Proper 29b 2015: The living kingdom

2 Samuel 23:1-7     Psalm 132:1-13     Revelation 1:4b-8     John 18:33-37


Today is the last Sunday of the “green season,” the growing season after Pentecost, and on this day we honor Jesus as our king.  Jesus is king and ruler of an empire that has no physical place.  A kingdom with no physical place is hard for us to imagine.  We live in within a particular family unit, in a house or apartment, in a neighborhood or a building.  We often define our lives with a strong connection, tether, if you will, to physical things.  If you are not so sure about this, tell me: which pew is “yours?”  (Aha!)  We are a people with a preference for physical domains.


We enter the gospel of John today in a very physical place – the headquarters of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  Jesus is on trial.  In a confusing transfer of information, Jesus says: “My kingdom is not of this world…. My kingdom is not from here.”  Pilate asked him: “so you are a king?”  Jesus:  “You say that I am.”  Jesus does not take ownership of a land-bearing kingdom, and in so doing becomes a king like no other king we might ever have known.  Kingdoms, you see, define space, hold it in:  Pilate was “responsible for” a certain area; it had borders and even some walls.  We could walk it or measure it or count Pilate’s area of control in some way.  The emperor Caesar’s kingdom was vast, but countable.  Earthly kingdoms “draw a line” to their inhabitants.  They are largely inward-looking, holding, defining.


Jesus’ kingdom is the kingdom of God and of the Spirit.  God’s kingdom looks not inward but outward.  It has no walls, no borders, no boundaries.  God’s kingdom stretches our minds, our faith, and our beliefs.  Is Jesus our king?  Yes, Jesus is our king in God’s kingdom.  And what a kingdom it is!  Jesus came to this kingdom, he tells us, to testify to the truth.  At this point in the gospel the truth has not yet been revealed or fulfilled.  Jesus is still taking that horrific, glorious walk.  Jesus risen from the dead is Truth.  But we’re not there yet, are we?  In the gospel and in our lives, our walk to truth is not yet complete.  But if we can for a moment today look forward to the fulfillment of Truth and then look back at where we are right now, there is a message.  I’ll tell it in a story.


One Easter morning a couple spoke to their priest following the Easter service. They said they had lived “down the street” for years and had never worshipped at the church before that morning. They continued by saying that though they had not worshipped before they were always grateful that the church was here. Very carefully, as you can imagine, the priest asked, “Why?” “Why are you grateful that the church is here?” Their answer was this: “Each day it reminds us that there is something more.”  And the couple returned to their home.


Sometimes – maybe all of time – the church is here to remind us that there is something more: something more than what we hear in the news, than what we find at Wegman’s, than the report that came home from school, than the mouse droppings that we found in our cupboard.  There is always something more.  That “something” is Jesus Christ our king, one with God and the Holy Spirit who governs and holds authority over everything.  Everything.  There is always something more than us.


Can you imagine?  No, and I cannot imagine, either, and at the same time I am thankful for that very kingdom.  There are no robes, no coronation garments, no glory, but there is hope more vast than our minds can fathom.  It is a hope that is built on a God who loved so much that God watched God’s Son suffer and die on a cross.  Can you imagine that love?  That same God loved us so very much that God’s son came back to life and lives with us now.  Today.  Forever.  The hope that we have, embodied in our Triune God, is that we will live forever, in a world ruled by God, in a world in which death itself has been conquered.

There is love in this kingdom that will conquer the world’s hatred, ignorance, and fear.  Love lives.  And that kingdom is on its way.  We are walking toward it every day.  And every so often, that kingdom breaks into our world, and we know again that Jesus is with us, that God’s kingdom is real.


Many of us have heard the ongoing reports – will they every end? – that Christianity is on the decline, religion is on the decline, that no one comes to church anymore ….  You’ve heard the words, right?  I challenge those words here today.  This is a fine time to be a Christian and a great time to be in the Episcopal church.  In spite of whatever reports we’ve read or heard, we are gathered in a church this morning.  Imagine that!  In this weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester will have ordained three new persons into the priesthood.  Each of these new priests has voluntarily sought to serve in this church – in this denomination – and in the community of Christian faith.  They are entering that same church that news reports say isn’t really here.  World?  We’re here.  We believe in God, we believe in Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in Jesus Christ who says:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  That kingship is not dead.  We declare it, we live it, and we welcome all who seek Truth.


Come along for the ride, for the walk, for the realization of the living kingdom of God. Amen!

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