My Lord! Luke 23.33, 35-43 Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Today is Reign of Christ Sunday. You may find it to be a little Jesus heavy, but it IS Reign of Christ Sunday. What are you gonna do? Reign of Christ Sunday is an opportunity to explore the “lordship” of Jesus, a Galilean peasant-prophet whom we […]
Luke 23.33, 35-43
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Today is Reign of Christ Sunday. You may find it to be a little Jesus heavy, but it IS Reign of Christ Sunday. What are you gonna do?
Reign of Christ Sunday is an opportunity to explore the “lordship” of Jesus, a Galilean peasant-prophet whom we call our anointed lord. Reign of Christ Sunday is a chance to unpack that.
Jesus is Lord is the oldest creedal statement of Christianity. And, it was explosive.
Jesus was born and grew up in a land occupied by the Roman empire. The emperor was the supreme sovereign, the lord of all lords. In that world at that time, we can hardly imagine the courage it took for the disenfranchised followers of Jesus to call him “Lord.”
Caesar’s exploits were called “good news.” Followers of Jesus offered a counter-narrative, a different kind of “good news” that not only didn’t involve Caesar, it was over-against the system that gave Caesar his power and his privilege.
Those whom the world would condemn, God would bless, anoint, favor – that’s what was communicated by the simple phrase, Jesus is Lord. It was a radical message of hope and empowerment.
Not a general, not a prince, not an emperor, but a peasant from an occupied territory – to call that person “Lord” was shocking. It’s old news to us, but to the first hearers, it was life changing.
Jesus, the Lord of people’s hearts, didn’t raise an army but a movement.
He didn’t arm people with spears but with love.
To call Jesus “Lord” was both ironic and subversive.
The temerity of people to think of Jesus as an anointed lord, got Jesus killed.
We see that in today’s gospel reading. But Luke will insist that Jesus’ execution isn’t the end of his story, or of his mission. His purpose, his power, and his message would rise from the blood soaked dust of Golgotha and become the living, loving, justice-seeking church; the resurrected and returned body of Christ.
The justice-seeking church of Jesus Christ would suffer persecution, but it would also know the power of overcoming it.
The church that condoned apartheid, the church that embraced Jim Crow, the church that kept women from its pulpits, the church that blamed people with AIDS for their suffering, the church that demonized and dehumanized same-gender loving people was not the church of the Lord Jesus. It may have venerated an idea of Jesus, but it did not follow his daring example of working to set the oppressed free.
Calling Jesus Lord when it protects our comfort or privilege is not the same as calling Jesus Lord to bring hope, healing, and justice to all who have been marginalized.
To say Jesus is Lord is powerful when we remember who Jesus was: a baby born to a not yet married, temporarily homeless mother who had her baby in a barn and laid him in a feeding trough because her family was denied the comforts of an inn.
To call that baby “Lord” later in his life is to acknowledge that no one, no matter who they are or where they are from could ever be separate from the love of God.
Let me be clear: to say Jesus is Lord does not suggest that having a certain opinion or experience of Jesus is the only way to understand or worship the divine.
I believe with all my heart that the one who said, “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would have me respect other spiritual heroes.
And so I bless the compassionate Buddha, I give thanks for the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism, I acknowledge the sacred spirituality of the native inhabitants of this land, and I honor the prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him).
Jesus is Lord is a statement to motivate me to rise to my potential, not to disrespect what motivates others to rise to their potential.
To say Jesus is Lord is to say we stand in opposition to power structures that dehumanize the weak, the lonely, the oppressed, or the marginalized.
To say Jesus is Lord is to say that we will vocally and consistently resist and rebuke racism, xenophobia, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia (even and perhaps especially when we find those flaws within ourselves).
To say Jesus is Lord is to say that we will not allow any child of God to be treated as if they were not.
To say Jesus is Lord is to say that as followers of Jesus we have devoted ourselves to a compassionate way, a liberating truth, and a justice-seeking life.
To say Jesus is Lord is to say that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace and goodness.
To say Jesus is Lord is to care for the poor and the most the vulnerable.
To say Jesus is Lord is to say we will forgive oppressors, but we will never again accept oppression.
To say Jesus is Lord is to speak out for the dignity of all people, especially those considered to be “the least of these.” Does our voice really matter? The historic power of the gospel has been in its proclamation.
In the beginning was the word and the word was divine…yes, I believe our voices matter.
In today’s gospel, even in his pain, Jesus ministered to someone else in pain.
Jesus today hears the cries of a hurting person.
Jesus today affirms the sacred value of one condemned by society.
Jesus today promises that paradise, the experience of the love of God, will not be withheld from the sorrowful, the downtrodden, the hurting.
If Jesus is Lord for us, then we will follow the example of our Lord, and when we fail to do so, we will try again.
When others are targeted, will we push past our fears and pain to affirm them?
When political leaders, even the ones we may admire, target minority groups or allow their supporters to do so, will we challenge and confront them to offer better and more just leadership?
When racism rears its ugly head in media, politics, the workplace or the streets, will we say,
“In the name of our middle eastern Lord, we will not tolerate this”?
When our neighbors, whoever they are, are frightened or hurting, will we say with Jesus, “come to us all who are burdened and heavy laden and we will refresh you?”
We don’t have to say Jesus is Lord, and there have been times in my life I resisted saying it for a variety of legitimate reasons. But I need to reclaim that ancient creed today. And I know to embrace that creed will require some action. To say, Jesus is Lord, means we must sincerely try to follow the justice-seeking example of Jesus – otherwise, the words ring hollow.
And so, for the hope it offers, for the world changing power that is represents, and for the call to action that it is, I give voice to our faith tradition’s oldest creed: Jesus is Lord. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
God of peace and plenty,
God of hope and healing,
God of grace and goodness,
Bless me and the whole world.