Archives for November 2015

Listening for the Voice of God in the Midst of Terrorism

Our Church tradition encourages us to observe this last Sunday of the Church year as Christ the King Sunday, our last Sunday for quite a while to claim Jesus as King. King, not as one of a geographic territory or a particular group of us, but King as creator of the world, redeemer of all sin and ruler of our hearts and our souls and our minds.

Interestingly on this Sunday, we find Jesus in conversation with Pilate in his last days. Pilate has been in charge of Judea for a while; he has troops of Roman military police that he uses to exercise his control and to manage peace among the Jews and Gentiles in his territory. Pilate is often saddled with situations he doesn’t fully understand or comprehend because he comes from Rome; and he has no clue as to the Jewish culture, the clash between Jews among themselves and their Gentile counterparts, all of whom must coexist together in this territory under Roman control.

I wonder how Pilate, if he was there today, would have dealt with the additional overlay of the Muslim culture, specifically the 15 to 20% of them who represent this war with everyone else in the world who do not follow their radical beliefs in Allah as King. Would Pilate have enough political power and foot soldiers to reign in radical groups such as Hamas or al-Qaeda or ISIS? God only knows. God only knows.

Back to the conversation this morning, even this thought is in the back of our minds of our minds, we can’t avoid those thoughts if we turn on the television or open a newspaper or magazine of any consequence. The conversation this morning is between Jesus who is seen as a radical of sorts and Pilate who is in control of the country at the time. A conversation with which we are all too familiar leads to the question of who is king as a result of Jesus being turned in by his own people because he is becoming more and more recognized as a person of power and influence. Some would say he was working to become king.

As Jesus travels the Middle Eastern villages and countryside, performing healings upon people from all walks of life, speaking to the lowest forms of life from Samaria and beyond, turning water into wine, raising people from the dead, feeding thousands with little resources and making seemingly odd references to sheep knowing their shepherd by their voice; people are coming to believe Jesus is more than just another compromised Rabbi or false prophet.

Jesus responds to Pilate’s questions, “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 asks him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answers, “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.” There goes Jesus again, using that sheep and shepherd thing again, most of the time it makes us tremble.

The conversation between Pilate and Jesus begins with Pilate exercising his power and as one who is relatively disinterested in the Jewish politics of the day. But in a few brief minutes of conversation with Jesus, Pilate is likely left with questions beyond, “So, are you a king?”

This scenario is not new.

Everyone in sincere conversation with Jesus is eventually confronted with this word “TRUTH”.

TRUTH. Jesus testifies to the truth. Truth is revealed through his expression and desire to love you and me. That is the Truth. Truth is something we can only come to understand if we understand ourselves as belonging to the truth that God reveals to us by listening to His voice. Responding to his call, living in community and serving those in need.

The real and absolute Truth of God brings the signs of God’s presence into this world – as you and I navigate through the world of clashing cultures and people killing each other in the name of their own God, you and I must seek to hear our Lord’s voice in the midst of all this confusion. And it isn’t easy, but we must do that.

The words from Revelation this morning may seem innocuous and superfluous and meant only for those in another time and place. I would challenge to you to read them again, take them home with you and take them to heart. I call your attention though to the underlying testimony to God as the timeless one who has revealed and who will continue to reveal to those of us who are willing to listen out for the voice of the Lord. The Revelation of John requires you and me to understand that as we exist in this chaotic world, and while we do, the Lord is at work in the heavenly realm to make things right. We must have faith in this my friends. We must trust that the Lord’s will prevails.

What Jesus leaves behind he does not abandon and that means you and me and Hamas and al-Qaeda and ISIS too! The fact of the matter is that neither Pilate nor the United Nations or the President of France or the United States can overcome this tragic time in the history of humanity without the overarching truth of God lying at the center of every interaction and conversation. The world leaders need our prayers and support more now than we have ever experienced in our lifetime. That is the TRUTH!

Jesus tells us, “Look, you cannot know me or real truth if you do not listen for my voice and follow me.”

The point is, if we do not surrender our wills and open our ears to hear the voice of God, confusion is a promise, confusion will never end and we will not know truth. We cannot know truth except as a community who seeks truth together.

The pandemonium and tragedy of people without homes or country, the senseless killings in Paris and the misdirected exertion of human will that leads to death requires that we get on our knees and trust through support and action what Jesus would have us to do for those lost people. We must stand up and shout out, “even though some believe death is the final answer, we do not; we claim Jesus as the only truth, whose love has such power that death has no sanction over us. And we know the truth of Jesus because we seek to hear his voice and we follow him in this place and at this time.”

We cannot lose heart in the midst of those whose intent is to destroy a certain segment of humanity and as we experience the killings like those in Paris, when we feel exasperated and overwhelmed. We must remember that the kingdom that anyone seeks by death and destruction cannot and will not last. We must carry on as prayerful people in prayer and also with a deliberate heartfelt desire to know what the Lord would have us to do!

Just as the Jews turn one of their own over for sacrifice, we cannot allow those intent on breaking our will and killing the spirit of Christian hope to reduce us to a fearful and helpless lot as they carry on their intent to destroy everything and kill everyone, innocent and otherwise, in their path.

You and I must strive to understand truth that Jesus describes to Pilate: we must testify that Jesus is beyond King of a territory or a specific group of people; peace is not accomplished by death and destruction alone. Death and destruction brings only brings on suffering and more of it.

Jesus is our way of life, the king of our hearts, minds and souls and neither death nor principalities nor powers will separate us from his love!

As those who seek the truth, we who listen for Jesus’ voice, enter a kingdom that is not confined by geography or culture or time or force. No one will separate us from the truth of God, and we must claim this with deliberation and testimony to the world. Those of us who seek the truth of God are prayerful people who trust that the truth of God will be revealed just as John writes in the book of Revelation – we shall come to know the living God as the Alpha and the Omega even though the earth-dwelling Jesus is sentenced by Pilate.

Even though Jesus is reduced to suffering and death with a crown of thorns piercing his head – remember, the least likely, the Roman soldiers who killed and crucified so many, stand at the foot of this cross and claim Jesus as king. Never forget that.

You and I are called to work for this heavenly kingdom and not for some earthly battle and yet we must not simply lie down and allow for the attacks of those intent on decimating all but one society to continue.

The truth that Jesus promises requires that you and I listen for his voice. And we do it in this place, and we do it every day, not just on Sunday morning for an hour and we do it as a community of faithful people and that we come to know him as TRUTH and through him, we will find TRUTH in this situation.

We enter and remain in his kingdom, living with one foot in the world of sin and death and with the other foot in the heavens of hope and peace, that intimate place that Jesus wants for us, of the heavens where we come to understand TRUTH in its purest form through seeing the face and hearing the voice of Jesus.

Remember Jesus’ words as we end one and begin another church year: “For this I was born, my friends, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus is King, he is our creator, he redeems our sins, he rules our hearts and our souls and our minds. Jesus is King, not of a geographic territory or a particular group of us but all of humanity. Jesus is the king of TRUTH. This is the TRUTH that he reveals to Pilate and to you and to me and we belong to the truth! We cannot run away from it! We are called to serve Him through it. Let us pray for the TRUTH to be revealed in the midst of senseless death and destruction.