Ephesians 1: 1-23
Delores Williams, wise womanist theologian and teacher, was my preaching professor Barbara Lundblad’s colleague when she first came to Union Seminary. Barbara remembers Delores Williams telling this story: that she grew up in the South and remembers Sunday mornings when the minister shouted out: “Who is Jesus?” The choir responded in voices loud and strong: “King of kings and Lord Almighty!” Then, little Miss Huff, in a voice so fragile and soft you could hardly hear, would sing her own answer, “Poor little Mary’s boy.” Back and forth they sang – KING OF KINGS…Poor little Mary’s boy. Delores said, “It was the Black church doing theology.” Who is Jesus? “King of Kings” cannot be the answer without seeing “poor little Mary’s boy. The images clash. One is big and powerful, the other small and poor.”(Lundblad)
Between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent- which is next Sunday, our spiritual prep leading up to Christmas, we get an extra Sunday, and our liturgical calendar calls today Christ the King Sunday, and the United Church of Christ has that softened to Reign of Christ Sunday to avoid the male imagery of “king” But that doesn’t make much difference if we forget that Jesus is “poor little Mary’s boy.” I have re-named it Cosmic Christ Sunday, well, because I can, and because I think cosmic Christ works even better to get at the same thing in our context.
Our Advent theme this year comes from the dreams of one of our Deacons. She came to me saying, “I had a dream that I was pregnant- and I really don’t want to be pregnant, so it scared me.” She said, “I realized when I woke up, something sort of obvious; that having a baby changes everything. After three children you’d think I would know that,” she said, “but around Christmas time I always connect to the idea of the cosmic Christ coming to earth, the incarnation of love, but I never really see the literal baby. What if for Advent this year we meditate on how being plopped with a literal baby changes everything. What if we ask people if there has been an event in their lives that reoriented everything around love? “What to expect when you’re expecting Jesus!” Another deacon chimed in. Bingo.
On Christ the King Sunday, how can this baby, poor little Mary’s boy, be a King? Lundblad reminds us, “Though “king” is male, the word is important because Jesus turned that word on its head. This king is in handcuffs, standing before Pontius Pilate who has the power to condemn him to death or set him free. This Sunday honors Jesus Christ as King, but soon the religious leaders will shout, “We have no king but the emperor!” There is dissonance in claiming Christ as King.
Who is Jesus Christ? “Who do they say that I am?,” Jesus will ask his disciples in his lifetime? His identity is one of the mysteries of our faith.
Father Richard Rohr writes, “The first and cosmic incarnation of the Eternal Christ, the perfect co-inherence of matter and Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-11), happened at the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that same Mystery a mere 2,000 years ago, when we were perhaps ready for this revelation. Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but the title of his historical and cosmic purpose. Jesus presents himself as the “Anointed” or Christened One who was human and divine united in one human body—as our model and exemplar. Christ is our shortcut word for “The Body of God” or “God materialized.” This Christ is much bigger and older than either Jesus of Nazareth or the Christian religion, because the Christ is whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere.”
When we go to the beginning of creation, in Genesis, the human attempt to describe the beginning murmurs of creation, we notice that God did not create out of nothing, ex nihilo, but to borrow from Theologian Catherine Keller, creation ex profundus, out of the deep. The wind, and the earth and the water were already there, Tehom, a feminine noun meaning “ocean” or “the deep” messy and dark, existing just fine, existed in the beginning. Then Genesis states that Elohim, God in Hebrew, brought light, inviting these primordial forces into co-creation. We are made in the image of God, but suppose, asks philosopher John Caputo, “Suppose our corporeal being is deeply interwoven with, immersed in, these wild, watery, and windy conditions?”
So where was the Christ-consciousness in the beginning? Was Christ with God, as the Gospel of John’s hymn to the logos might have us believe; in the beginning was the word, the word was with God, and the word was God. Or is Christ in the deep, with Tehom, the waters of creation? Or was Christ in the mixing of these forces.
We have a lot of babies around these days: Sometimes I think baby Ruthie ought to preach the sermons, since she adamantly crawls up to the pulpit- which I love. When I think, “what is the best way to worship God, to worship the cosmic Christ, to observe creation?” I can think of no better teacher than a child who is exploring the mystery of the world with wonder.
When we baptize children, we give them the mark of entry into the Christian church universal. The third baptismal question we have is this: do you proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? What does it mean to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? When we say Jesus Christ we are making two statements of faith, one in the historical child of Nazareth who was born and walked the earth, and two, proclaiming faith in a Christ consciousness, which we all have access to. So what does it mean to make this Christ our King, or Queen, or ruler? What would it mean to have allegiance to no force above this force of love and oneness, that permeates all beings?
An Anglican priest from South Africa shared a story about what it was like to believe Jesus was King during the days of apartheid. “Our whole congregation was arrested,” he said, “for refusing to obey the government.” I thought I misheard him, but he went on to say that all 240 members of the congregation were arrested and put in jail – from babies to a 90 year old man. “At least babies and mothers were kept together,” he added. The pastor himself was imprisoned for a year. To claim that Jesus is King can be dangerous.”(Lundblad)
Allowing this Christ to be our ruler means having no earthly person above this force of cosmic love, no political person, no government, no family member, no loved one, who has our allegiance more than the cosmic Christ. What would that look like in your life? The cosmic Christ then, is the mystery of how our spirits are connected to one another and hooked into all of creation, encouraging us to act accordingly. The cosmic Christ, then, is in the mystery of how matter cannot be created or destroyed, meaning love and life cannot be consumed by death. The cosmic Christ, then is the pulse of love and awareness in all creation. The cosmic Christ existed before Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago, and came to earth with Jesus to teach him how to become Christ, so they together, Jesus Christ, could show us a way to co-exist with one another, with uncomfortable, countercultural mercy, love, healing and justice. So let this child reign, let the cosmic Christ permeate every part of our lives, let us turn toward the true nature of our being, guided by Jesus and embodying the Christ. Let it be so, Amen.
Barbara K. Lundblad, A Different Kind of King, 2012, http://day1.org/4422-on_scripturethe_bible_barbara_lundblad_a_different_kind_of_king_john_18_33__37
The Cosmic Christ, Richard Rohr, 2015 https://cac.org/the-cosmic-christ-2015-11-05/
John D. Caputo, The Weakness of God, 2006, p 60.