A New Order for Creation

23 11 2007

Texts: Luke 23:35-43 ; Colossians 1:11-20

On our dollar bills we find in Latin the phrase, “New World Order.” When the founders of this country sat down to draft our Constitution and Bill of Rights, they envisioned a nation that was self-governed … a republic. There would be no monarch, but an elected President. The various branches of government would hold each other’s power in check. Within the context of the times, such an undertaking, especially over a large expanse of territory, was radical. The phrase “New World Order” has been used in the twentieth century at the end of World Wars I and II. The most recent and notable use of the term is in the post-cold war era, when Presidents George Bush (Sr) and Mikhail Gorbachev wanted to usher in a new time of cooperation between the great powers of the world.

Today the world is very different than what was promised fifteen years ago. Far from being an era of cooperation, we are in a time when the world’s powers live in mutual distrust. Climate change looms on the horizon. The economy is uncertain. The gap between rich and middle class is wider than ever. Where is the hope? What can we count on in this time of uncertainty and instability? One thing that we can all agree on is that despite mankind’s best efforts to build a just society or to make the world a better place, we are still very much a fallen people on a fallen planet. Our attempts at a New World Order have failed. But there is Good News in our failure.

This Sunday is the feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the church calendar. We celebrate Christ’s lordship. Jesus came to enact the Father’s great plan of salvation for our broken and fallen world, and it was nothing less than a rescue mission. But, our liberator and redeemer did not come with the armies of heaven to subjugate the powers of this world, as we normally think of the Allied powers liberating Europe from the grip of the Nazi Germany. He came alone, and conquered the powers of this world by dying as a common criminal.

Part of this week’s Gospel passage is from the Passion narrative we read during Holy Week. The rulers sneered and taunted Jesus, daring him to save himself if he really was the Messiah from God. The people who were crying for his blood not a few hours before only stood and watched. As we know, Jesus did not save himself. But, the ultimate irony is that in not saving himself, by not calling “10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free” as the old hymn says, he died for the entire world and saved it. The ultimate irony is that Jesus’ titulus, the plaque which proclaimed his crimes for all to see as they passed by during the Passover feast was (to paraphrase): “This is the King.” On the cross, Jesus heard the petition of a criminal, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The thief recognized that there was something different about this man. He was more than a rabble-rouser, a great moral teacher, or a prophet. He recognized Jesus was king. To his petition of “when,” Jesus’ answer is, “today, you are with me in paradise.” The reign of Christ begins with his death.

This is the King. He is not the King of a New World Order as envisioned by George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, or by Woodrow Wilson after the First World War or the “Big Three” of the second. This is the King of a New Order for Creation. A Creation that experiences salvation, redemption, and liberation from the grip of sin. As our liturgy says, “By his death, he has destroyed death.”

In our lessons leading up to this week, we read some intense apocalyptic passages. Not only is Jesus speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem only a generation or two after the scene at Golgotha, but about the consummation of history and the fulfillment of the rescue mission begun with the Incarnation and sealed with the Crucifixion and Resurrection. But it is painfully obvious to anyone who takes a scant interest in the news that while the mission is fulfilled, it is not complete by a long shot. Regardless of our individual theories and feelings on things like sin, we cannot deny that our world is still very much a fallen world. Where is the Good News? The Good News is Christ is King. The Good News is that what separates us from the love and mercy and justice that God can give has been removed, as symbolized by the veil in the temple being rent asunder at the moment of Jesus’ death.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians we see a hymn of praise to the Supremacy of Christ … he is called the image of the invisible God...all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him he holds all things together. Where Jesus is, God is. He is the personal manifestation of Deity. Not only is he Lord of Creation, he is the central part, the cornerstone, the one who holds it all together and keeps it moving.

The Good News is that, with Christ as King, every aspect of Creation that has been touched by sin will be touched by Grace. The real New World Order is in truth a New Order for Creation. It is not built around religion, social-political philosophies, or even the Good Ole’ US of A. It is built around Jesus Christ … the one who holds it all together and keeps it moving. He calls into existence the things that are not. He creates peace where there was once war. Love where there was only hate. Forgiveness where there was only judgment.

Read again the words from St. Paul:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Amen.

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4 responses

23 11 2007
Pisco Sours

This is a terrific sermon! I’ve got it bookmarked so I can read it before church this Sunday.

24 11 2007
KJ

Amen, RB. Thanks for the reminder.

24 11 2007
Grandmère Mimi

RB, this is beautiful. Thanks for a preview of the Feast of Christ the King, whose Kingdom is not of this world, yet is within us, his Kingdom which is right now, but not yet.

25 11 2007
"That Kaeton Woman"

Thank you, darling. A wonderful sermon, indeed, for which my soul is most gratefully nourished and fed. Leave it to Jesus, in the midst of grotesque suffering, to promise, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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