Christ the King C: Amen

Christ the KingOLD TESTAMENT:  Jeremiah 23: 1-6

Read the passage from Jeremiah

The “shepherds” here, as opposed to the ones to which we are accustomed to joining us at the stable in a few weeks, are probably Judah’s kings or other high-ranking leaders.  The indictment speaks indirectly to the royal houses of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, Israel’s last two kings.  Jeremiah says that neither shepherd called the sheep to account, so YHWH is calling them to account.  They are indicted for scattering the sheep in YHWH’s pasture by allowing injustices to exist and causing the people to drift away from their identity as God’s people.  So, the pastoral number will be reduced to a single branch, a “shoot” of the Davidic line, whose reign shall succeed as the reigns of Judah’s present kings have not done.  And under this new Davidic shoot, the future king will reign over a united Judah and Israel (such as existed under King David).  Finally, all will be one.

The prophet’s words sound harsh and full of lament.  The warning comes with an opportunity to learn from the failure of past leadership.  Their responsibility was to lead the people and the nation in their relationship with God.  They have failed.  But there’s another point to this.  The leader cannot lead without the gifts of the people.  The people, too, have failed.  They have not used their gifts; they have not been who God has called them to be.  The underlying implication is that the people had lost their relationship with God.  But with the new Davidic line, the “righteous Shepherd” will bring the people back to the God who wants to be in relationship with them.

The end of the church year has traditionally been a time to be confronted with the judgment of God, not so much to cower in fear, but rather to take stock of ourselves, to seek change, and to seek forgiveness and amendment of life.  We can’t help but ask the question, “Is it I, Lord?” when hearing this text.  No one is totally off the hook. While those with greater responsibility have greater accountability, all of us in democratic governments bear responsibility for the common good. All of us in a church, made up of the priesthood of all believers, bear responsibility for the well-being of all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even more so than in the ancient world, this text becomes for us an equal-opportunity accuser.

But the good news applies to us too. There is a new reign that is coming to be as it sweeps through Creation.  The Kingdom of God has truly come near.  God is now the shepherd and will raise up faithful leaders, a “righteous branch” that will bring the reign to be.  It is a new beginning that will transform the world.

The reading fits well for Christ the King Sunday as we wrap up our Lectionary year.  We have been given everything and yet we are still not what we should be.  But God has not given up on us.  Emmanuel, God with us, is coming soon.

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does this say about leadership, even in our time?
  3. How does this speak to our own responsibility for bringing in the fullness of the Kingdom of God?

 

NEW TESTAMENT:  Colossians 1: 11-20

Read the passage from The Letter to the Colossians

Paul (or probably another teacher writing to the community with the same concerns) speaks to the church in Colossae, a community surrounded by a polytheistic culture that was terrified that if they didn’t appease these spirits that so many knew, they would be subject to disease and poverty and darkness.  So, their Christian teachings had to compete with the values and beliefs (even religious ones) that were swirling around the current culture. So the writer wants to make it abundantly clear that Christ is not just one among many competing approaches to life, not just the first among equals: Christ is at the very center of the meaning of everything, for all people. The question of Jesus Christ is of the most important thing in the lives of his followers.  It is not just something that we think about on Sunday morning, or when someone asks us what church we attend, but a question that shapes our whole life. For the early Christians, and for us today, following Jesus is a big-time “game-changer.” Or, to put it in ancient terms, as Neta Pringle does, the writer of this letter says that being a Christian “is not simply a matter of fitting Jesus into our present way of thinking. We are transferred, moved, deported, from one kingdom to another. Nothing is as we have known it” (Feasting on the Word).

We, too, have “unseen spirits”—the powers of greed and fear, of war and violence, of addiction and commercialism.  We live in a world of exaggerated individualism where we have forgotten about each other and excessive materialism where we have forgotten what is important.  The author of this letter is no harsh teacher but has the heart of a pastor. In response to the fears and confusion of the ancient Colossians, the writer is really kind and compassionate, bringing hope into what was a really scary world.  We are the same.  Christ is truly King over any powers that may come into your life.

In our individual experience, it seems that when a few things fall apart, the whole apparatus of life threatens to collapse. That’s what I see happening whenever people lose their center and forget the comforting quality of the Lord’s presence. It is amazing what a few days of poor test results or unresponsive medication will do. One’s whole world can seem to disintegrate. All coping mechanisms seem to go into hiding.

If I have one prayer for those who are entering critical surgery, it is this: That the peace of Christ will somehow hold the life of this patient and his or her loved ones together. Not physically together, as if no one in the family can afford to die, but spiritually together, as in that incomprehensible peace of Christ that can find its settling way into human hearts.

When chaos strikes, faith-filled people look for ways to quit idolizing their fears. They seek strategies for pulling life back together. The challenge for most of us is to make the priority of Christ more than mere words. Who needs more talk of making Christ first in our lives? The world is full of religious talk. We need instead to act, to live as if Christ were indeed the head of the body, and not some extra equipment we strap on when it’s “third and long.”

In Bibles that provide chapter headings, this section of Colossians may be titled “The Supremacy of Christ,” or something similar. This is the Christ in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Nothing of God is held back or left out of the person of Jesus. Though God once was content to dwell in places like Sinai, Zion or the Temple, now God is in a person. Everything that God is, and cares about, now resides in Jesus Christ. Christ is the face or the image of the invisible God.

Western culture has so thoroughly domesticated Christ that it takes some imagination to see the cosmic Christ of Colossians. We have whittled him down to the size of a pocket charm, confining him to the containers of our own ethnic, economic and political instincts. Chumminess is in; grandeur is out, We want a version of God that bears some resemblance to ourselves.

Fosteria, Ohio, made news in 1986 when a local resident saw an image of Christ on the rusting side of a soybean oil storage tank. Archer Daniels Midland was suddenly on the religion page. Hundreds of cars lined Route 12 on August evenings, full of curiosity seekers waiting to sneak a peek. As one local named Jimmy noted, “It’s real. The image looks like me, but I’ve always had long hair and a beard.” With more profundity than he may have ever realized, Jimmy spoke for all of us who unwittingly like to see Christ reflecting the image of our own lives.

The way to reorder jumbled lives and hold meaning together in the face of chaos, however, is not to see the fullness of ourselves in Christ. It is to cherish the fullness of God dwelling in Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, the one who holds all things together, the glue that makes Christ the King Sunday so important. (From “Super Glue”, by Peter W. Marty, in “The Christian Century”, November 16, 2004, available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3105, accessed 17 November, 2010)

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What are the “unseen powers” of our own world and our own lives?
  3. What, in light of this passage, does the Kingdom of God mean to you?

 

 

GOSPEL:  Luke 23: 33-43

Read the Passage from the Gospel According to Luke

Another difficult text…(Did I go to sleep and wake up on Good Friday?) This is the chapter of the story that some of us, rather than hearing the heartbreaking account again, would rather just check out and go get another popcorn and return when the story begins to become more palatable.  We are prepared to hear this story read on Good Friday but, here, this should be a happy Sunday.  After all, we are crowning Christ the King.  And here we read of what can only be characterized as a brutal defeat.  And yet, when you think about it, it’s the climax of Jesus’ ministry.  There on the cross, a rejected and defiled Jesus hangs bleeding and thirsting.  And, yet, the writer of this Gospel depicts Jesus with all of his wits about him.  And praying…praying not for salvation or even a relief in the surely unbearable pain that he was experiencing and definitely not for vengeance to be brought upon those who had inflicted it. At his lowest point, Jesus, rather than decreeing self-pity or anger or vengeance, showered unconditional forgiveness upon the world who had put him there.  All that Jesus had been born to be was in this moment of the most incredible self-giving, self-denying act that anyone could ever do.

And the writer known as Luke tells us that, in effigy, the inscription ordaining Jesus as King is placed over the spot where he hung.  For those who did not get it and for those who don’t today, it is a joke.  On the surface, it makes the story harder to read, as if our team has lost that game.  But at a much deeper level, there is a profound irony to it all.  Because this is truly Jesus’ crowning glory.

And then we are told of the thief hanging there with him that asked for mercy from this one who in this moment he truly knew was the Christ.  Jesus’ response did not include asking him what he had done with his life.  He did not demand either a confession or a profession.  There was no “if” attached to his answer—no condition of “if you clean up your life” or “if you promise to stop doing what you do or being who you are”.  None of that mattered.  Because in this moment, the man that history has never named anything but “Thief” entered the story that we call the Gospel and was promised eternal life.

You see, it’s not about what we do or who we are.  It’s about becoming the story, becoming the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  It’s not about placing a crown on the head of our King but about becoming part of the Coronation, part of that image of Christ the King.  It’s not about proclaiming Christ as King but about being the presence of Christ in this world.  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, God with Us.  And now we know that’s exactly where God is.  It’s about entering the story.

In 1741, a well-known German composer living in England received a letter from a friend of his.  The letter contained a compilation of Old Testament and New Testament passages.  The composer was so moved by the words and the story that they held that he locked himself in his study and spent the next 24 days composing the work that we know as “The Messiah”.  When speaking of those 24 days in Late Summer, 1741, one of Handel’s servants was said to have described him with these words:  “He was praying, or he was weeping, or he was staring into eternity.”

If you’ve had an opportunity to hear the whole thing, you know that it begins without words, drawing you into the story, as if reminding you that all of Creation began in silence until God spoke it into being.  And Creation continued through exile and deliverance, through destruction and recreation…and grew and struggled and desperately searched for renewal.  But God remained veiled in awe and mystery with the promise that God will come when God will come and shake things to their very core, ripping apart what we think is good, what we think is just, what we think is right and righteous, and, like a refiner’s fire, transforming everything in Creation’s path.  And, always waiting…waiting on a promise yet to be fulfilled.

We are told that darkness will come but that light is just over the horizon.  And then the announcement comes…the world is with child.  Emmanuel, God with us…no longer hidden, no longer veiled.  And the earth rang out.  And we are invited to follow.  The coming begins our going.  The work begins.  The child grows and shows us not merely what to do to gain a place in heaven, but the very Way to God, the way to usher in the fullness of being for all of Creation.  But it is sometimes hard for us to change.  God has not just come to show us how to live; Christ has come to take away the sin, the brokenness, the darkness of the world.  And then we hear the Gospel for today set to music and for a few bars following we live in requiem.  And then the stone is rolled back and our eternity begins.  We are drawn into sacred space.  Handel depicts it as a door in heaven opening as we are ushered into the throne room of God.  And God is there, veiled in awe and mystery.

And then there is a sound…The angels—angels upon angels, in Handel’s depiction, a “myriad”, as the NRSV puts it sing with full voice.  And all of Creation, even the thief,  is summoned into the story, to sing with highest praise…”Forever and ever and ever”…Amen.

“Amen” does not mean “the end”.  In Hebrew, it means “indeed, truly”.  Indeed truly, our lives have just begun as the glory of the Lord is revealed and Christ is crowned the King of glory.  You see…it’s more than a story…Handel had it right…it’s a glimpse into eternity.  And in our praying and in our weeping and in our staring right at it, God comes.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And with each passing season, we come a little bit closer to seeing that part that is ours to build and tell.  Amen, indeed!

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does the notion of “Christ the King” mean to you?
  3. What responsibility or part do you play in the coronation?
  4. What things do we let get in the way of the Christ having first place in our lives?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

We must remind ourselves that, though our lives are small and our acts seem insignificant, we are generative elements of this universe, and we create meaning with each act that we perform or fail to perform. (Kent Nerburn, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace)

If the meaning could be put into a sentence, there would be no need of telling the story. (Henry Van Dyke)

 

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.  I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.  (Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

 

Closing

 

Waiting for the “when” keeps me from appreciating what I now have.  Longing for promises and dreaming dreams is not a harmful deed as long as the present moment is not overlooked, as long as gratitude rises for what is already here, as long as I do not base my happiness on what is still wanting.  Thankfulness for what has already been given is the foundation for hoping for what is not yet.

Today I am going to put aside my “when this happens” and my “if only this could be” and my “when things get better” and my “as soon as I have this.”  I am going to harvest what I now have, gather all the many gifts that are already mine.  I am going to observe what has been placed in the granary of my heart and marvel at the abundance.

I will stand before this heap of blessings and take a long, grateful look.  I will say farewell to my “when” and be thankful for what is.

 

May an abundance of gratitude burst forth as you reflect upon what you have received.

May thanksgiving overflow in your heart, and often be proclaimed in your prayer.

May you gather around the table of your heart the ardent faithfulness, kindness, and

goodness of each person who is true to you.

May the harvest of your good actions bring forth plentiful fruit each day.

May you discover a cache of hidden wisdom among the people and events that have

 brought you distress and sorrow.

May your basket of blessings surprise you with its rich diversity of gifts and its

            opportunities for growth.

May all that nourishes and resources your life bring you daily satisfaction and renewed

 hope.

May you slow your hurried pace of life so that you can be aware of, and enjoy, what you

            too easily take for granted.

May you always be open, willing, and ready to share your blessings with others.

May you never forget the Generous One who loves you lavishly and unconditionally.

 

(Joyce Rupp, “When” and “A Thanksgiving Blessing”, from Out of the Ordinary:  Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season, (Notre Dame, ID:  Ave Maria Press, 1999), 206-207.)

 

 

Proper 28C: New

PeaceableKingdom-John-August-Swanson
Peaceable Kingdom, by John August Swanson

OLD TESTAMENT:  Isaiah 65: 17-25

Read the passage from Isaiah

In this week’s reading, there are three familiar motifs:  the recurring theme of comparing the former and latter things, the glorification of Zion, and the theme of the shalom and peace of God’s holy mountain.  The theme of a new creation, of a new Jerusalem, of joy replacing weeping, of life overcoming death abounds in this reading from near the end of Isaiah. The passage is part of the closing sequence not only of the third major section of Isaiah (Isaiah 56-66, known as Third Isaiah) but of the book of Isaiah itself. Some writers have drawn comparisons between Isaiah 65-66 and Isaiah 1, seeing these chapters as “book-ends” enclosing the whole and bringing it to a conclusion.

Today’s reading echoes the restoration of Jerusalem in other parts of Isaiah.  There is a sense that in Isaiah 65-66 not only do the last 11 chapters draw to a close but that all the themes of the previous 66 chapters–judgment, salvation, and further judgment–have their conclusion here with the promise of a new creation.  The reading also needs to be set in the context of Isaiah 65-66. Verse 17 begins as if it is a development of what has gone before.

The chapter begins in vv. 1-7 (prior to this week’s reading) with a statement by the Lord that the people have rejected the Lord, worshiped idols and participated in all sorts of foreign practices. The Lord’s statement bears all the marks of frustration at the people’s rejection, of anguish over their foolishness, and of suffering their abuse. It ends with words that are both just and angry as God contemplates the punishment of the people. The Lord no longer calls them “my people” but “a people” or “a rebellious people”.   But then a change occurs.  Even if this people do not know what repentance is about, the Lord does and that is their hope. The Lord leaves off executing his punishment for the sake of those servants among the people who do remain faithful. For the sake of the ones the Lord calls “my servants’, “my chosen’, and “my people who have sought me” the prophet says the Lord will delay his just anger and reserve its outworking for those who continue to rebel against him. The central section then ends with the Lord called “the God of faithfulness”.

This faithfulness of God (even sometimes in the face of the faithlessness of God’s people) is what is described in this week’s reading with its emphasis on newness and joy. The Lord will now delight in “my people”. All that destroys life will pass away – weeping, distress, premature death, unfulfilled hopes, injustice, robbery, pillage, even genocide. Some of the imagery comes from the ancient context of a people caught up in the atrocities of war as foreign armies march through their land decimating the countryside, its crops, herds, villages, towns and cities, and slaughtering the population. The prophet is speaking about the most horrible experiences and even these things will be overcome by the faithfulness of the Lord.

Every Sunday of every year Christians recite the Lord’s Prayer. They could say it in their sleep; I often wonder if some do! Rather like the “Gary, Indiana” in Meredith Wilson’s classic musical, The Music Man, that prayer sort of “trips along softly on the tongue this way.” In other words it just comes out without a whole lot of thought. But one of the requests we make in that prayer is fraught with power and rife with implications for us and for our world. It happens early on: “Thy Kingdom come,” we ask. We say we want God to come now and reign over us; we want God to rule in our lives. We want no longer to rely on our own resources to make our own way in the world. I want to be honest with you; sometimes when I say that, I have another voice in the corner of my mind saying, “But not today! I rather like the way I am directing things at the moment, God. Maybe tomorrow, please!”

…The wolf and the lamb shall feed together;  The lion will eat straw like the ox . . .

Well, isn’t that all grand? And just when can we all expect to see this magnificent reign of God? Just exactly when will terrorists stop their destructive hate and sue for peace? Just when will preventable childhood diseases finally be prevented so infants do live full lives? Just when will cancer be eradicated so that old people can live to be 100? When will there be food enough for all, houses enough for all, good and enriching work for all? Just what are we all to learn from this expansive dream of the reign of God?

I think we learn this. When a Christian and a Muslim sit down to eat and talk, it is a sign of the rule of God. When people band together to begin the eradication of malaria in Africa, it is a sign of the reign of God. When prostate cancer deaths are reduced to increasingly smaller fractions, it is a sign of the reign of God. When millions are fed, when Habitat for Humanity builds another 100 houses, these are signs of the reign of God. Isaiah 65:17-25 is a sign and seal of the certainty of the coming reign of God. It is a divine vision that we can never fail to hold before us, reminding us of our part in the dream and reminding us of God’s constant work to make that dream a reality. “Thy kingdom come,” we say, and it will, oh, yes, it will.  (Excerpt from “Thy Kingdom Come:  Reflections on Isaiah 65: 17-25, by John C. Holbert, available at http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Thy-Kingdom-Come-Reflections-on-Isaiah.html, accessed 10 November, 2010)

This new creation will be the peace that the Lord envisions and for which God works.  It is not “putting things back” the way they were before; it is recreating something new—a new Creation, a new peace unlike any we’ve ever experienced before, a new life.  Death and violence are consumed by harmony and peace and life.  Justice reigns.  Everyone has what they need and those who have always had more than they need are finally satisfied.  All labor will be rich and fulfilling.  The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, without one taking advantage of or consuming the other.  The lion shall eat straw like the ox and both will be satisfied without needing more.  None of us will ever again hurt or destroy another.  All of Creation is resurrected.   You know, we were shown that before.  I wonder when we’ll finally get it.

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What is your vision of this “new Creation”?
  3. How willing, really, do you think we are to embrace newness, embrace change?

NEW TESTAMENT:  2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13

Read the text from 2 Thessalonians

As we said last week, this is penned as Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica, but in all likelihood it may have been written by a follower of Paul’s who sought to protect Paul’s foundations that had been so carefully laid before.  The point is that the church at Thessalonica was apparently experiencing some idleness and probably some boredom when it came to faith. (Imagine!)  The practice of the faith had become routine.  Prayer had become a rote monologue.  This is not what we had in mind.

The truth was that things had gone on for a while.  Maybe it was becoming a little too rote, a little too routine.  Maybe it has been a while since the Holy Spirit has been allowed in the heavy front doors.  Perhaps the church was in need of some new creative dynamics to show people the grace of God through Christ.  In fact, some of the members of the faith community are just flat letting others down by refusing to contribute to the community by working.  The writer is not advocating that they be kicked out of the church though, but rather that they be brought back in and nurtured in the faith.  But life in community requires that everyone be enabled and encouraged to work.  Actually, leaving someone out of the work is essentially demeaning.  Finding a way to engage everyone is a sign and means of grace.

There is a little bit of an interpretive question here.  It is possible that the problem addressed is more “disorderliness”, rather than “idleness”; in other words, the problem of one walking “without order” and not as part of the faith community.  Either way, this was not the way to build the Kingdom of God.  There is a “rhetoric of obedience” as Abraham Smith at Perkins put it.  It is not that there is one way to walk or one way to act; just that each one must work within the community to build together this vision of God, this peaceable kingdom.  It is an act of hospitality and an act of inclusion.  It is becoming faithful people in the midst of a faithful community.  It doesn’t mean that we all look the same or think the same.  It just means that we love each other enough to want the best for each other; it means that we love God so much that we can only imagine being who God calls us to be—all of us.  Nothing else makes sense.

Elizabeth Barrington Forney says that “these [very] thoughts bear important implications for much of our congregational life.  The church who participates in a feeding ministry might wonder if the guests who are willing and able are being given ample opportunity to serve alongside church members in preparation and serving of the meals.  Is a disparity being created that makes guests dependent on being served?…There is ample opportunity in this text both for instruction about compassion and for a prophetic call to partnership in ministry.” (From Feasting on the Word, p. 307)

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What do you think happens when one or when a whole community experiences “idleness”?
  3. Does it change the meaning if you think of the warning as one against “disorderliness”?
  4. What do you think of the implication of involving those to whom we minister in ministry? What sort of vision does that bring about for you? How would that change our ministry?

 

 

GOSPEL:  Luke 21: 5-19

Read the passage from the Gospel According to Luke

This is, needless to say, a difficult text.  But, despite how we may read it, it is not meant to be a prediction of the future.  It was written to a persecuted and frustrated minority that lived under the thumb of the Roman Empire.  They were feeling as if the veritable end of their world had come.  And some, perhaps at the prodding of the disciples, were looking to the temple, the center of their world and their life, the symbol of God’s very presence in their midst, a shining thing of beauty in an otherwise dark world.  But then they were told not to look there for it, too, would fall away.  Instead, the writer of Luke is telling them to listen to Jesus and trust in Jesus.  We didn’t read the first four verses of this chapter but they portray the account of the widow with two coins.  Jesus is essentially saying:  “Not the temple!  Look at her!  Look what living a life of faith means!”

So the passage that we read begins with that prediction of destruction.  From Luke one senses sadness rather than smugness. Just a few chapters later, we would read the account of Jesus weeping over a city that would not listen and would not change course.   Instead they wanted concrete evidence of exactly when this would happen and some had begun to listen to messianic “fortune-tellers”, if you will, that claimed to have all the answers.  Like today, there were those who were easily swayed with predictions of “doomsday”, with the foretelling of the end at hand.

Remember, Jesus never promised that following this Way would be easy.  And despite what some would claim, there is no known timetable of when something will happen.  But it is a reminder for us of the God who triumphed over chaos over and over again.  Jesus is not calling them to be martyrs or heroes—just faith-filled followers.  All of the other usual symbols will eventually fall by the wayside.  But Jesus promises that he will remain as a holy presence with the wisdom to persevere.

I don’t really think Jesus was telling the future (regardless of the fact that those beautiful stones were indeed soon destroyed).  Perhaps Jesus was just saying, you know…this is not easy.  Life happens.  Bad things happen.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, can take me away from you.  Just hang on!  The Sabbath is coming!

David Livingstone, the legendary missionary to Africa, prayed, “Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me.  Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.”  And he testified, “What has sustained me is the promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  This is the promise that Jesus conveys.

And when the world does shake to an end, whether it’s through natural decay or we humans just blowing the whole thing up, there’s always something more.  The truth is, the temple WAS destroyed.  And the great Roman Empire collapsed into history.  But the story has not diminished.  “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

 

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What things are we tempted to hold onto in our world, hoping for something better?
  3. What does this passage say about the church itself?
  4. What does this passage call us to do?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

True hope isn’t blind…The messianic hope for the new world looks into the future with its eyes wide open.  But it sees more than what can be seen on the horizon of history.  The Indonesian word for hope means “looking through the horizon to what is beyond.”  True hope looks beyond the apocalyptic horizons of our modern world to the new creation of all things in the kingdom of God’s glory.  (Jurgen Moltmann, from The Source of Life:  The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life)

A dreamer is one who can find [his or her] way in the moonlight, and [whose] punishment is that [he or she] sees the dawn before the rest of the world.  (Oscar Wilde)

 

The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realization in our day-to-day lives.  Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises.  Every time we forgive our neighbor, every time we make a child smile, every time we show compassion to a suffering person, every time we arrange a bouquet of flowers, offer care to tame or wild animals, prevent pollution, create beauty in our homes and gardens, and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations we are making the vision come true. (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)

 

 

Closing

 

Give us, O God, the strength to build the city that hath stood too long a dream, whose laws are love, whose crown is servanthood, and where the sun that shineth is God’s grace for human good.  Already in the mind of God that city riseth fair; lo, how its splendor challenges the souls that greatly dare; yea, bids us seize the whole of life and build its glory there.  Amen. (From “O Holy City, Seen of John” (vs. 4-5), by Walter Russell Bowie, The United Methodist Hymnal # 726)