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This Week's Sermon !

November 21, 2021 - Reign of Christ

2 Samuel 23: 1-7
Psalm 13
John 18: 33-37

You Have Reached Your Destination!

In his later years, my father liked to buy second or third hand luxury cars, they were cheap but large and most important, for him, comfortable! None of my little cars would have suited him at all. One of his cars had a trip planner feature which he never used. Nevertheless, every so often a notice appeared on the instrument panel which indicated, “you have reached your destination”. We never figured out where the car thought it was going

I have a stand-alone GPS and if I put in an address it will tell me where to turn, what exit to take, and finally, that I have reached my intended destination; all out loud. Because I like things that are a little quirky, the voice in my GPS is either Ernie or Bert from Sesame Street. Sometimes they argue like only brothers can! My sister hates it!

Sometimes the maps in the GPS are out of sync with reality! The voice might direct you to take a route that is now impossible because they twinned a nearby highway and cut the road off or, like PEI, put in half a dozen traffic circles on that route!! Recent experience tells me that traffic circles are breeding like rabbits on the Island!!! Sometimes a road on the map has not existed for years. When I lived on PEI the GPS often told me to take a road near my home that had not been used in so long that it could only be traveled on horseback or maybe an ATV. I don’t know how it was registered on GPS in the first place! At some point a bridge had washed out and the road decommissioned so the government did not have to replace the bridge; there were lots of other options! The other end of it no longer had a culvert or any indication a road had been there. The farmer who owned the field on that end had long since taken over that part of the road.

As a Christian people we have reached our destination! Last Advent we programmed our GPS for the destination of “Reign of Christ Sunday, 2021", and we have now arrived. COVID and other personal events may have sent us on detours or unwelcome delays. As Advent began we expressed our hopes for a world made new, we celebrated the birth of Jesus and then we watched and listened as this child quickly grew to adulthood and taught with word and action the ways of God’s world. He was executed as a common criminal but raised to life by the power of God. Now, we are there; we have arrived at God’s new world.

Sometimes though, being told that we have arrived at our destination leaves us confused. If I arrived at a business that has just completed a major face-lift I may not recognize it, or it may have moved and a totally different business now occupies that address! One day I searched for Leon’s Furniture which I knew was in Kentville Nova Scotia and I arrived at a retail location for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. Leons had moved to a location near the highway which you can find using the civic address!

Since Advent 1 life may have changed drastically in ways we had not expected. We may no longer be traveling with those who were with us last December! We may have been expecting the destination to look a lot different. We had certainly hoped for a life free from COVID and its fears and restrictions. We had hoped for normal, at least.

As we look at the year ahead and step through the new Advent door we need to realize a couple of things. First off, Advent is not about expecting baby Jesus, it is about expecting the world about which Jesus preached. Secondly and most important; Advent has high hopes; there is nothing small about it!

Often, at the end of the year, news programs air a, “year in review” segment. Businesses prepare annual reports. Political parties give an evaluation of what has been accomplished. Depending on what side of government the writer is, the evaluation will be more or less favourable of their accomplishments.

When leaving politics altogether a leader may give an evaluation and a “keep up the good work” pep-talk along with a vision to his or her successors. Ten years ago this August, Jack Layton knew he would not survive his cancer and wrote an open letter to Canadians that looked both backward and forward and concluded:

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”  

We know that politics divides people but these words seemed to strike a cord even with people who would never even consider voting NDP!

In our reading from 2 Samuel for today we have some of David’s last words. Throughout the pages of the biblical story we have, on the one hand, the teaching that David was God’s choice for king, but on the other hand the record of what battles he and his supporters had to fight to win the throne. The succession was not a cake walk! However, as great as he was, the biblical writers do not shy away from listing his faults; King David was not perfect. He let his power go to his head and, in many cases, he acted with impunity, though certain brave prophets did call him to account for his actions. His life proved true the observation of Lord Acton, a 19th century British politician: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In many places in the world within the present generation, people who are the wrong ethnicity or language live in fear of their lives; as do people who disagree with the leader of their country. Some of these folks have come to Canada as refugees. In some places being related to the supreme leader does not give you privilege; it puts your life in danger. In some Canadian provinces the MLA can get you a seasonal job but if the government changes you just might find that job has gone to someone else!

Today’s Gospel passage sounds like it belongs in Holy Week with the rest of the trial stories about Jesus, yet it calls on us to reflect on the nature of Jesus rule, or as we might traditionally say, “Jesus’ Kingdom” or “realm”. Some have taken Jesus words to mean that Jesus’ realm is heaven or the afterlife or whatever you want to call it. I don’t think that this is what this passage means.

In Advent we must ask ourselves the questions, “Where do we want to go, as individuals and as a society?” I think we make a grave mistake when we assume that that religion is a private matter that concerns only the afterlife, and should not enter the realm of “politics”. I don’t believe that Jesus would have any time for that kind of religion! Jesus was executed because people of power were afraid of his teachings. If those teachings truly caught on, the power dynamics in the world as they knew it would be turned upside down. His ministry upset the religious leaders who had worked out a cosy but hypocritical relationship with the Romans who cared only about their power, conquering more and more territory and collecting as many taxes as possible.

In Canada, “registered charities” do a lot of outreach with regard to poverty: housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, advocating for better working conditions at home and abroad and sending food and other aid in times of natural disasters, to name just a few things. Some charities are faith based and some completely secular. Rules in Canada prohibit charities from being involved in partisan politics. Not that many years ago some charities were cautioned about how they reported thier work and even the words to use. They were cautioned not to say they attempted to eliminate poverty, but alleviating poverty was completely acceptable.

Perhaps the question for us is: what is our world? What do I mean by that? Should we all go off to start a Christian Community off grid and generate our own electricity in a completely eco friendly way? Probably not! While we must abide by the laws of Canada we need to decide what our values are and what it is that we strive for.

I think it was an episode of Dragon’s Den, where one of the dragons said to someone looking for his investment dollars, “all I care about is the money”. In his mind that was the only thing that mattered for a business. What about a good product for a reasonable price? What about a product that truly helped people but was not all that expensive? What about a fair wage or a profit sharing policy for employees? Who was it that decreed that investors are more important than the people who wear the boots on the ground and are on the front lines of the business’ success? A tourist attraction may need a lot of capital but surely those who greet the guests are also responsible for it’s success. To be blunt, “Why do shareholders have so much power?”

When we talk about the “bottom line” why is that “line” is always in dollars and cents?” Why is it that big houses and fancy cars and vacation homes, are considered the measure of success. I saw a headline the other day, “can you retire on $1,000,000? By that standard, I’ll have to be your minister till I’m at least 125 years old! Why can’t everyone have food security? And a home that keeps out the elements (especially here in a Saskatchewan winter)? Not everyone who is poor has made poor choices and some people who are rich started off with far more than many others! Why do farms have to get bigger and bigger and bigger just to survive? Why do multi billionaire families get so much press for their charitable giving when a) they acquired that wealth with questionable or cut throat business practices; and still have more to live on than the entire GDP of many poor countries! Why do some people feel trapped in a cycle of building and buying and having and want to shout out, “Stop the world, I want to get off”.

Why is it that some people feel they are faithful Christians when all they have really done is avoid breaking one of the 10 Commandments or being arrested for breaking a secular law?

Isn’t Jesus’ way about more than that?

It’s not easy to live in a world whose values are not what I would call “Christian” but I think that is exactly the struggle that the yearly cycle from Advent to Reign of Christ calls us to enter. As we try to earn a living, raise families, save for our retirement, be generous with our time and our treasures, and a great myriad of other important things, we have to live in this world but not let it define who we are. Are we out bank account, or our house, or our “net worth” or do we define ourselves as, “by grace a child of God seeking to be faithful to the journey”?

What was our destination? Have we arrived? Or did we get lost along the way? The good news is that we are invited to start over, not just every year, but every time we do a “location check” and want to reprogram our device and start out once again for God’s way.

For this we can say, “thanks be to God.”


1995- 2021 The Rev. Beth W. Johnston.

For some good stuff go to:
journeywithjesus.net-a weekly webzine for the global church

The United Church has a great online bookstore and here is the link. If you live in Canada they will even send you a book display for your event and people who dont get to see that many books at once can have a ball!

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