And of course, you're correct.
Liturgically, the Christian calendar ends this Sunday with "Reign of Christ" or "Christ the King" Sunday. As we tell the story of Jesus in worship throughout the year, we are getting ready to begin again, looking toward the birth of Jesus with the four Sundays of Advent. So at the end of the Christian year, we look toward how Jesus is Lord of all creation at the end of time.
As we finish with Year C, we've been looking primarily at Luke's Gospel (we do jump around with John's Gospel in each liturgical year). We will begin Advent back in Year A with the emphasis on Matthew. But we have to finish first with Year C and this week's reading will be Luke 23:33-43. For those who don't have the Bible memorized (I realize there are a few of you) or don't have time to click the link, this is a recount of Jesus on the cross. He's having a conversation with the two bandits crucified with him.
Did I mention that this is Reign of Christ Sunday?
|Altötting, Panorama Kreuzigung Christi von Gebhard Fugel, Detail|
This may seem like an odd passage to emphasize. Out of the whole of Luke's Gospel, this is the one we feature for how Jesus is in charge of the universe?
If it were me and the leaders were mocking me, I sure wouldn't forgive them of their sins. Or if a bandit kept taunting me, I would have a quick word of rebuke in response. Yet Jesus remains silent.
Maybe he is in charge after all.
He doesn't let his outrage or vengeance rule over him. He doesn't force belief on those around him. They have a choice to behave - just as we all do.
Yet, Jesus gives the example of one who serves the world, giving his very life. I think this shows that God was not the one who demanded the sacrifice in order to forgive. Jesus forgives them before he's even dead. This shows us that human beings demand blood from time to time. In that time, a sacrificial culture linked blood sacrifice with forgiveness. Christian theology showed that if this is what people needed to accept forgiveness, then God is willing in Jesus Christ to die as the sacrificial lamb (O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.).
Of course, the resurrection adds to the suspension of evil and injustice winning out.
We see resurrection taking place even here on the cross.
With God's help, I can forgive those who injure me. I have this wonderful example of a Lord who is not worried about accolades. He doesn't even feel the need to defend himself because love is stronger than hate.
That's a reign that is difficult to comprehend.
But it is a reign I can get behind.
Happy New Year!
Picture by Allie_Caulfield from Germany [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons