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Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Circle of Hope Reign of Christ (Christ the King) Sunday brings us full circle in the liturgical year. Today, our texts show us the circle of hope in which our faith is grounded and our lives transformed: God’s covenant, Christ’s reign, and the Spirit’s abiding presence. Revelation 1: 4b–8 Tradition holds that the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos during the reign of the emperor Domitian (81–96 CE). The Roman emperors claimed to be “Lord” and “Father” of all people. In doing so, the Roman Empire expected people to yield to its authority with gratitude for all the good things it provided. Those who refused to address an emperor in this way faced persecution or death. Early Christians, persistently faithful to the confession of Christ alone as Lord, faced great risk in declaring so. This book was written to offer hope and encouragement to Christians enduring such trials. In this book, the word “revelation” is a translation of the Greek word apokalypsis, and means, “an unveiling.” The type of writing in Revelation is known as apocalyptic writing. It offers bold visions of the new dwelling place of peace that God is preparing for God’s people. The writer intended this book to be difficult to understand, so that it would seem harmless to any government official who might read it. The greeting in 1:4b bestows grace and peace from the God “who is and who was and who is to come,” and is paralleled later in the identity of God as “Alpha and Omega,” the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. These words are a declaration of hope. Long before the Roman emperors took breath, long after they will have perished, God is. God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, identified in this passage with three titles. “Faithful witness” foreshadows how early Christians sometimes were called before an imperial court regarding their confession of Christ as Lord. “Firstborn of the dead” underscores God’s power to bring life not just to Jesus, but to all those who witness to Christ. “The ruler of the kings of the earth” states the subversive core of this book. Christ’s power is contrasted with the oppressive power confronted by the first readers of this book. Notice the verb tense in verse 5: [Christ] loves us. Love is not just a past recollection of the cross or a promise of hope that will be fulfilled someday. Christ’s love is now. God in Christ creates us as a people, as a “kingdom” and as “priests.” This hope will be revealed not only to those who hold fast to its confession, but also to those who try to squelch it or deny it. “So it is to be” offers a word of faith to those who would hear, and a word of defiance to those who would try to shut out God’s inevitable destiny. In 2 Samuel 23:1–7, David’s words reflect on God’s faithfulness near the time of death. David grounds his hope in the timeless covenant that God keeps rather than in any temporal authority, including his own. Psalm 132:1–12, (13–18) speaks of hope in God’s covenant. The description of a future heir makes this psalm a traditional reading for this Sunday. Jesus’ faithful witness to the truth in John 18:33–37 is a model for the faithful witness of the early Christians and Christians today. Pilate, the imperial governor of Judea, needs to know who Jesus is in terms of the powers and authorities of this world. The truth that motivates Jesus is of a different sort entirely.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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