Sunday, November 24, 2013

'You Got the Power to Let Power Go?' (Christ the King Sunday) Luke 23:33-43

Luke 23:33-43
Church of the Nativity
Christ the King Sunday (Last Sunday of Pentecost)
November 24, 2013

I think a helpful way to unpack Christ the King Sunday is to talk about a scene from the movie Schindler’s List.  Have you all seen it?  Well, whether you have or not, there is a scene in the film where Oskar Schindler--the German Gentile who was so instrumental in saving countless German Jews during Hitler’s awful reign--is talking about power with an an SS officer.  You see the SS officer had been brutally murdering countless Jews--showing no mercy at all--in order to demonstrate to them and his fellow soldiers that he was powerful.  Schindler--a reputable and powerful businessman--tells the barbaric and power-hungry--yet ultimately insecure--official that real power “is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t… A man steals something, he’s brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he’s going to die. And the Emperor… pardons him. This worthless man, [the Emperor] lets him go… That’s power. That is power.”  

The similarities between Schindler’s advice to the SS officer and what happens in this morning’s Gospel lesson are very interesting.  For in Luke 23 we have something of a parallel story.  We have that famous scene where Jesus cries out on behalf of his murderers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.”  We have a king, albeit not in a traditional position of power, granting pardon to the worthless--those who reject, mock, and murder an innocent.  Like the insecure, power-seeking SS officer who later does indeed take Schindler’s advice, Jesus essentially says to the truly worthless, “I pardon you.”  

Don’t forget that he does this after he has been tried and scourged.  His own people have borne false witness against him, and the religious leaders have identified him as a seditious blasphemer.  It is also important to note that only the worst criminals were crucified on the place called Skull.  And here he is, the religious leaders and government authorities conspiring together to have him killed in the most inhumane of ways--naked on a cross of wood.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Believe in the Resurrection (Luke 21:5-19, 20-28)

I Believe in the Resurrection
Luke 21:5-19 (20-28)
St. Thomas' Memorial Church
November 17, 2013

By now you’ve all heard of the devastation that Typhoon Yolanda unleashed on the Philippines a little more than a week ago.  A storm that some have called the worst in recorded history, where 10,000 are feared to be dead and over 100,000 displaced.  Maybe you’ve seen some of the images and videos of entire cities flattened, of families separated, of corpses piled by the roadside.  It’s hard to imagine what must be going through the minds of those living in the cities affected.  Shock, fear, despair?  Because I am so far removed from it and am going about my everyday life just the same, it’s hard for me to internalize it.  It’s hard for me to realize that not only have hopes and dreams been shattered, but--more basic, more fundamental--livelihoods have become undone.  Great buildings, great cities, strong towers have--unthinkably--been brought low.  Families and friends are separated, possibly never to be reunited.

This morning’s Gospel lesson from Luke describes a similar story.  It opens with Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem at the Temple.  He’s been teaching here for over a chapter.  All of his previous arguments and rhetorical traps have been set in the Temple; these detailed discussions of the most Jewish of issues have been conducted in that most Jewish of places, the place one could encounter God in a special way.  A few verses earlier, a faithful woman, both widowed and impoverished, threw her whole life into the Temple treasury and Jesus was impressed.

And now this morning’s Gospel lesson tells us that some of the people with Jesus look up and speak in awe of the beauty of the Temple, the center of the Jewish world.  And rightly so, for the the Temple was stunning.  The Temple was huge.  The outer court of the Temple could hold 400,000 people, and at festival times it held crowds nearly that large.  The Temple was overwhelming as is fitting to the building that honors the God who alone is God.