Transcript of the Post:
Welcome back to If Necessary Use Words! This is a place for praying with images. I’m Jon Shematek, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
Every Monday, we’ll look at a portion of the Gospel assigned for the upcoming Sunday, and reflect together using a form of Visio Divina, in which we combine scriptural text, images and reflection. I hope this will engage you in thought, conversation or next Sunday’s sermon.
Today we explore a portion of the Gospel of John, Chapter 18 verse 37, assigned for Proper 29 B, the last Sunday after Pentecost, the Feast of Christ the King, which this year falls on Sunday, November 25th. We join the narrative at the critical point when Pilate confronts Jesus with the question about the definition of kingship.
First Listen or Read Carefully:
“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” (NRSV)
Now Look at this image of the closed gates to the Palace of Versailles, the French royal residence for over 100 years prior to the French Revolution. Notice the exquisite ornate detail of gold, and the expense that must have been involved. Notice the royal crown set at the highest point. Imagine the sense of awe that visitors to this place experienced then, and still do today. What else do you notice or feel as you take a moment to gaze more deeply into this image?[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
Now Reflect: When we think of kings and queens today, for many of us, they are mainly characters from history who controlled areas and populations large and small, somewhat like the persons who built and lived in the palace of Versailles. As all humans, they were flawed, despite believing that their reign was divinely ordained. Or when we think of royalty, what occurs may be characters from favorite familiar fairy tales who lived in castles, some good and some evil. Like these real or fictional royals, that day on which he spoke with Jesus, Pilate was most concerned about power: political power, military power, financial power, threats to his own position of authority. So when this Jesus, who hardly looked the part of a king, came into his midst, I wonder what he felt. Did he sense something special, something godly, about this man? Did it strike fear or confusion into his heart? Was he truly curious about Jesus’ definition of kingship? Did he begin to understand what Jesus meant about power?
In fact, we do still have royalty in certain countries of course, especially of interest to anglophiles among us. In the widely-watched and reported Royal Wedding this past Spring, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached to the royal couple, and to the entire world, about power. Power was his theme. His sermon was all about the Power of Love, redemptive, sacrificial, life-changing, love, that could bring about new heaven and new earth, with justice flowing like a stream. The power of love that, if Christ were truly our king, would transform everything, overcome all evil and hatred. As followers of the Jesus movement, we are ever challenged to believe and act as though this is the truth: that God is love, and love conquers all. Something perhaps Pilates of his day, or of today, would sadly never grasp.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
Now Act: As followers of the Jesus Movement, take this opportunity to walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God. For us, this marks the end of the liturgical year, and many have already turned our attention away from the spiritual life and to the material life even before Advent is upon us, let alone the season of Christmas. So now, on this Christian New Year’s Eve, no matter whether you are a believer or not, exercise your inner power not out of fear or a sense of scarcity, but from a heart brimming over with gratitude and love.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
This is Jon Shematek. Thanks so much for participating in If Necessary Use Words. A place for praying with images. Please leave a comment on this post with any personal insights, reflections, or concerns, so that others may benefit from your thoughts.[Song: “Ambient Sonata” / Album: Ambient Sonata / Artist: Dee Yan-Key]
[Image: “Palatial Gates” Location: Versailles, France Photographer: Annette Schuman, posted on Unsplash.com]