Last week’s readings were about the end times – when life as
we know it ends – in contrast today, the last Sunday in Pentecost, our readings
are about the stability of the true world order. Even though things in our
lives are fleeting and temporary, there is an underlying stability which tends
towards peace and justice.
In the first reading we heard one of the visions of Daniel.
Those of you who went to Sunday School may remember Daniel as the guy who was
throw into the lion’s den but came out unscathed; you may also remember his
friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into the fiery furnace. They also escaped
unharmed. The book of Daniel is also the place we get the term “to see the
writing on the wall” – at a feast given by King Belshazzar a disembodied hand
writes an undecipherable message on the wall. Daniel is called and interprets
it as meaning doom and the end of the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar loses
his throne to Darius the Mede.
Obviously the book of Daniel makes
pretty exciting reading! It is the Old Testament book of the apocalypse. The
last book of the Bible, Revelation, is the New Testament equivalent. Apocalypse
means revelation – the revealing of supernatural events which will happen in
the end times. Fortunately, the good guy – God – always wins in the end though
along the way his people often suffer terrible wrongs. Apocalyptic writings
were very popular whenever there was persecution and especially in the
tumultuous years 200BCE to 100ce when these texts were written.
They are very popular today too. It
seems that we have just as much need today to read novels and watch movies in
which terrible things happen to other people. But today it’s not at all clear
that the good guy wins, or even that there is a good guy.
Daniel tells us that in his vision,
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
that all peoples, nations, and languages
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
that shall never be destroyed.
of a king who has complete dominion is not one which sits very easily with us
today unless we find it in a myth or fairytale. Yet it is an important image in
our faith narrative - the king whose kingdom shall never be destroyed – the one
who will bring peace, justice and stability for evermore.
When the image is picked up in our second reading,
this time in an excerpt from Revelation, we hear
“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
This makes it clear that this king is not a
distant dictator but one who knows his people and has made us into a
kingdom - has knit us together into one society
- in fact making us all priests in our
own right, why? Because he loves us.
So the image of Christ the Sovereign is a powerful
one. The ruler who is in control and whose reign is one of love, justice and
peace will eventually be fully revealed to us and the problems and injustices
we suffer will all disappear. The matrix of sin will be fully exposed as having
no power and we will find our fulfillment in serving as priests before the
This is the reign of God. It is in the future but
it is also here and now. Scripture is very clear that Christ is not waiting on
the sidelines for the heavenly coach to call him on to the field. Christ is
already on the throne. The kingdom of peace and justice is both here and now as
well as not-here and not-yet.
We can call it the inner planes, heaven, the
imaginal realm, the reign of God – it’s all trying to express the same thing.
There is much more to life than meets the eye. We all live in the outer,
visible world, but those of us who are disciples of Jesus are also called to consciously
live in the permanent, unchanging world where Christ already has dominion. It
is in that world that prayer functions. It is in that
world that our intentions, aligned with the Spirit of God,
bring powerful change in this
In the gospel reading we see the two worlds
collide. Jesus is not a king in the way Pirate understands kingship. Jesus says, "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
So the reign of God is not one of
fighting and violence. It does not look like any earthly kingdom however
peaceful. In fact, its values are quite different from this world’s. What we
imagine as success may not be at all important in Christ’s reign. The things
that our government is concerned about – the fiscal cliff, economical stability
and growth, health care, debt, job creation - are not the concerns of God’s
The apocalyptic writings show us
a kingdom where, after the great battles are over, the principal activity of
the people is praise and worship.
This week I was deeply moved by a
poem of Rainer Maria Rilke’s:
Oh, tell us, poet, what you
But those dark, deadly,
how do you bear them,
And then the Nameless,
beyond guess or gaze,
how can you call it,
And whence your right, in
every kind of maze,
in every mask, to remain
And that the mildest and
the wildest ways
know you like star and
Because we praise. This is the foundation of the
reign of God. I am not for a moment suggesting that if we praise God we can sit
back and do nothing else. We still live in this world and, as you know, I am
sure that as disciples of Jesus, as priests of God, as servants of the God of
peace and justice, we are called to work for peace and justice to the best of
our ability. But I am suggesting that the fuel for our work comes from praise.
God does not need us to praise him. She does not
need us to keep telling her what a good job she’s doing. But praise is what
gives us the energy to go on, it is what keeps us in touch with the reign of
God operating right here right now, seen and unseen. The very energy of the
universe is a song of praise and joy. It is the song of the Trinity, it is the
song of creation, it is our song.
Even when the end times are upon us let us be sure
to keep the song going, loud and clear. God is love. God is sovereign. God be