In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Today is the end of the long season of green. Next week we enter into Advent as we anticipate the coming of Christ. But today, we are not green, we are white in celebration of Christ the King. Today we celebrate the reign of Christ—the King of kings and Lord of lords who reigns over all. We pray in our collect that “[all] the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule.”
When you think of the people of the earth, what do they look like in your mind’s eye? Me? My loved ones easily come to mind. I daily pray for God’s protection of my family and friends—that he would guide, defend, and interact in their lives. I’m sure you do the same. It’s perfectly natural to pray for these people whom we love, and immediacy is always the easiest.
But this does not nearly cover all the peoples of the earth, so of course we extend out gaze to our covenant partners in prayer—the Diocese of Northern Malawi and La Gran Familia orphanage in Mexico. Now we are looking beyond our borders and asking God to look favorably on other members of the world. Awesome.
And we could go on, but how far do we regularly extend this prayer? The further we extend our prayers the foggier the image becomes. The people immediately in our lives are easiest because their faces and the issues of their lives are clearest in our mind. Those whom we link ourselves in prayer by covenant are less clear, but I regularly chat with Fr. Zowani on Facebook and I see pictures of him and his family, and I went on a mission trip to Mexico in high school and saw La Gran Familia in its infancy stages. So these images are not so distant, but still less clear than the images of you all—my Church family.
If we extend the circle much further and it becomes more difficult to pray with much gusto because the people do not have a clearly defined face when I imagine them. But sure, when things come up, we pray for the faceless person in need—that God will protect them and deliver them from the danger they face, and even we pray for their conversion as our collect alludes.
And if we were to extend the circle much further then we come to a dangerous places for us. We come to the people who scare us. We have essentially prayed our way around them, and stop at their door as if they have some sort of blood on their door posts that would prevent God’s blessing from coming upon them. Currently this group of people reside in the Middle East. “Turn the sand to glass” is a constant refrain.
The problem with this is these people, no matter how much they scare us and threaten our safety, are people for whom Christ died. In the words of the great philosopher Pete from The Muppets Take Manhattan: “Peoples is peoples.” These people have become a very real threat globally, and that is scary. And now people in some of those areas have chosen to flee the area and to take refuge in other countries—even our own. And this is scary. What if someone squeezes through the cracks and uses the good will of others to cause harm to those who would help them—namely us?
The problem is: “Peoples is peoples.” Each person has the same God-given dignity and is just as loved by God. Those who flee are trying to protect their families the same as we would should, God forbid, a similar thing happen on our soil. We are taking a very real risk opening our doors and providing shelter from the storm. But, there is risk in everything we do.
In driving, we risk the fact that other drivers will ignore the rules and put us in danger. Or we risk that someone will have a mechanical failure, potentially resulting in our injury, or even our death. But we need to go places so that is a risk we take.
One of my favorite guys to listen to Dr. Bill Creasy, regularly refers to Homer’s the Iliad in his teaching of the Bible. He does this to point out the difference between the Greek gods and men. The gods are immortal and as immortals they cannot be heroic. The ability to be heroic is to have the risk of death as a real possibility, yet still rush in anyway. The hero, Achilles, is given a choice, long life and anonymity or glory and death. He could not have both, so he knew that proceeding forward would require his death, yet on he went.
Creasy uses this to inform us of the heroism of Jesus’ death. Jesus knew that his path would require his death, yet he faced his death willingly. And in doing so defeated death. And today we celebrate the results of his heroic death that gave us life. This was foretold by Daniel, “And as I looked, the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned.” This is ultimately Jesus’ triumph over the ruler of this world, Satan.
But the text goes on, “As for the rest of the beats, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.” In the interim between Jesus’ victory over Satan and its ultimate realization at the end of time, there will be evil. Look at the world around us, this is a reality—evil still exists.
But there will come a day when Christ will step back into history, but this time he will not come as redeemer, he will come as judge. He will ultimately strike down evil with a final blow and once this is done we will all stand in judgment for our deeds and all the wrongs will be made right.
Until that time, there will be evil in the world. Bad people will seek to usurp good deeds for their purposes, but that should not prevent us from doing the good. We are called to be heroes for the faith and to pursue the Kingdom of God even at the expense of our own lives. Which means there will be risks in doing the will of God.
If we follow God’s will of protecting those who cannot protect themselves, then there is a chance that someone will take advantage and try to harm us. But this does not reduce our responsibility as Christians toward our fellow human beings. Each person is made in God’s image. It does not matter how much we like them, or where they come from, or the burden that they would cause. Each person is made in God’s image and is loved by God, so much so that he died for their sins. That is the problem with Christianity, Jesus died just as much for the people we like as the people we dislike.
War, even a just war, clouds our perspective because our warrior mentality takes over. It becomes us versus them, and it is very real because they are trying to kill us. But our desire to win a war does not release us from Christian responsibility—it merely makes it more difficult. Because now there is a face to the people but it is a face that is both feared and hated. But we are called beyond that face to see the person, loved by God—though that person may not even worship him or even acknowledge his existence—and we are called to minister to the sojourner.
I point this out today, not to go all political, or to tell us that we should not take some precautions, but remind us that Christian duty to humanity does not cease to exist in war, nor does it come without risk. Christianity is not easy. It requires something of us. And sometimes the thing that is required of us goes against what our brain tells us is right. But he does call us to be heroic in the face of death. But we do so not on our own, but with the knowledge of the fact that Christ is our King, and that he has ultimately defeated death, so if following him should result in our death, he has made it so that this will not be our end. We are called to further his kingdom so that “[all] the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule.” And we can do so, by showing Christian charity to all whom God loved enough to create.
“The waters of chaos and evil are all around the waters have lifted up, O LORD, the waters have lifted up their voice; * the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the sound of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, * mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.
Your testimonies are very sure, * and holiness adorns your house, O LORD, for ever and for evermore.”
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.