Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christ the King

Our friend Cathy is recovering from surgery and I offered to preach in her parish church this coming Sunday. As I read the lessons for Sunday and some commentaries, I learned something I had not known before. In three different stories in Luke's account of the Good News, we find Jesus speaking about today.

Near the beginning of Luke, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and, after reading a passage from Isaiah, 
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
he says,  "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 

Near the end of Luke, we find the story of Jesus' encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus. Jesus is passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem and, in order to get a better view of him, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree. Jesus sees him and says,  “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” After dinner, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” 

In Sunday's lesson, we find the third of these stories. Jesus is on the cross and one of the two men being crucified with him says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus came to "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," to bring us and all creation the Good News of God's unconditional love. Throughout his ministry, that love was made real today, not off in the future, in the sweet bye and bye, but in the present moment. The response of the religious people in the synagogue in Nazareth was to attempt to throw Jesus off a cliff. They could not fathom how Jesus, whom they had watched growing up, could make such an offer. I know that in my own life, and in the lives of people with whom I have been privileged to work and worship, there are times when Jesus' offer is rejected, often because we can't fathom how we could even begin to deserve God's love. But Zacchaeus and the man crucified with Jesus grasped what we so often fail to grasp. It isn't at all about deserving or having played by the rules; it's simply about God's grace, about God's deciding to love us even though we don't deserve that and far too often reject it.

Today this offer is made anew and God yearns for us to accept it.

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