Reign of ChristB, 2003
REIGN OF CHRIST: DISCOVERING ALL THE POSSIBILITIES
It was an interesting front page spread.
The sub-editor on the Wednesday evening shift
of The Canberra Times, picked the Thursday lead stories well:
There’s no doubt about it, he’s the Guy...
Jackson faces new child-abuse allegations...
Sweet Joan Armatrading hits town...
Wallabies as you’ve never seen them...
Smoking banned in clubs...
Just below halfway was the line:
Medicare’s architect says safety net a con...
Way down in the bottom left-hand corner, with a headline type size
of about 20 point, beside the Weather and the Contents columns,
was the announcement, all eight lines of it:
More Aussies may go to Iraq...
I mention these things not by way of criticism,
(In my career I too have had to decide what goes on a front page of a newspaper)
but by way of observation.
Because today we celebrate in the church lectionary year
a day which is supposed to be seen as the culmination
of the whole year’s stories and sermons...
When we are invited to focus on the reign of Christ,
or, as it used to be called, Christ the King.
Yet the so-called ‘real’ world is not listening. Neither does it seem to care.
The comings and goings of new and established
music and sport entertainers
is the big, important news this week.
All the rest has been marginalised.
The Beatles were right.
They (and other entertainers) are more popular than Christ!
What can religion do?
That is a $64 question, isn’t it! (Where did that saying come from?)
Well, as you know, several folk have tried to answer this question.
And some of them have been named as guests and fellow explorers
in our own thinking here at (NN) this year.
Bishop John Shelby Spong has said
we need a new God-definition that resonates with the humanity of Jesus.
“What I see is a new portrait of Jesus... I see him pointing to something he calls the realm (or kingdom) of God, where new possibilities demand to be considered... I see him inviting his followers to join with him, to walk without fear beyond those security boundaries that always prohibit, block, or deny our access to a deeper humanity” (Spong 2001:131).
Biblical scholar Marcus Borg observes:
“Our preoccupation with believing is because many of the central teachings of Christianity have come into question in the modern world. Thinking of the Christian life as being primarily about believing in God, the Bible, and Jesus is thus a modern mistake, with profound consequences” (Borg 1999:240).
On the other hand, David Tacey, an Australian university lecturer
who offers courses on Spirituality, says
with the collapse of belief in the traditional image of God
“we have to find God in a new place, and the most convincing place of all will be our own human hearts.”
He continues with this suggestion:
“This does not mean that God will be a merely personal experience, locked away in the closet of introspection, but rather the discovery of God in our interiority will be the basis for a new appreciation of God in the world” (Tacey 2003:193).
Neither Spong, Borg or Tacey claim to have ‘the’ answer to my $64 question.
But they are a few of the torch lights seeking out a new pathway.
Seeking, that is, as traditional church structures
and those who control them, debate whether
to even allow the search to continue.
Sadly, this week I heard (yet again)
where one family’s ‘seeking’ was seen as too much of a threat
for a representative of conservative religion.
Their Anglican vicar has informed them they are no longer welcome
to receive communion because of their so-called ‘radical’ beliefs.
His Moore College (Fundamentalist Sydney Anglican) theology is not able to embrace
either their questioning or their vision.
Instead, his God must be protected and defended
by his possession of the infinite truth.
And their continued nurturing as people ‘on the way’
must be retarded or denied.
Such fundamentalism is a denial of the Reign of Christ!
Out of all the reading and the studying and the talking
I reckon some things are becoming a bit clearer
as to what celebrating the Reign of Christ is all about.
So let me offer some preliminary comments from where I see things.
It’s not about, I would suggest:
• Accepting a number of basic required beliefs and sub-beliefs, as claimed by conservative and fundamentalist religion...
otherwise God will punish you, or you could be kicked out of the church, or be ostracised if you stay.
• Neither is it about being ‘converted’ or becoming all ‘holy’.
• Nor demanding the status quo be maintained so as to preserve the last remnants of an outmoded supernatural religion.
It is about, I would suggest:
• Our need to continue to revise our appreciation of the role of religion in everyday life.
• To continue to revise what we believe.
• To continue to revise what form ‘church’ will take to be a meaningful, helpful presence in people's lives.
• And to continue to revise what it means to be a congregation...
a vigourous gathering of people, demonstrating
care and compassion,
healing and justice,
integrity and intellectual honesty.
So I guess I am suggesting that the celebration of the Reign of Christ
is about recognising a credible Jesus and a credible religion
and a credible church in this the early years of the 21st century.
And some of the words and images which may help shape this credibility, are:
acceptance - a marvellous non-judgemental humanitarian compassion.
relationship - an evolving new way of being.
loving wastefully - freed from hang-ups and hostilities that cripple and conflict our existence.
spiritual presence or creativity - discovering something new about ourselves, about life.
behaving ethically - learning what is appropriate behaviour in our changing environments.
Spiritual presence or creativity.
I invite you to consider these possibilities on this day, when the Lectionary
invites us to celebrate and reflect on the season of the Reign of Christ.
Borg, M. J.; N. T. Wright. 1999. The meaning of Jesus. Two visions. NY: New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Spong, J. S. 2001. A new Christianity for a new world. Why traditional faith is dying and how a new faith is being born. NY: New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Tacey, D. 2003. The spirituality revolution. The emergence of contemporary spirituality. NSW: Pymble. HarperCollins Publishers.