Sunday of the Fulfillment 11/24/19 Holy Wisdom Monastery
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43 Patti La Cross
I won’t be focusing this reflection on the first reading. We are all quite aware that not all who have assumed power since the earliest civilizations could or – desired to – unite those they ruled.
Today, in this day we are given, let us accept Paul’s prayer for the Colossians, and all with whom it is shared.
Let us explore how we come to know and experience a life of joy and gratitude in Jesus the Christ. Let’s revel in this world, imbued from its origins with the generosity, creativity, beauty, and untold possibility of a gracious God.
As a young child I learned that the Creator of all things was called Father, and only Jesus was called Christ, the one sent to save us. The Holy Spirit was their gift to make us brave and wise, to bring us joy and peace. A rather functional, if not Scriptural, explanation.
Paul’s description of the full and ongoing participation of the Christ in creating and “holding all things together”, and his image of the fullness of God “pleased to dwell in Christ” is certainly a richer source for our further reflection throughout this week.
Fitting of the early baptismal hymn that scholars believe it to be.
Jesus, as firstborn of all creation, indeed inherited it all: All the Love of the Creator, all the worlds, dominions, and powers – and all the earthly responsibility to heal and reconcile our brokenness.
That is where we meet this Christ. He has spent three years animating the people in a ministry both passionate and provocative. He has been arrested, tried, and sentenced to death, and now hangs on a cross.
In an earlier homily this year I referred to Luke’s gospel as Gospel of the poor. Another distinction of Luke is that, while it was written for a Greek speaking audience, the author doesn’t paint the whole Jewish community as being dismissive of Jesus.
Yes, there were Scribes and Pharisees who sought to be rid of him. But Luke makes it clear that it was “the Rulers”, not “the People” who were hostile to Jesus. He used the collective “they” of Jews and Romans together, indicating that the wide net of forgiveness was thrown to both.
His lifelong passion was for the ordinary and the lost: The People.
In Luke’s account of the Passion, The People are present. They are standing as witnesses. We aren’t told if they supported him or not.
But they stood, while the Rulers mocked Jesus: “let him save himself”
Then the soldiers mocked him.
Then one of those Luke calls “wrongdoers”, crucified alongside Jesus, audaciously taunted him: “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us”.
Finally, the man hanging to the other side of Jesus speaks. He addresses Jesus by his given name and acknowledges the injustice of Jesus’ sentence. This one also understands that he is in the presence of a a person with true power. And he asks Jesus to remember him;
perhaps so to validate that his own life also once had dignity.
We don’t have any record of this man’s crime – nor of his repentance.
He asked only to be remembered.
Hanging from his own cross, Jesus heard this random bandit’s despair, and must have loved him. That random, particular guy. As only he could love.
So, with an AMEN! for true Lucan emphasis, and what Raymond Brown called “Jesus’ divine graciousness beyond any anticipation”,
on that previously worst day ever, Nameless Wrongdoer #2 seems to have accompanied Jesus into God’s Own Home.?! Jesus’ Day Dawned, if this one, then all of us: embraced, forgiven, loved.
Thus, does Jesus’ passion for each of us particular random humans bring an end to his earthly life, and our liturgical year.
We are invited to follow his passion for embracing our fellows, wherever we find them;
we are charged with sharing the good news that none of us is more – or less! – worthy in God’s Own Home.
Our worship always sends us out to love and serve one another. For those who wish I have a suggestion for action that directly flows from today’s Scriptures.
One of Sunday Assembly’s identities is as a member congregation of MOSES, a local affiliate of the Gamaliel Institute for community organizing. Wisconsin’s affiliates are committed to reforming our state prison system, notorious for its racial disparity and over-incarceration.
One of our efforts is toward the release of so-called Old Law prisoners, those sentenced before 2000. That’s when the unforgiving Truth in Sentencing took effect. These are persons who may already have served decades longer than the judge intended when sentencing them, many have been imprisoned 30-40 years. Some are ill and others have died awaiting compassionate release to spend their last days with family from whom they have long been separated.
I felt it timely on this Sunday to offer members of this circle an opportunity to read short bios with photos of some of these inmates, prepared by MOSES members from letters exchanged with these men. You also have the opportunity to sign a petition MOSES is circulating calling for their release.
Additional information about MOSES – which in the past 5 years has involved up to 40 members of Sunday Assembly – is also available.
Let us be graced today to summon some of the love with which Jesus shocked us, to consider that prisoners unknown to us may grow our passion for the Gospel we profess. If Guy #2, then why not them?
We can’t earn God’s love, no matter how hard we try. We can only accept the love we are each freely given, that dignity-restoring love of God found in Jesus.
And we can live lives worthy of that dignity, as an invitation, a liberation, a healing for others. We are Baptized into that mission, and our worship nourishes us to follow that call.
Let us pray:
For those who lead communities of faith in our nation and across the world. May they witness to a faith grounded in humility, and lead with respect and love for all created life. Let us pray.
For those who lead the communities and states of our nation, that they will commit to policies that protect the vulnerable, work for the viability of future generations, and promote justice and common purpose across all that would divide us from one another. Let us pray.
For those in our families and communities, in hospitals, hospices, prisons and jails who need someone to accompany them. We pray for the grace to be present to those who need us, and open to meeting the Christ in them. For this we pray.