JOHN 18:33-37 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Ignatius Imaginative Prayer (Preparation, Imagination, Application)
Preparation: Christ the King Sunday was added to the lectionary in the 1920’s, in part in response to rising nationalism. As we see these same geo-political forces rising again, how we address fear and power become significant spiritual issues. With the Ignatius Imaginative Prayer let’s enter this reading to hear God speak to us today.
Imagination: A shouting mob. Angry accusors. Frantic advisors. A pensive judge. And at the center of it all, an inscrutible alignment. Pilate senses the shift. He notices how quickly it altered. He is the powerful one with the army, yet he doubts and questions. The bound one, on the other hand, is steady with unwavering authority. Pilate remembers a distant time of sun-soaked fields of laughter, song and play. How did it all get so serious, hateful and afraid? A clash of kingdoms, indeed. Pilate think straight! Keep order! Make a decision! Execute justice!
Application: What is the truth about power? Do I appreciate the power I have? When does my fear draw me into a realm of distrust, distortion and dispair? We all follow someone/something? Who do I chose to follow? Do I really follow Jesus?
2 SAMUEL 23:1-7 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favourite of the Strong One of Israel: The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.
So let’s get this straight. Three weeks ago we heard about Ruth. Ruth is a foreigner, who out of loyalty to her mother-in-law leaves her family and marries a Judean. They have a child who becomes the great-grandfather of David. Then last week we heard about Hannah. Hannah is at first unable to have children but eventually has a child named Samuel who becomes a judge of the nation. Samuel anoints David as King of Judah and eventually of all of Isreal. Leadership from unexpected, messy beginnings.
“One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning.” Democracy, monarchy, oligarchy are all systems of governance. King David reflects back on his leadership in this song sung near the end of his career. It makes the claim that leadership must be just and held under the scrutiny of an even greater power, God. Accountabilty is a necessary and required partner to power.
Where do our leaders need more accountability? When do I chafe at being held accountable? Why?
PSALM 132:1-13 Lord, remember David, and all the hardships he endured; How he swore an oath to the Lord and vowed a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: “I will not come under the roof of my house, nor climb up into my bed; I will not allow my eyes to sleep, nor let my eyelids slumber; Until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” “The ark! We heard it was in Ephratah; we found it in the fields of Jearim. Let us go to God’s dwelling place; let us fall upon our knees before his footstool.” Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place, you and the ark of your strength. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness; let your faithful people sing with joy. For your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of your anointed. The Lord has sworn an oath to David; in truth, he will not break it: “A son, the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne. If your children keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”
“Let your faithful people sing with joy.” Ultimately we were meant to live joyfully. Does the kingdom you are aligned with foster joy? When you draw close to God do you feel joy?
REVELATION 1:4B-8 Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
“Who is and who was and who is to come” Notice the ordering as it is not past, present and future but present, past and future. God’s love and justice was faithful in our past and will guide our future, but is made known now, in this moment. We spend so much of our mental energy ruminating on the past or planning for the future. But it is in this instant that God is present. One of the simplest yet hardest prayers is contemplation. Let us abandon thought, speech, judgment and simply be present to God in this moment.
Presence: Set a timer for the silence. 5-20 min? Focus on slowing and deepening your breathing. Be aware of and relax your body. Soften, lower or close your eyes. Be present to God’s loving presence. (You may choose to begin repeating a sacred word such as love, light or surrender.)
Contemplation: Simply bask in the presence of our loving, just, faithful God. Let all distracting thoughts and noises simply drift away like floating clouds.
End: Thanks be to God. Amen.