Sunday November 20th 2016 Christ the King

The Gospel of Luke

The Rev’d Jenny Wilson

In the name of God, creating, redeeming, sanctifying, … Amen.

He comes into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and when he sees the city he does not cry out in joy as the crowds around him do, but he weeps saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’ (Luke 19:42) They do not understand the political realities before their eyes. And they do not understand the way of God either. For when Jesus enters the temple, he is horrified at the failure of the religious leaders to watch over the temple as the house of God. He enters the temple and begins to drive out those who are selling things there; and he says, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of robbers.’ (19:45-6)

As Jesus commences his journey into Jerusalem, the whole multitude of the disciples begin to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’ (19:36-7) This Jesus healed and taught and fed and freed those he encountered who did not hear the voice of God, as he had heard the voice of God, the voice that names us, “Beloved.”

But immediately he enters Jerusalem and sees what is happening in the temple of his Father, God, he sets up a confrontation with the religious leaders that will lead inexorably to his passion and death.

What sort of a king is this? What sort of Saviour?

This Sunday, the Sunday in which we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, our liturgical year comes to a close. Next week is Advent Sunday and a new liturgical year will begin. This year we have spent time with the Gospel of Luke. During Lent we spent time exploring this gospel looking through the lens of homecoming, one of Luke’s key themes. And, tonight, at the end of this year of Luke we will remember a little of what we found there. The author Brendan Byrne writes of the theme of hospitality in Luke’s gospel:

‘“Hospitality” conjures up the context of guests, visitors, putting on meals for them, providing board and lodging, making the stranger feel “at home” in our home …in this Gospel significant events and exchanges take place in the context of meals and the offering (or non-offering) of hospitality in general. Hospitality … forms a notable frame of reference for the ministry of Jesus. But there is more to it than that. Luke sees the whole life and ministry of Jesus as a “visitation” on God’s part to Israel and the world. From the start this raises the question: how will this guest, this visitor be received? The One who comes as visitor and guest in fact becomes host and offers a hospitality in which human beings and, potentially, the entire world, can become truly human, be at home, can know salvation in the depth of their hearts.’[1]

This year as we have watched Jesus through the eyes of the writer of Luke’s Gospel, we saw Jesus born through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, born of his mother Mary. We have seen Mary assent to bearing God’s son – to allowing him a home on this earth. We have seen this Jesus who is utterly at home in his father, God, this God who named him “Beloved” at his baptism. All Jesus’ earthly life is lived out of his closeness to God. All his encounters with human beings. And his journey to Jerusalem, a journey that ends in death, is walked in God. Jesus lives this life and dies this death that we and all creation too might find our home in God.

Through the year, we have looked at different aspects of Jesus’ ministry – his living a life of prayer, infused by the Spirit, prayer through the night on mountains, prayer expressed in rage when his Father’s house, the house of prayer is turned into a den of robbers, prayer taught to his disciples in the words of the prayer that bears his name. We have explored his healing, through the faith of those who cry out to him, and through his own compassion. We have witnessed his love of meals with, particularly, those whom society shuns. Meals with tax collectors and sinners, most famously in Luke’s Gospel, with Zacchaeus, who he calls down from the tree he climbed to catch a glimpse of Jesus, and invites himself into Zacchaeus’ home. Salvation came to that house that day. We have wrestled with the parables he told. The Gospel of Luke is where many of Jesus’ most well loved parables are found. Following on from the complaints from the religious leaders about the company he keeps, Jesus tells the three parables of the lost – the lost sheep, the lost coin and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We heard in the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, stories about two characters who, having squandered the life given to them, made extraordinary efforts to get home. And we heard Jesus say through these parables, “Do anything to get home.”

It was in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that we heard what is required of us as we journey, and encourage others on that journey, home. When a lawyer asks Jesus to give him some boundary on the concept of neighbour, a neighbour that Jesus told him to love, we found in this parable that the concept of neighbor is a vocation. And part of our way home is found in allowing this vocation to neighbour to infuse our lives.

Jesus is about salvation. God intends peace for our earth and salvation for all, particularly those on the margins. Mary’s song that we hear sung each night at Evensong, leaves us in no doubt that God’s embrace is wide and reverses the values of our world. God’s project is to bring all creation home.

But when Jesus enters Jerusalem, in the scene from Luke’s Gospel that we heard read tonight, we sensed in the air that God’s way of bringing salvation, that the bringing in of God’s kingdom, will involve Jesus in terrible suffering. The confrontation with the religious leaders that simmered in the background of so many of the gospel stories will finally come to the surface. Jesus enters Jerusalem. And there evil will hurl at him its worst.

Jesus walks into the trap that evil sets for him and he looks in the face every one of the violent men who participate in his trial and who enact his crucifixion just as he looked the criminals dying beside him in the face too. In his torn body, with his few last breaths, he loves and forgives and looks into the faces of struggling humanity that find itself at his cross.

And then he prays his final prayer. “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” (23:46) It is the spirit that blessed Mary as she assented to be Jesus’ mother in Luke’s gospel, it is the spirit that came upon him at his baptism, it is the spirit that upheld him throughout his life. And now that spirit brings him home. His work is done. Creation is redeemed in the love and courage and prayer and in the ruthlessly honest gaze of this dying man. In Christ’s Passion redemption is found.

And in Christ’s Passion the one we know as King is found.

In the final chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke we find Jesus and two disciples walking along a road, the Emmaus Road.

On the other side of death, we see Jesus on this Emmaus Road doing all the things he did in his life. We see him keeping company with sinners. We see him hearing the story of their life. We see him teaching from the scriptures and we see him blessing, breaking, sharing bread. We see him alive. We see a gospel story like all the gospel stories where death is not the final destination. Where Jesus lives and the story of God and God’s creation lives on.

And so we’ll tell it again shall we? We’ll meet next week on Advent Sunday and begin it again. We’ll be telling the story through Matthew’s eyes, I think we’ll find. Each year a different gospel lens as each year we bring a different lens. We have lived another year after all, a year with joys and struggles, hopes and disappointments, births and deaths, for us and our community, for our country, for the world. We have lived another year of life, of the life God has given us. The key thing is that this life of ours belongs. Belongs in the great story of God, in which all our stories find their home.

[1] Brendan Byrne The Hospitality of God p4.