If in fact Christ is king it means that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the sheep not the wolves.
According to Jesus the kingdom of heaven is full of even toed ungulate quadrupedal ruminants (i.e. sheep). There are about one billion sheep in the world. They were one of the earliest domesticated animals. They are raised for their fleece, their meat (the lowest in cholesterol of all red meat), and their milk. In addition their guts make excellent strings for tennis rackets (it take eleven sheep to make one racket). The wool produced by sheep is the most widely used animal fiber in the world, and sheep husbandry is practiced though out the majority of the planet. There was even a time, during the presidential term of Woodrow Wilson, when sheep grazed on the White House lawn. Their symbolic meaning as an animal that gives its all is so pervasive that in times past and present they were and are seen as the ‘sacrificial animal.’
The kingdom is full of those who give their all. The kingdom is full of sacrificial animals. The kingdom is built on what is given up.
Oddly enough, the sheep who give their all, who sacrifice, are the ones blessed by God. It doesn’t seem that way. Even toed, ungulate, quadrupedal ruminants appear to have it pretty rough. One day their fluffy white bodies are grazing on serene grassy hills dotted with glacial rocks, the next day they are sheered naked, or butchered, roasted, and served with a side of mint jelly, or ravaged and ripped to pieces by a pack of blood thirsty predators. Yet at the coming of the kingdom, the king will say to the sheep, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
The sheep are taken back by this. Since when are the sheep considered heirs to the kingdom? Sheep chew the cud regurgitated from their rumens. They are plagued with tape worms and lice. They can’t see well and are quite defenseless. Kingdoms belong to the aggressive, the well off, and the strong. Kingdoms belong to predators–like the wolf. Wolves hunt down, kill, and devour everything from mice to moose. They can smell their prey from over a mile away, and in certain conditions can hear another animal from a distance of six miles. They prefer attacking the sick and the weak. The jaw of a wolf has over 1,500 pounds of crushing power per square inch. Their 42 teeth are specially designed for stabbing, shearing, and crunching bone. They are gluttons, and can eat 20lbs of meat in one sitting. They are territorial, and ruthlessly defend their borders. The alpha male can be so dominant that low ranking wolves suffer from such extreme mental stress and anxiety they are unable to reproduce. Biologists call it psychological castration. In this way the weaker wolves die off, and the strong of the species survive. Adolph is a name meaning ‘lead wolf.’ Wolves rule kingdoms, and their royal banquets are replete with leg of lamb.
But if in fact Christ is king it means that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the sheep not the wolves. The sheep are given the kingdom of heaven because when Jesus the king was hungry the sheep gave him food, and when the king was thirsty the sheep gave him something to drink, and when the king was a stranger the sheep welcomed him, and when the king was naked the sheep gave him clothing, and when the king was sick the sheep took care of him, and when the king was in prison the sheep visited him. But when is a king hungry or thirsty? A king’s table is never empty. When was the king a stranger? King’s faces are printed on coins! When was the king naked? King’s have full time tailors and wardrobes full of royal colors. When was the king sick or in prison? King’s have the best doctors at their service, and they hold the key to every dungeon. Jesus answered the sheep’s disbelief, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Have you ever felt lost in the forest, and closed in by darkness, and startled by the howls. The wolves are everywhere. They push and shove, and bite and howl, and scratch and claw, and growl and swear, and rip and tear, and devour and oppress. But don’t you worry, just keep giving–your wool, your flesh, your milk–to the very least, the unworthy, the ones despised, the psychologically castrated, the weak of the species. For they are the ones blessed by God, who bear the image of Christ who was in his own time on earth despised and weak and sacrificed. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be afraid. Christ is king. And despite the clamor of the wolves, and the helplessness of the flock, even toed ungulate quadrupedal ruminants are most definitely heirs to the kingdom of heaven.
If in fact Christ is king it means that we are not.
Archontology is the study of historical offices and important positions in state, international, political, religious and other organizations and societies. If you are an archontologist you might know a great deal about presidents, prime ministers, emperors, pharaohs, chieftains, sultans, kaisers, maliks, emirs, and kings. Anyone who holds sovereignty over people and land is a ruler, and thus a person of interest to an archontologist.
Unless my life makes a drastic turn, I will never be the subject of an archontological inquiry. Sovereignty is not something Shannon affords me at 260 Tahlulah Lane, let alone at the level of county, state, or nation. Yet still I try to rule. Most of the times it’s in humorous little ways: Jesse says replace the toilet paper role. Jesse says put your shoes on the shoe rack. Jesse says don’t leave wet towels on the rug. At other times my attempts at monopolizing power are more sinister and far reaching: Jesse says the church will do this, not that. Jesse says the world is to be seen this way, not that way. Jesse says that I have the right to judge, and legislate, and coerce. If I am honest with myself a good part of my life is the grasping, the expanding, and the maintaining of my influence and power. And it is all a farce–an arrogant self assertion. I am not alone. This is very common. For centuries, the British monarch used, among his other titles, the title ‘King of France’, despite the fact that he had had no authority over French territory since the fifteenth century. It was customary of numerous European Monarchies to include ‘King of Jerusalem’ in their full titles–a hold-over from the time of the crusades. But none of it was true. The titles were just words, with absolutely no legitimate claim to power. The titles were assertions, declarations, symbolic propagandizing–but nothing more. Archontologists clear up such matters. They know who ruled when and over what. They pay no attention to bold titles and arrogant identifiers. Archontologists put rulers in their rightful place.
If in fact Christ is king then no other power on this planet is sovereign. Christology and archontology are synonymous. To know Christ is to know the ruler of all. If in fact Christ is king all assertions, declarations, symbolic propagandizing, bold titles, and arrogant identifiers are exposed and cleared up. And all of us are put in our rightful place. So shut-up Jesse. Be quiet and still. Quit asserting and claiming and declaring. Get on your knees, and listen. Jesus says put your hand on your head. Jesus says jump up and down. Jesus says rock back and forth.
Jesus says give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. Jesus says love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus says if your right eye causes you to sin gouge it out. Jesus says when you give do not announce it with trumpets. Jesus says forgive others their trespasses. Jesus says do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. Jesus says do not worry about your life. Jesus says do not judge so that you may not be judged. Jesus says enter through the narrow gate. Jesus says not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says love your neighbor.
If in fact Christ is king then get in line peasant, because we are not.
If in fact Christ is king it means that Christians are not helpless victims but people empowered by the Spirit.
The church can have a victim complex. We chaff against the rise of secularism. We moan the abundance of Sunday morning children’s athletics (a sure sign that spiritual matters are waning in importance). We note the removal of Christ from Christmas. We see declining church roles. We wonder where all the young folk have gone. But if in fact Christ is king our ‘woe is us’ is terribly out of place. We are more than conquerors. God can never be defeated, Christ can never be shackled, the Spirit can never be contained, and the church can never be enslaved. If in fact Christ is king then you and I possess the greatest power in universe, for the church through the Spirit is a conduit of Christ’s immeasurably redemptive power to the world.
Like yesterday, for instance, when the Spirit pushed the grace of Christ out from us in the form of 15 Thanksgiving baskets. Islip, Bay Shore, West Islip, West Babylon, North Babylon, Wyandanch, Brentwood–it was a weapon of mass blessing. The going out reminded me of the church that had its beginnings in Jerusalem, and then was propelled by the Spirit into the rest of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The Spirit does this. There is nothing provincial about the Spirit. It is strange to possess a power, but not be in control of it. But I am glad–can you imagine the mess we would make of things.
You never know what is going to happen with the Spirit. You can’t know. It’s designed that way. God has fun with the Spirit. God surprises us. The Spirit is so ironical, so counter intuitive, so playful and serendipitous that when we finally do see the crazy path we’ve been on all we can do is chuckle in our amazement.
Usually we shop for our distributions at the mega warehouse stores. Bigger is better–everyone knows that. You can get the best deals at the store with high ceilings, wooden pallets, and two story metal shelving. But we’d heard through the grapevine that the produce at the tiny Best Yet on Higbie/Udall can be had at a bargain. So Roxana and Dan paid the mini-grocer a visit. A little boy was impressed with the overflowing carts Rox and Dan were pushing around, so he asked them why they were buying so much food. Rox gave him a quick explanation that satisfied his curiosity. In the check-out line the boy’s mom came forward and contributed ten dollars to the effort, the manager came forward and discounted the turkeys, the check out person contributed free cloth bags. And the Spirit of God made a quick exit past the bag boy and out through the automatic doors, bobbing and weaving, smiling and laughing, and going about its business with a certain ‘told you so’ twist that defies out best laid plans.
It’s all part of the great power that we wield. The power that does not make us helpless, but makes us princes and princesses in the greatest kingdom in the universe. So keep your chin up, and don’t let the 24 news feed get you down. And let’s do a little bit for the least of these, wherever they be found, and when we get it right, prepare for the Spirit to mess it all up again, and make is better and greater than we ever dreamed. For if in fact Christ is King, we are not helpless victims but empowered by the quirky, non provincial, zany, ineffable Spirit. Amen and amen.