Christ’s Reign, God’s Realm, & Us

On November 26, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Christ’s Reign, God’s Realm, & Us Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Reign of Christ 2017 Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. The great teachers tend to shy away from images […]

Christ’s Reign, God’s Realm, & Us
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Reign of Christ 2017

Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

The great teachers tend to shy away from images of God high above, ruling over us, judging us, maybe helping out sometimes but mostly making a list and checking it twice trying to find out who’s naughty and nice. Those images, when taken literally, get in the way of spiritual growth and unfoldment. And so, instead, they tell us God is near us, within us, all around us…that God is omnipresence, everywhere fully present. There’s not a spot where God is not.

And if that is true, and I declare to you that it is, then we are part of God, and therefore, we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

A Sikh poet, Tegh Bahadur, wrote, “God lives in all, and abides with you, too. As fragrance dwells in a flower…so the Divine dwells inside everything; seek therefore in your own heart.”

Christian mystic Julian of Norwich wrote, “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”

A Christian mystic named Mechtild wrote, “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God and God in all things.”

Father Richard Rohr tells us, “We are already in the presence of God. What is absent is awareness.”

It seems to me the reign of Christ is when we allow the Christ in us, the Inward Light to shine so brightly that fears are defeated and hope becomes indomitable and love becomes our guiding force. And I think that is exactly what Jesus wanted for our world.

Before there was a Kingdom of Israel, and a kingdom of Judah, there was a commonwealth of communities, an affiliation of tribes governed by judges. These tribes had no king or queen…they thought of God as their Sovereign.

The time of the judges came to an end when the tribes united and Saul became their first king. But the tribes of Israel started out as a non-kingdom.

In the gospels we see Jesus cleverly trying to get people to recapture that image of a non-kingdom. God’s non-kingdom couldn’t be manipulated by Caesar’s empire. God’s non-kingdom was going to somehow break through into our lives and the world would be forever different, better, more just, more compassionate, more peaceful. And we couldn’t know, Jesus said, when this non-kingdom would become fully manifest but it was nevertheless at hand, in OUR hands. Maybe we can’t know when it will show up because we haven’t yet agreed that we’ll do our part in making it happen.

When Jesus talks about the kingdom of God…the word he’s using is actually the word for empire. So he’s really saying the empire of God, and that was a phrase he used ironically.

Empires come and go, but they all have some things in common. They deny equality to some segments of society. They conquer weaker nations. They have a privileged class. They try to be military juggernauts. Empires come and go, they aren’t everlasting, they have a shelf-life, and they never represent fairness, compassion, peace, goodwill, or equality. So, God would not have an empire!

To talk about God’s empire in the midst of the Roman empire was to make a joke of empire itself. God’s system is not an empire. God’s realm is one where everyone has sacred value, where everyone deserves love, where everyone is meant to have plenty, where no one is left out. God’s realm is where the first are last and the last are first. God’s realm is what is demonstrated by Jesus’ statement, “Come unto me ALL who are burdened and heavy laden and I will refresh you.” God’s realm is the open table. In God’s realm everyone is part of God because God is the Substance of all that is! That is radical equality. That doesn’t sound anything like an empire, does it?

So God’s realm is the anti-empire, the non-kingdom, the blessed community, the kin-dom or family of God.
Family is the image we conjure when we talk about children of God. Jesus understood himself as God’s child and he understood all people to be the children of God. And Matthew’s gospel is really good at making that point.

He shows Magi, Persian Zoroastrians finding the Christ child by following their own religion and then returning to their faith and culture. People of all religions are children of God.

Matthew shows the holy family becoming refugees in Egypt. Refugees are children of God.

Matthew shows Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount where he blessed the poor, the bereaved, the lowly born, the justice seekers, the kind hearted, and those who work for peace. The hurting and hard working are children of God.
In that same sermon urges people to practice the Golden Rule, because All people are children of God.

Throughout Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus ministering to people with physical and mental illness. People with health concerns are children of God.

We see Matthew’s Jesus healing a Roman centurion’s male companion and praising the pagan Roman centurion’s faith!
All people are the children of God.

We see Jesus in Matthew’s gospel feeding thousands with what at first appears to be meager resources, showing that sharing is more a matter of the heart than of the purse; it also shows that people who need a hand are the children of God.

Matthew’s Jesus tells us the great commandment is simply to love, and that the Child of Humanity (which he represents but is all of us really) will come into her and his own at a time we can’t know in advance. The Human One, or Chosen One, or Child of Humanity, or Son of Man (an image he borrows from the book of Daniel) will come he says…that means come into fullness of being, come into her or his own, come into awakened consciousness, when everyone is living lives of joy and peace and purpose…but we don’t know when that will happen, so we better just keep working toward the goal.

And in Matthew chapter 25, we hear today, when that day comes it will look like this…all of us making sure everyone is okay, treating everyone as if they were the children of God, because they are.

We won’t demonize same-gender loving people,
we won’t dehumanize transgender people,
we won’t tell people who worship differently than we do that God will reject them for not being like us,
we won’t forgot those who perished from AIDS, and we will respond to the next crisis with much more compassion than many churches and our government did in the early days AIDS,
we will care about what happens to people whether they are on the island of Manhattan or the Island of Puerto Rico,
we won’t abandon immigrants or have glass ceilings for women or deny medical care to anyone in need.

When we care about those in need, we are blessing them and ourselves as well, we are worshiping God, and we are honoring Jesus and all the helpers of humanity, and we are laying the groundwork for God’s kin-dom to come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If God is omnipresent, then of course God’s realm is in our hands, and when we use our hands to demonstrate God’s love, the kin-dom, the anti-empire, is closer to being experienced in our lives.

To the chagrin of some of his friends, Jesus didn’t want to be one more dictator on a throne. The Reign of Christ isn’t about putting Jesus on an emperor’s throne; it’s about telling everyone that God is All-in-all so God and God’s goodness are part of them, whoever they are. Good was prepared for all of us from the foundation of the world, Jesus said. The Reign of Christ is everyone realizing that we are all the children of God and ours is a divine inheritance.

When will all this goodness fully manifest in our shared experience? No one knows the hour or the day, but it will happen, it must…because the Truth must be made manifest, it must ultimately be revealed; and the Truth is: there is only one Presence and one Power in the universe and in me(and in you) – God the good, God the good, God the good omnipotent.
And this is the good news. Amen.

I am a child of God.
I deserve Good in my life.
I receive it with gratitude.
I share it with gladness.
And so it is.

 

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