Today is Reign of Christ Sunday, the last day in the church calendar. The full and official title for this day is The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and we are meant to reflect upon the authority of Jesus over both heaven and earth. It is a revolutionary concept to ascribe kingship to Jesus, because, as he has told us, one cannot serve two masters.
To accept Jesus as our king is to decide which master we will serve, to make our choice as to who we will obey and follow. If we are to choose God as our king then we must serve him before all others, we must submit to his authority. If Jesus is lord, then Caesar is not.
But to serve Jesus is something very different than serving Caesar, or any other master. Where the kings of this world have their authority rooted in power and dominion, Jesus’ authority is rooted in his humility, his forgiveness, and his love.
Jesus was faced with the authority of an earthly king, namely Caesar. Caesar had demonstrated his power and dominion over Jesus and his disciples by a typically human display – with the brutality and fear of crucifixion.
Jesus was only one of many who suffered this fate, the Romans used the cross as a demonstration of their power, they used it to intimidate those who would oppose them.
Criminals were crucified in public, so that all who witnessed would have no doubt that they would share the same fate if they dared disobey, as Jesus had dared to disobey.
Yet, even in his final moment Jesus did not submit to Caesar’s power, he did not submit to fear and hatred. Instead, he practiced forgiveness up until the very end.
He prayed to his heavenly father, asking him to forgive those who were persecuting him, he loved his enemies even with his dying breath, even when they tortured and killed him.
Christ’s reign is one of gentleness and mercy, if we are to submit to his authority, we must first understand the nature of his authority, for it is not the sort of authority we are used to speaking of. His authority is mysterious, it strikes us as contrary to what we know. But it makes perfect sense that the son of God would be mysterious as the father himself is quite mysterious as well.
The great mystery which is God confounds us, every culture throughout history and in every corner of the world has marvelled at the mystery of the heavens, of the depths of the sea, of life and consciousness.
Our knowledge is constantly growing and expanding, yet the more we learn, the more we realize there is to know. It seems that life, the universe, and everything expand infinitely in every direction and every dimension.
Contained within every handful of dirt is an entire ecosystem of microscopic life, and our entire planet is a mere speck of dust floating in the wind when compared to vastness of the heavens.
It can boggle the mind to imagine how large we are in comparison to an entire society of ants living in a little hill in a pasture, our world is so large to them that it’s likely they have no idea how we live.
Yet we are reminded of how small we are when we look to the heavens, how small we feel when we look out into the night sky and realise that each one of those little stars is a powerful sun in its own right with entire worlds revolving around them.
Many of them are so far away that they could have been dead for millennia and we would not know it yet, and many more stars have been born but the light will take countless more generations to reach us here.
The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth in the familiar story from Genesis, and the Gospel according to Saint John tells us that Jesus was there with him. In John’s Gospel Jesus is often referred to as the living word of God. The Gospel opens with these famous words:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Let’s take a look at the beginning of Genesis and see if we can figure out John was talking about. The book of Genesis, and indeed the entire Bible, open with these words:
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”
There are some clear parallels here between the two passages. In the excerpt from Genesis God speaks and light is created. John refers to the word which was the creative force in the beginning. Here we see that John is saying Jesus is the voice of God, the word of God, which was spoken and created all life.
God separated the light from the darkness in Genesis just as John said “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” Both are referring to the same moment. In the first chapter of Genesis every time God created something he did so by speaking it into existence, the word of God was the creative force which gave form to existence and life to all creatures.
To understand Jesus as the word of God we must accept a certain amount of mystery. The title “the word of God” is a metaphor for one aspect of God’s creative force. God is too vast to speak about, let alone comprehend, without the use of metaphor.
To expect a human mind to understand God would be no different than expecting an ant, living its little life in its little hill somewhere to understand quantum mechanics or particle physics.
We can only speak of God with metaphor. This metaphor, which is understanding God as speaking the world into existence helps us wrap our minds around a concept which is far too large for us to properly understand.
With all the vastness of creation, there is no limit to knowledge, the universe is infinite and somehow God is even larger than that. God brought about infinity and so he is even farther beyond our understanding.
And so, today on The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe Sunday, we reflect on the authority of Jesus, as the living word of God, as the creative power behind existence itself, as the artist who sculpted this beautiful world we live in, and we stand in awe of what that means. We stand in awe because we cannot ever hope to understand the mystery which is the universe, let alone the even greater mystery which created it.
Isaac Newton, the father of modern physics, once said:
“I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble… whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me”
And we are like children staring at the stars, in awe of their beauty, yet completely unable to understand them. We are mere flecks of dust floating in the wind and all we can do is look up at the heavens and praise God for his greatness, for giving order to the universe, for giving life to us and all who came before us and all who will come after us.
And if we truly wish to praise the mystery then we must follow in Christ’s footsteps when he became a man for a brief moment to help us understand, not how the universe was made, or what the limits of knowledge are, but how we are to relate to creation.
Jesus did not try to explain to us how he created reality, but instead he told us how to live in it, how to respect it, and how to live in harmony with all of creation.
The Word of God has spoken, and it wants us to live lives of humility, forgiveness, compassion, and love. These commands were spoken with the authority of the mystery itself, and therefore are infinitely more important than the commands of any earthly king.
Today we affirm that our allegiance is to the creative power of life, not the petty squabbling of earthly kings. Today we commit ourselves to the love above and beyond all other things, for love and sacrifice are the laws of God and God is the true authority, always has been, and always will be.
I would like to end our time together this morning with a prayer written by Oliver Holmes.
Lord of all being, throned afar,
thy glory flames from sun and star;
center and soul of every sphere,
yet to each loving heart how near!
Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
sheds on our path the glow of day;
star of our hope, thy softened light
cheers the long watches of the night.
Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn,
our noontide is thy gracious dawn,
our rainbow arch thy mercy’s sign;
all, save the clouds of sin, are thine.
Lord of all life, below, above,
whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
before thy ever-blazing throne
we ask no luster of our own.
Grant us thy truth to make us free,
and kindling hearts that burn for thee,
till all thy living altars claim
one holy light, one heavenly flame.
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