Who Are We Truly Following?
The Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler
Director of Mission Engagement
- Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
- Revelation 1:4b-8
- John 18:33-37
Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish religious philosopher, and minister tells a story in which he asks us to imagine that these geese could, like us, talk and think and do the kinds of things we do. The geese went to church every week. Each week they were inspired by a powerful, motivating sermon by the high goose. The sermon always went the same. The high goose would tell the assembled geese of their high destiny and about what a lofty goal the Creator had appointed geese for he had given them wings. As he said all this, the geese would honk and squawk their approval. They were truly amazed at these words. With their wings, the high goose told them, they could fly anywhere they wanted around the world. They were most pleased to hear this. And each week after the benediction has been pronounced and as they made their way out the church doors, the geese would waddle home.
Today we celebrate the festival of the Reign of Christ, which is the last Sunday in the Liturgical Calendar. This calendar keeps Christians from many different denominations moving together as we follow the church year. So, it is fitting that today we look back over the past church year, ponder what we have heard, and ask ourselves if we are still waddling home? And as we ponder the meaning of what it means to have Christ reign in our lives, we can also ask ourselves if we have placed Christ and our relationship to him at the center of our lives from which we define ourselves and guide our thoughts and actions.
Today’s Gospel lesson from John Chapter 18 relates the encounter between Jesus and Pontius Pilate just before Jesus is sentenced to die on the cross. There Pilate asks if Jesus considered himself to be a King. Jesus answers by saying, “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.”
In the Lord’s prayer, where Jesus teaches us to pray, he gives us these words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
I do very much affirm that the very image of God is stamped deep within each of us, and we have a calling to share God’s image as we live our lives day today. At the same time, we also have the option to keep that image hidden and instead reflect the spirit of this world in our daily lives. This is the option that free will gives us. While I don’t like to sound of this dualism, there is a reality that God’s way is different from the selfish side of our human nature. God’s way calls us to view the world through eyes of mercy and grace, while the darker side of our humanity would see the world as a means to improve our status, wealth, power, and influence.
Jesus said it well in Mark 10:43 and following: “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
As we ponder what it truly means to allow Jesus to reign in our lives and to follow him, this is where we start. This is where we move from waddling to flying! This is where we start to move beyond creeds and statements of belief to living as Jesus did.
This provides us with a mission to live so that we care for others before we care for ourselves. We seek to make sure that the outcast is brought home, where the hungry are given food, and the homeless are given shelter. This is what it means to fly! This is what it means to follow Jesus! This is what it means to help see that God’s will is done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.