By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
November 21, 2010
Read: Luke 23:33-43
Well, it’s the last Sunday in the season of Pentecost and next week we begin the season of Advent. Advent is the beginning of the church calendar year. Today is a Sunday of endings and new beginnings. Today is also traditionally known as Christ the King Sunday. Christ the King – another contrast. A contrast between what we tend to view as an exalted position – that of king; and the reality of who Jesus was and is. It is a Sunday that calls us to reflect on our own identity as well as just who we say and know Jesus to be.
The setting is Calvary (the skull hill), over 2000 years ago. The occasion: the darkest moment in the history of humankind! Christ crucified. Yet, as all the children of the resurrection know, God takes the darkest moment in human history and turns it into the biggest triumph for humanity. It is the moment when Christ takes away the sins of the world. It is the moment when God the Father takes the crown of thorns put on His son by human hands and replaces it with a crown of glory. That’s what we will celebrate this morning when we sing the old hymn: Crown Him With Many Crowns.”
And in the middle of this dark and yet triumphant hour, we find humanity represented by the repentant and by the unrepentant criminal. The unrepentant one mocks Jesus expressing his unbelief: “If you are the Messiah, how come you can’t help yourself and us?” This soul represents the dark side within every one of us. The side that rebels against God’s unconditional love; the side that doesn’t want to accept Christ’s Kingship in our lives.
And then, there is the other criminal. He represents the other side within us, the one that reaches out to Jesus. The side that knows that accepting Christ as our Lord is the best thing we could ever do for ourselves. Listen to the words of that criminal once again: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom!”
“Remember me” is what Abraham essentially said to God when he was waiting for the child of promise. “Remember us in our distress” was the cry of the Hebrew slaves, laboring under cruel and inhumane conditions for pharaoh. “How long, o God, cries the Psalmist, will you forget us forever?” Remember your exiled people by the rivers of Babylon.
“Remember me, Lord” is what we also pray at those times when it seems darkest; when the world seems to come down on us, when nobody seems to care any longer. In those moments God becomes our last resort, our hope in the midst of terror. Lord Jesus, remember our friends and loved ones” we pray. Why are we so afraid that God might forget? Does God ever forget us? Do we really have to remind God? I suspect it is more likely that you and I forget, not God. We are the ones who forget about our neighbor’s needs, and at times we even forget about God. These are the moments when the unrepentant criminal comes alive in us. Only after we remember once again the goodness and love of Christ, the king, do we pray “Lord Jesus, remember me.”
The good news is that King Jesus does not forget any of us–ever! God’s arms are stretched out wide and his invitation is for all of us who remember Christ, the King, just like the repentant criminal. “Truly, I tell you,” says Jesus, “today you will be with me in paradise.” “Today? You mean today after I die?” Not even death will stop Jesus from remembering you and me. The royal invitation stands fast.
There is an interesting story about Soul Songs in Africa. Something to think about when we consider our relationship with God, Jesus and each other – the power of a relationship bound in respect for others and love for fellow human beings. Soul Songs.
“When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few women friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song. Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.
In the African tribe, there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them. The tribe recognizes that what is important for the correction of antisocial behavior is a remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
That soul song is our truth, it is our identity which is grounded in the knowledge and love of God. It is our connection with Christ the King who is the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end); the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
A friend is someone who knows our song and sings it to us when we have forgotten it.
Today, let us remember Jesus. Let us salute the King of Kings in our midst. Let us remember to give to Christ what is due Him: our hearts and our lives, our souls. May we approach God today with a repentant heart. And having been accepted by God (once again) and having been cleansed from sin, let us lift our voices. Let us join in the chorus of millions of believers, saints, and angels. Let us sing songs of praise in honor to our Majesty the King. Amen.
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