A Reading from the Book of Daniel (7:9-10, 13-14)
As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
1 The Lord is King;
he has put on splendid apparel; *
the Lord has put on his apparel
and girded himself with strength.
2 He has made the whole world so sure *
that it cannot be moved;
3 Ever since the world began,
your throne has been established; *
you are from everlasting.
4 The waters have lifted up, O Lord,
the waters have lifted up their voice; *
the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.
5 Mightier than the sound of many waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea, *
mightier is the Lord who dwells on high.
6 Your testimonies are very sure, *
and holiness adorns your house, O Lord,
for ever and for evermore.
A Reading from the Book of 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.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (18:33-37)
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.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
Many people across the country and many of you right here follow professional and college teams during the football and basketball seasons. I understand that there was some football game on TV yesterday that a number of you watched. On occasion, I watch at least part of a game in one of those sports; but, for the most part, this for me is the off-season: the winter break that stretches from the end of the World Series until the day that pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
The history of baseball is filled with many interesting and entertaining figures. One of the most colorful is Hall of Fame player and manager, Lawrence Peter Berra, better known as “Yogi.” Among fans, Yogi Berra is recognized as one of the greatest catchers and managers of all time. But for many other people, he is best known for his “yogi-isms”: a collection of quirky sayings that always manage to catch people’s attention. They are all amusing, and some even contain an important kernel of truth, tucked away carefully beneath the humor.
One of his most famous pronouncements is the warning: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” That piece of advice is an apt reminder for us today, because this is the Last Sunday after Pentecost, the conclusion of this Church Year; and our readings today remind us clearly of where we are going. In fact, they remind us of where all creation is going, what the ultimate goal is of all that is: the fullness of what Jesus called “the kingdom of God.”
Jesus has been describing that kingdom over and over again in our gospel readings throughout the year. “The kingdom of God is like,” he says time and time again. And then he provides image after image of the world as God wants it to be, the world become the kingdom of God.
It is critically important to remember that the world that Jesus describes is not another world, off out of our sight somewhere. The world that Jesus describes and to which God calls us is this world, but this world transformed.
Sometimes, we forget that. We forget where we are going. We Christians sometimes pray and sing and act as though our goal is somehow to prepare ourselves as individuals to leave this world and to live in a different world, in a world that we call “heaven.” But the world-to-come that Jesus describes, the world to which God calls us, the world to which we need to be working, is this world, but this world remade to be what God intends it to be.
All too often, we as individuals and as churches are so busy working, but working for the wrong thing. We forget where we are going, and so we busy ourselves with activities that are never going to get us and our world where God wants us to be. We ignore this world and work toward some other world, mostly one as we like to imagine it to be. It reminds me of another yogi-ism: “We may be lost, but at least we’re making good time.” We forget where we are going, but we content ourselves with doing lots of things, whether or not those things are accomplishing the work that God actually wants us to accomplish, whether or not those things get us and the world to the place where God wants it to be.
Maybe the reason that we so often focus our attention in the wrong direction is reflected in today’s gospel reading. The scene of Jesus’ confrontation with Pilate is, of course, part of John’s Passion Narrative: the story of Jesus’ suffering and death. It reminds us of the enormous task that God has set before us in working for the fullness of God’s kingdom, of the strong opposition that we are bound to encounter, and of the cost of discipleship. Yet that way, the gospels insist, is the way to the kingdom of God: the way to the place to which we are going.
Today, as we bring this Church Year to an end and prepare to begin again next Sunday, on the First Sunday of Advent, our readings provide us with a much-needed reminder of where we are going and of the way to get there. The world to which God is calling us and all creation is this world transformed. It is no longer a world of wars and of national and sectarian fighting, but a world in which all creatures live in harmony with one another. It is no longer a world in which the top few percent control the vast majority of the wealth while the majority of human beings live in poverty, but one in which all people have a fair and equitable share of the world’s wealth. It is a world in which we, who are made in the image and likeness of God, no longer continue to exploit the world’s resources for our own selfish convenience and comfort, but one in which we, as the stewards of God’s creation, genuinely and intently care for God’s world in God’s name.
It is only when we focus our attention and our efforts in working toward that kind of a world that we can be sure that we have finally heard and embraced the gospel. It is only when we focus our attention and our efforts in working toward that kind of a world that we can be sure that we have finally remembered where we and all of God’s creation are going.