Leviticus 19.1-2,9-18; Psalm 119.33-40; 1 Corinthians 3.10-11,16-23; Matthew 5.38-48
[I shared this in a less formal manner with the tiny congregation of Te Kopuru]
Imagine a different world within or among our world. A world where all the nonsense has ceased – political, philosophical, cultural, theological, racial, denominational. Imagine a world that which in our deepest hearts we long for. Where love is so powerful that hate is so difficult to sustain that: even our enemies up caught up in it – a kingdom so broad and far-reaching that there is room to include all races, cultures, creeds and fads – radicals and conservatives and progressives – punks, hippies, rastas, careerists, wheelers and dealers – Maori and Pakeha, Jew and Arab, Indian and Pakistani, North and South Korean – rulers, rebels, reactionaries – servants and subversives, scientists and artists, hobbyists and contemplatives. Even room for evangelicals, pentecostals, traditionalists, the liturgically inclined and the fringe element. No-one’s fighting, no-one’s competing for the high ground, no-one’s shouting and everyone is trying to hear each other’s music, see each other’s art, observe each other’s heart. All is in Christ and all is for Christ – in fact all IS Christ.
With me on the throne revenge seems like a good idea. I need to be protected – I can not be safely attacked or insulted – those who stand against me must be put in their place. I need to draw the boundary lines that may not be crossed. Recompense is owed to me first, generosity should be directed towards me. My enemies don’t belong in my world – who do they think they are?! With me on the throne I’m not able to take the needs of the world seriously because my needs come first, I must be clothed first, I must be fed first, I must be healed first. Me, me, me, me. Or as George Harrison put it; “I me mine…”
All through the day, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
All through the night, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
Now they’re frightened of leaving it
Everyone’s weaving it
Coming on strong all the time
All through the day I me mine
But if the world is to be as we imagine and hope then we have just worked against that dream by taking revenge against another.
With Jesus on the throne priorities change, our focus is wider, more far-reaching. He reminds us that He died for us while we were still His enemies, and that repeated offences are met with grace, that we are still welcome at the Table. (Perhaps at that very Table He forgives and restores us as friends of whom He is especially fond.) Perhaps He shows you that your oppressors, those who malign and insult you, are in fact the ones who stand to lose – forever! That in some matters He makes no difference between you and the disregardful, blasé, wrong-doers – that we all got to bask in a long hot summer, and we all were refreshed under the life-giving rain – all of our gardens bloomed anew.
I was going to say that living with those we know and love best is easier, but sometimes they hurt us too – it’s that we’re usually readier to come to terms with them, than those we really don’t like, and don’t care about. But listen in that we’re no better than anyone else in town. The gangs take great care of each other, the perpetrators of injustice hold together quite well, but they harbour huge resentment against those who frustrate or cross them – to the point of quite vicious revenge. When Jesus is enthroned (when self is dethroned) enemies matter to us as people deeply loved and cherished by the God of grace.
People of difference are fascinating examples of the astonishing variety of God’s Creation when His son directs our attitudes and affections. I loved living in Auckland the last 12 years precisely because of the many and beautiful cultures from our global neighbourhood.
So the question is how do we go about living with Jesus on the throne?
Decrees from the Throne often come as mere whispers, as sudden enlightenment about this scripture or that hymn. It means ordering your life so as to pay attention to what He is stirring within your own kindly heart, and doing what you hear or see as His direction. If you’re not sure there is plenty direction and insight available here – with Brendon (and me) and others who have learnt to listen and follow. Still your heart as you come to the altar this morning; listen for His gentle whispers; attend to the imagery of His immense love in the giving of the bread and the wine, the meal that, Spirit-empowered sends you into the world fed to achieve whatever He’s calling you both away from, and towards and into.