November 25, 2018
Eternity isn’t minutes or hours or days; it’s Jesus!
“Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow a dream,
and today a gift, which is why it’s called the present!”
According to the website on which I found those words, they are a Buddhist saying. But they, pretty much, reflect the way most everyone feels, nowadays. At least, everyone here in America. The past is the past. The future the future. It’s only the here and only the now that really, truly matter. And I guess I’m as guilty as anyone. When I teach, I always begin by drawing a line across the white board. Yesterday is at one end. Tomorrow at the other. And today is just a single dot somewhere in between. A solitary heartbeat, a single breath, that as soon as it happens becomes a part of the past.
But that understanding of time – when brought into the church – has consequences. Especially on a day like this. Christ the King! This is the last Sunday on the church calendar! The first day of the final week of the year! Of OUR year, anyway! This is the destination of, the reason for, the last fifty-one Sundays. And on a timeline, t’s the very end of it all. Christmas is behind us. Over. Done. As is Good Friday and Easter, Pentecost and all those Sundays-After. Today is Christ the King. But for some reason, we’re just not quite sure what to do with it. Where to put it on our timeline. Behind us? Here and no? Somewhere up ahead?
I think, for most of us, we’d opt for the future. Christ the King belongs to the mists and mysteries of the future. Always more a dream than a memory. Maybe it’s because as Christians in America, we’re so fixated on a so-called Second Coming. We’re always turning our back on the past and looking for tomorrow. Watching. Waiting. For something that hasn’t yet happened. Especially when it’s this time of year! The Sunday after Thanksgiving Day! We’re so busy. Always preparing. Always getting ready. Always listening for that last trumpet. Faith, for us, is always about the far end of the timeline. What over the next hell. What’s around the next turn. So, we can put a dot behind us for the stable, for the star. And we can put another dot behind us for the cross and another for the tomb. But when it comes to Christ the King, we always turn and look the other way. Toward something in the future. Toward a tomorrow that is yet to be. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” That, for us, is the mystery of believing. Past. Present. Future.
And then, adding to the mystery, we read a passage from Daniel! And another from the Revelation! We turn away from the down to earth story of gospel to the comic book images of apocalyptic! And it all gets even more confusing! Clothing as white as snow! Hair like pure wool! Fiery flames! Burning fire! Coming with the clouds! And it all conjures up vision of something not yet, of something yet to be. But, then, early in the week, I saw that phrase from the Revelation and all my preconceptions, all my assumptions, just kinda fell away. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” Jesus tells John! I am the A and the Z! The First and the Last! The Start and the Finish! The Beginning and the End!
In the past, before this week, I would have heard those words and, on my timeline, I’d have pointed, first, to one end and, then, to the other. Two separate, two distinct, points! And I’d, probably, point out how Jesus was at both ends of the line. Like the slices of bread in a sandwich. How nothing happens “outside” of Jesus. But this time, I head something else. Not, I am the Alpha and I am the Omega, but I am the-Alpha-and-the-Omega! They aren’t two different dots on the timeline of eternity. They’re the same dot! The same thing! Attached. Overlapping.
When we believe, time isn’t a straight line. One end closer to god than the other. Faith is a circle! A ring, an orbit, that encircles, that surrounds god! Never nearer! Never farther away! Just like one of those links we made as children in a paper chain. It starts out, two dimensional. A flat strip with two ends. But when we’re done, it’s a circle. No end; no beginning. One end taped, stapled, glued to the other. There is no Alpha. There is no Omega. But Alpha and Omega, Omega and Alpha, are one and the same! The end is the beginning; the beginning the end! The finish is the start; the start the finish! “I am,” says Jesus, “the Alpha and the Omega! The Omega and the Alpha!”
In faith, time folds back – folds forward – on itself! Yesterday becomes tomorrow! Tomorrow today! And in the end, there is only Jesus! Only Christ! The past, the present, the future! That’s why the church has a calendar all its own. We don’t look at time like the world does. For us, time isn’t about the sun or the moon or the stars. For us, time is about Jesus! Who he is! Who he was! Who he will be! No ending. No beginning. Only always! Only forever!
This isn’t the first time we’ve celebrated Christ the King. And this won’t be the last. It isn’t that Christ, hopefully, someday, will become king. It’s that Jesus reigns! Has been reigning! For centuries! For millennia! I am! The Alpha and the Omega! Both at the same time! Not two dots at the opposite ends of a straight line. But where start and finish, where finish and start meet! Where end and beginning, where beginning and end join and are one in the same! Not a distant hope; but a present reality! Manger and cross and throne! Stable and kingdom and grave! It’s all Jesus! The one and the only! The once and the future!
Time’s – like faith – isn’t a straight line! It’s a whirlpool, an eddy, where yesterday and today and tomorrow are churn and swirl! Mixed and blended by the endless – by the beginning-less – love of god! It may sound crazy, but here, in this place, we find our future in our yesterdays! It’s not so much that our dreams come true, as it is our memories! “What has been, is now, and will be forever!” The same is true for Jesus! It isn’t that, one day, Christ will become king. He’s king, already! Right here! Right now! Jesus IS lord! Jesus has been lord! After all, he is the Alpha and the Omega!
“Are you the king of the Jews?” That’s the question Pilate asked Jesus on that Holy Friday morning. “Are you the emperor, the caesar, the king?” Of course, the answer is, “Yes! I am! I was! I will be! King as I lay in the manger! King as I sit on the throne! And king, even, as I hang on the cross! King not just of the Jews, but king of each and every, of one and all! Time folds in on itself! Future becomes past! Yesterday becomes tomorrow! Today the moment past and present meet, when dreams and memories all come true!
Today is Christ the King! This isn’t the last day of a dying year. This isn’t the first of one just being born. This, my friends, is what every minute of every second of every minute of every hour of every day is all about. . . Jesus crucified! Jesus crowned! Jesus king!