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Final Sunday of the Church Year | Christ the King Sunday
November 22, 2015
 
I.
In this crooked and convoluted
interaction between Pilate in Jesus
we experience this night,
at least one thing is clear:
Pilate is talking to Jesus.
But he does not hear Jesus.

These two are speaking with one another.
But theirs is not a conversation.

"Everyone who belongs to the truth
listens to my voice," Jesus says.
Pilate reveals just how little he is listening,
with his three word response,
"What is truth?"

O, how often it is we speak but do not listen.
Talk, but do not converse.
At home.
In the office.
Writ large among.
Politicians.
Newscasters.
Entertainers.
National and international figures.
Enemies.
This world of ours
is filled with people talking.
People talking past one another.
And over one another.
And at one another.

Talking to escalate.
And instigate.
And divide.

In the crooked and convoluted
interactions we have or watch others have
with just about anyone,
one thing is clear:
We're talking, but do not hear.
Speaking, but not conversing.

If there is any insight we gain
from Jesus' interaction with Pilate;

if there is any insight we gain
from looking at our own such interactions today,

we see that
--we are not
--the world is not
good at conversation.
Our ways tend to pull us apart,
not draw us together.

We perpetuate misunderstanding with glee,
rather than undertake the hard work required
to seek understanding.

"Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

II.
We hear this voice still, today.
It is the voice of God in Christ Jesus
speaking from the cross.
A voice speaking a final word.
This final word:
"It is finished."

In Saint John's Gospel,
"It is finished" is not a word of defeat.
Not a word of shame.
"It is finished" is not a word of death,
but a word of life.

For on the cross,
God in Christ Jesus,
crushes violence itself,
crushes evil,
crushes any and all ways that divide us.
Crushes, as one of the church's earliest of prayers puts it:
"crushes hell under foot."

If ever there were any doubt
as to the effectiveness of these ways that divide us;
the effectiveness of the ways of the world;
the ways of Rome;
or the ways of any who take up triumphalist power,
on the cross,
God in Christ Jesus says a definitive,
"No."

"It is"
--these ways are--
"finished."

On the cross,
something new begins.

Call this "something new" the kingdom, among us.
Call it the body of Christ.
Call it the united people of God.
Call it, as Saint John calls it,
"the way, and the truth, and the life."

The way of this truth,
the way of the cross,
is one that gives and forgives
without charge and without merit.

The way of this truth,
the way of the cross,
is one that bends down and washes feet.
Feet dirty from travel.
Feet tired from toil.
Feet that have trod through terror.

The way of this truth,
the way of the cross,
does not seek so much to be consoled,
so as to console.

The way of this truth,
the way of the cross,
is God speaking a word of healing and wholeness,
when others speak words of division and fracture.
The way of this truth,
the way of the cross,
is life even in the midst of death.

Life in the midst of death.

Early on the first day of the week,
while it was still dark,
--while the terror of the cross
was still present in the air,
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene
at the empty tomb.

These two have a long, extended interaction.
Longer than the one we experience tonight
between Jesus and Pilate.
They don't understand one another.
They speak beyond one another.
Mary simply cannot comprehend
that this Jesus she longs for,
is standing before her and
speaking with her.

Until.

Until, he speaks her name in love.
"Mary," Jesus says to her.
"Rabbouni!" She replies to her beloved teacher.

"Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

III.
The way of this truth,
the way of the cross,
seeks to speak a name in love.
It is how God addresses us.
And how, in Christ's kingdom,
we address one another.

Not out of vengeance,
but seeking reconciliation.

Not out of anger,
but working for peace.

Not out of terror,
but out of profound sorrow.

Yes, profound sorrow.

For there is no sorrow greater that Christ's sorrow.
On the cross.
Looking at this world.
And all we've done
with and to
one another.

Christ weeps.
And yet,
--on the cross,
--and at the empty tomb,
while it is still dark
speaks this word of love.
To you.
And to me.

Some might call it naive.
A word of forgives as God's truth in the face of ISIL?
A word of love as God's truth at this evil?
A word of welcome as God's truth with these immigrants?

Better to go with a way that is tried and true.

Except, of course,
that for however tried and true,
Pilate,
the world's ways
may be,
they haven't worked.
Because the ways of
division,
and hatred,
and fear,
never work.

Which makes the way of truth,
the way of the cross,
not naive.
But strong.

A strong way.
of establishing a wonderfully diverse community
in which Christ is the head.
This body of Christ.
Joined to God's holy people
of every time and every place.
Children of Abraham.
Both Muslims and Jews.

Where, together we see this truth
proclaimed in Pilate's court,
proclaimed here this day:
Love is stronger than evil.
Life is stronger than death.

IV.
Today is the final Sunday of the Church Year.
The last Sunday after Pentecost,
that glorious festival day we celebrated
some 26 weeks ago,
at the close of the great 50 days of Easter.
The day in which we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Saint John's Gospel,
the giving of the Holy Spirit comes
when Jesus enters the upper room
where his disciples,
where the nascent body of Christ
is gathered,
stunned,
locked away
in fear.

"Peace," he says to them.
"Peace be with you."

And he shows them
his hands, and feet and side.
Then, says "Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they retained.

Which is to say,
All those weeks ago we received the Holy Spirit.
Today
--today, when we are wounded--
God calls us to use the gift,
and if we're not able to use it,
be open to it.

For there's no more powerful word than this.
No more truthful word.
Seek to forgive as we have been forgiven.

That's the foundation of peace.
That's the great gift of peace.
That's God's will for us and for the whole world.

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York

FINAL SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR
CHRIST THE KING
November 22, 2015 - Jazz Mass
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
Saint John 18:33-37