Sunday, November 24, 2019

Jesus, remember me - a sermon for Christ the King Year C at Coventry Cathedral

Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom
Words from this morning’s gospel.
When we sing them to a Taize chant it seems to go straight to the heart of things, to carry all unspoken longings and silent prayers…
Remember ME.
The cry of the small child, concerned that they might be overlooked and left vulnerable, particularly if there’s a new baby to divert adult attention.
The cry of the soul that fear that it is somehow too unimportant, not one of the great or the good, not even a particularly memorable sinner.
 Sometimes I wonder if all the relentless activity of the Church, all our beautiful acts of worship, could be summed up as a corporate cry of “Jesus, remember me”.
Actually you might say that this sentence is perfectly balanced between selfcentred humanity – with the ego loudly at work – and the Kingdom of God, based on self-giving love.
And it is a prayer that somehow the two may be brought together “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”

They are, of course, the words of the penitent thief, hanging beside Jesus and recognising both the truth of his own situation and the abiding goodness of God. He too is looking forward with longing – to the end of the pain and ignominy of crucifixion, to the moment when he will look upon the face of Christ and find himself judged with infinite compassion and mercy, and when his sense of self will become lost in wonder, love and praise. Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

But what is this Kingdom? Is our deep longing justifiable and justified. If you stand in Holy Trinity up the road and look at the amazing doom painting over the chancel arch, you might doubt that it is, might almost hope that you’d be forgotten rather than remembered, long to be overlooked somehow when Judgement Day comes. Even our own tapestry of Christ in Glory can sometimes make God seem more majestic than inviting…As someone who not infrequently wants to throw herself into the arms of Jesus, weeping and wailing over my own stupidity or the intransigence of the universe, it’s not always easy to be confident that those arms will wrap themselves around me.
Is there room for us – in all our broken humanity?


That’s the point of it all – the good news of this morning.

Christ's Kingdom is founded on the sort of love that gives without reserve, that befriends with ceaseless generosity, that values everyone, regardless of gender or opionion, as someone made in God's image, someone for whom Christ was pleased to die…
Of course we tend to live and to love within far narrower, more self-interested boundaries…While we may give lip service to a commitment to justice and righteousness, we can seem to be more intent on self-interest.
Bishop Paul Bayes of Liverpool tweeted this advice last week, as we look towards the general election
“If you’re a Christian then, after praying, reading and learning, cast your vote in the way that you believe will help the poorest”
It’s instructive to notice which leaders deliberately engage with the needs of those on the edges. – and the passage from Jeremiah makes it clear what God thinks of those who don’t.
It’s also instructive to ask ourselves if there’s a tendency to vote in ways that we believe might make lives a bit easier, even if we’re not convinced they’re altogether upright. We are too prone sometimes follow the rules of our own kingdoms, to safeguard the interests of those whom we find it easy to love, too often leave injustice unchallenged…
We pray “Thy Kingdom come…” but maybe at times we have our fingers crossed – because we want God's kingdom to fall in with our own plans.

But – here's the Good News!
God is ALWAYS greater – greater than any human endeavour, greater even than the institution of the Church (though in her true essence, of course, the Church is herself part of the outworking of the Kingdom) God's Kingdom WILL come, regardless of our faltering efforts, our feeble witness, our failures of love and compassion. The BEST news!
More, the King who will come in judgement is the one who loves us so much that he dies for us…each one of us, even for me. We have nothing to fear, everything to look forward to as we look towards the Advent themes of death, judgement, heaven and hell.
The writer Adrian Plass tells the story of a preacher who was anxious that his congregation should fully engage with that theme of judgement so he placed a chair at the head of the nave and invited them to imagine that it was occupied by Jesus, enthroned in great glory He told them to imagine that, each in turn, they were coming to stand before him, to receive his verdict on their lives. He asked them “Now, tell me, are you not full of dread as you stand at the judgement seat?” And Plass responded “No...because if Jesus is there, then he will, really and truly make everything, - EVERYTHING ALL RIGHT”

So we don’t need to despair of ourselves, our church or  our world as we consider this feast of Christ the King. Instead, we need to strive to embrace the challenges of the kingdom, and to embrace those who see the Church in very different ways. We need, too, to admit our own fearfulness, our reluctance to engage, to really live as citizens of heaven…We need to recognise that God’s kingdom does not wait out of reach for the end of life as we know it, but is close at hand, ready for us to grasp it and be transformed.

Jesus, remember me – and help me to live in your Kingdom here and now as you prepare me to be in Paradise with you forever.