November 21, 2021: Not of This World

Reign of Christ Sunday

Not of This World

In our reading, Pilate wants to get to the bottom of what Jesus is up to. Jesus responds, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 NIV). When we hear words like this, we may think of a physical place. If our focus turns to a physical place and we read that “[Jesus’] kingdom is not of this world,” it’s possible to conclude that “this world” does not matter. We might be led to believe that we should just forget about this one and wait until we pass from it.

This sentiment comes up in some Gospel tunes that I love. They are riddled with references to waiting around until the sweet by and by. I can still hear the beautiful voices of my mission trips to Haiti, singing, “…when I die, hallelujah, by and by I’ll fly away.” (from “I’ll Fly Away,” by Albert E. Brumley, 1929). Their focus is elsewhere, not in this world, but waiting for us in heaven. But I can’t get behind where it leaves us.

Maybe we should shift from a focus on the physical place to a way of being in a physical place. The way of being that is of this world has been upended by Jesus—if we let it.

Suffering through is nothing new, but a king who suffers when those in his charge suffer, that is new. When advantage is not something to be exploited, that is new, and seems out of this world. But it is not.

When we are affected by the suffering of others, we are likely to act to eliminate that suffering. It’s a way of being that brings the kingdom into the here and now, into this world and into the world to come. Christ is indeed the King, and we can live into this kingdom by allowing Jesus to reign in our hearts. Amen.

Martin Avery, pastor, Canaan Moravian Church, Davenport, North Dakota