Sunday, November 25, 2018

Our King

We desperately need someone to help us reconnect. The good news is he has come. This morning we behold him on trial; he is a lonely man, his best friends have panicked, run off and left him. He is a warrior in a righteous cause – his cause is truth, compassion and self-forgetfulness. He calls this truth the kingdom, a place where no one gets excluded, a place where everyone matters. He stands before us, condemned, humiliated, spat upon and rejected by jealous leaders threatened by his brand of compassion. And they are right to be concerned, he is dangerous. The immeasurableness of God’s mercy has been breaking through in all his signs and healings. He brings good news to the poor, sets free those oppressed and heavily burdened. And he is unraveling things.

He eats with sinners, heals outsiders, cures people no matter which day of the week it is, even touches lepers and so has become unclean. Everybody knows a Messiah is not supposed to do that kind of stuff. He shocks by his unpretentiousness, by the directness of the God he reveals. He forgives sins; even dares to forgive a woman caught in the very act of adultery and then embarrasses her male accusers into dropping the stones they’re aiming, not because she isn’t guilty, but because we all are guilty. He knows we’ve all failed over and over again. This is our shared identity, our shared truth, the reason he has come – because all are sinners, all with him beloved of the Father and all desperately in need of his mercy.

And so, he has taken on the burden of our sin, because he knows we couldn’t possibly have borne it on our own. Even more than that, he has become our sin - to dupe it, remove its vicious sting and halt the death sentence against us. This lonely man comes to all the dead ends, all the guilty sentences against us and says no, I won’t have it; God won’t have it. This is the truth he lives and dies for. He doesn’t care one bit about being called king, he only desire is the kingdom, a place where Father’s love and truth will be enacted. As he will tell Pilate, "You may call me a king, if you choose, but I assure you my kingdom does not belong to this world.” 

He has come to Jerusalem riding on a little donkey colt – and very soon he will be lifted up, nailed to a cross, seen as guilty with the guilty. And it is there on the cross that he will be enthroned, wearing his crown of thorns, bleeding and panting - there between two criminals. There Jesus is most truly king - king of upside-downness, king of little ones, king of losers and last ones, king of those burdened by solitary disappointments, king who becomes a guilty outsider with the outsiders. Our place is there with him in the middle of it all, with him, with one another, depending only on the Father’s kind regard. We belong to the God who continually draws all of us into new life and hope and connectedness in our common need for forgiveness, our common need for him and for one another.

Image from the series of prints known as the Miserere by Georges Rouault (1871-1958).