Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A king like no other . . .

It seems appropriate this Sunday to take stock of ourselves. After all, this Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, marks the last Sunday in our church year. Next week marks Advent I, and we switch from Year B to Year C in our readings. So it is a time not unlike we will all be experiencing right after Christmas and right before New Year's Day 2010. On the surface, what more needs to be said? We serve the King, the Lord. We may be Americans and think that we have jettisoned the idea of a king some 200+ years ago. But God reminds us over and over that His Son, Jesus, is the heir to David's throne. Over and over again we read about the Good King who keeps all of God's instruction, who cares for the widows and the orphan, and who defends those who suffer from injustice, and rules God’s people as He has declared. Clearly, God's idea of a king is radically different from those British kings and queens whom we rejected so long ago. So why remind ourselves who it is we are supposed to serve?

This past week, I launched the ministry at the truckstop. Initially, it will be a ministry of presence. I have no illusions that the workers and truckers will be slow to talk to me, let alone point us in the directions that we need to go to more effectively those whom we are trying to reach. Yet, even as I sat there this week, drinking a coffee and watching people, I was reminded how much the world around us needs to hear about our King. Truckers coming in from the northeast end of the building were usually on a phone or hustling to get to a phone. Over and over I heard a trucker checking in with his company. I was not eavesdropping. In some cases, I was as much as 20 or 30 feet from the driver on the phone. Apparently, it was tough to stay on schedule last week. "Yes, I know I am 71 miles behind schedule." "Yes, I know that I should have been here 1 1/2 hr ago." "You see there was a bad wreck." "You see, there was a lot of construction." The other end of the phone was concerned only for the schedule. Goods needed to be moved from point A to point B at a certain rate. No excuses. So many of those drivers which I watched grimaced, covered the phone, or simply rolled eyes at the tongue lashing from the other side. A lot of them hung up and then grumbled words best not mentioned in this article. Noticing me for the first time, a few even blushed or apologized. Who is their lord? Whom or what do they serve? They know a slavery to which some of us might relate. They need the paycheck. They need a good paycheck. They will take a tongue-lashing for the right to keep collecting that check. And, no doubt, once the re-fueling was finished, many tried to get back on schedule. They will likely make their money. But at what cost to their health, the families, and even, perhaps, to others on the road?

I have no idea what her name was. She was of Asian descent. As I neared her, I saw the vain attempt that had been made to cover the left side of her face. It had been a good attempt, but the mark was simply too big and too dark to be covered. Her business was one of selling herself to others. Language was a barrier between us. I do not know whether her boss (you and I call them pimps) or a customer had struck her. Certainly, both feel that they own her once they pay for her. Her boss expects his (or possibly her) money. Her customer expects to be pleased. Disappoint either, and the bruised face is one of the softer punishments that one might face. Kit had called offering me spots at Winnie's for any women that might want to flee their lives. This lady was not interested in seeking safety. I would like to think it was the language barrier that kept her from leaving. I fear it was her fear. This is her life, that is her master. Her fear of them is greater than anything in the world. The hope that I was offering her, from her perspective, was probably illusionary. But, I will be back. Maybe one day, she will hear His call in my voice.

He had been asked to sit with a friend of his bishop. The local priests were simply too busy to mark the passing of another life, and, I suppose, the bishop back east had more important work to do as well. But the priest set aside his work and went. Keep in mind, these people were family friends of a bishop. And as he sat and watched the husband seemingly unwilling to die, the priest turned to the soon-to-be widow and asked her “have you given your husband’s care to God?” “No, it’s too hard. I don’t want to lose him.” Softly, tenderly, the priest reminded her that she was not losing her husband, she was giving him the freedom to go home to the Lord, the Lord who had promised to redeem even death. She remarked it was hard to see her husband like this. Once again, the priest reminded her that we cannot protect any of those whom we love, really protect them. We give their care to God and trust that He will care for them. And when they stumble, we trust He will redeem their missteps. That is His promise to us.

So many of us, hopefully, as we reflect this week upon our lives and upon our Lord's calling of each one of us, will think of those things and those people whom we served before God called us. Some of us may have sold ourselves, our very identities, in pursuit of a paycheck or a career. Some of us may have sold ourselves to addictions in search of something to numb the pain that we felt in our lives. Some of us may have sought out destructive relationships thinking that we could never find love. And then He called. The God Incarnate Man Divine called to us. We heard His offer. And we accepted! And all He asked of us was for us to allow Him save us, and then to use us to reach others in our lives. So many kings in this world demand. They demand taxes. They demand military service. They demand honor. And yet, God's King, the One who saved each one of us, does not even demand of us that we serve Him for what He has done for us. Though He has acted to free each of us and all whom we encounter, He gives us a choice. "Please let Me save you." "Please serve Me." “Come, follow Me.” And, typical of Him, we are all free to reject Him. And many whom we encounter do.

And yet, that is the very message you and I are called to carry into the world. That is the truth that Jesus expects His disciples to hear, to remember, and to share. Yes, people will be like Pilate. "What is truth?" will ring out many times in our lives. Yet Jesus has called us all into relationship with Him. He has asked to be our King. Will we let Him? And if we do, will the world be able to tell that He is our King? Brothers and sisters, our King has asked you to give Him control and trust over everything in your life, even your death. As we end this liturgical year and begin a new one, what parts of your life are you withholding? Where are you, like those whom I met last week, determined to enslave yourself to another? Brothers and sisters, He called us into relationship with Him. He called us to love Him. And best of all, He has promised to free each one of us!


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