen who was here for a wedding yesterday. It was Cowboy who walked the bride, his sister, down this aisle. I thanked Cowboy’s mom for reminding me about our time together seventeen years ago.
Before the day came to an end I received a letter from Bill who lives in Portland, Oregon. Bill had just moved into an assisted living community. We first met not long after I was called to serve the church here in Mākena in 1991.
I thought about Cowboy amazed of having met him when he was a baby boy and again yesterday as a young man. I thought about Bill of having first met him when he was 75 years old and then last winter when he was 94 years old.
Cowboy and Bill do not know each other. Whether or not Bill was here the day that Cowboy was baptized, it is clear to me that they became a part of each other’s lives through this community of faith.
Because you see, we are the church - “the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) The Apostle Paul makes clear in his letters to the church in Rome (Romans 12), in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12) and in Ephesus (Ephesians 4) that we “belong to one another.”
That sense of belonging is at the heart of our reading from The Gospel According to John. Today is known as “Reign of Christ” Sunday. It is the final week in the Christian liturgical calendar. There is talk of kings and kingdoms.
Pilate sets out to determine if Jesus claims to be the king of the Jewish nation. Jesus responds by asking Pilate several question and then explains the kingdom to which he belongs is not from this world. (John 18:36)
Jesus goes on to say, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37) – and that is the truth of God’s love, grace and mercy. As if to underscore the importance of belonging Jesus adds: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)
There were those who found great comfort and consolation in Jesus’ words. But others, like Pilate, were terrified. Pilate would be right to consider himself the most powerful person in Jerusalem.
After all he was the representative of the greatest world power at that time and does not hesitate to remind Jesus that he has the power to release him or the power to have him crucified. (John 19:10) Nevertheless, Pilate is fearful of the power that Jesus possesses.
The power Jesus possesses is one that enables others to face the truth about themselves, their relationships, their faith, and the world in which they live. Pilate may have the command of those in military and political authority; he may have command over those in judicial and even religious authority. But he does not seem to have command over Jesus’ authority.
When he summons Jesus and interrogates him about his authority and whether or not he is a king, Jesus responds by saying, “My kingdom is not from this world.”
Pilate had an opportunity to recognize the truth. But Pilate, like many others, was not interested in the truth of God’s love, grace and mercy.
Today is the Reign of Christ Sunday. It is not a reign of a king over a kingdom of this world, but a king over a kingdom of the hearts of those who belong to the truth.
The question for us is whether we hear Jesus’ voice and understand that we must not mistake our allegiance to any nation state as synonymous with our loyalty to God and God’s kingdom; that we are aware of the distinction between the Reign of Christ and the Rule of the Caesars of this world – whether they are presidents or prime ministers, dictators or despots.
God is the Alpha and Omega; the one who is and who was and who is to come. It is to him that we belong. It is through him that we belong. It is through him that we belong to one another. It is through him that Cowboy and Bill belong.