Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We don't know what power is.

November 25, 2007
The Solemnity of Christ the King
Mass Readings:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

I remember watching a show on TV about the history of state dinners. Those are the fancy dinners at the White House. The show chronicled the state dinner from the earliest days of the country up until the present day. What I learned is that a state dinner will cost hundreds of thousands of tax dollars so that a group of people can dress in multi thousand dollar outfits and congratulate each other on how powerful they are. Yes I am being cynical.

So here we have a group of people who think that they are powerful. They have the finest clothes and the choicest foods and they drive around in elite limousines. In fact I once had someone say to me that having a limousine is a sign of being rich and powerful. I've been in a lot of limousines but they were always because someone had died and we were in the funeral procession. So much for rich and powerful! Yet that example leads me to think this, how can someone feel that he or she is powerful when all the power in the world won't stop a massive heart attack or stroke that kills? All of these people who relish their power can find that it is all gone in an instant if his or her heart decides to stop working. All the earthly power possible cannot stop the body from shutting down.

That show caused me to start thinking about how we view power. My observations have led me to believe that many people in our world view power as either the ability to destroy or to buy. I fear that many folk view power as the possession of guns and bombs or purchasing and selling power. This is fleeting and hollow power. It is power that seeks self gratification and is not true power.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This celebration is the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is Power. Jesus Christ is the source of life, of all creation. Yet how is that power displayed? Jesus' power is made manifest in his broken and bloodied body on the cross. To most people this would not be a sign of power. We want our power to be glossy and fancy and in many cases, destructive. Yet today we look to the source of life hanging upon a cross.

I remember hearing a parable that went like this. A European city was being destroyed by a marauding force in the 13th century. There was a monastery in the town and the monks, all but one, had been slaughtered. As the commander of the army rode into the monastery on his horse, the one surviving monk stood and faced him. The commander asked the monk a question: "Do you not fear me? I have the power to take or spare your life." The monk replied: "Do you not fear me? I have the power to give you my life." There it is. There is power! How can that be?

Jesus' power is not in the destruction or purchase of life but in his ability to give life. Jesus' life was not taken from him but rather Jesus gave it freely. Jesus Christ, King and Lord of Creation freely offered himself up so that we might live. Jesus' power is in life not death or the pursuit of riches. Power is what gives life. Destruction and riches are merely hollow pursuits and have no power.

There is not a bomb that can blast a hole into Heaven. There is no limousine that will slide us into Heaven. There isn't enough money that will grease the palm of St. Peter so that we can sneak into Heaven. All the things we humans may deem as power have no influence on God. In fact, we will all face Christ the King on the same footing. We will all give account of what we did with the life that Jesus gave to us in his death, burial and resurrection. None of the things we hold as power on earth will make a bit of difference when we face the True Power, Christ the King.

At Calvary Jesus proclaims the truth of power. Power is from God and God alone. All of our earthly powers will mean nothing when we stand face to face with Christ the King. Our guns and bombs, our money and possessions will be gone and rotted and we will stand there powerless in the face of Power.

All of our "false gods of power" will fail us. We can worship at the feet of the latest celebrity idol or long to have favor from a politician but all we succeed in doing is selling our own soul for brief earthly power. The favor we should strive for is that of Christ the King. From Christ the King we receive life and power. The power we receive is to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of Life that was born on the cross as Jesus shed his blood for us. Power is when we seek to do all things in the image of Jesus. To humble yourself before Christ the King is the first sign of being powerful. Not powerful in the eyes of the world, but powerful as a disciple of the Lord. The power we receive from Christ is the power to proclaim the life giving message proclaimed by Christ.

Let us seek the power of life that comes from Christ the King, the power to be his faithful disciples.