|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Growing up, even as a little child I was fascinated by what was then known as the English Civil War (although, to be accurate historically, this is now rightly recognised as several different wars across the islands of Britain and Ireland). It was a bitter and brutal period, culminating in the judicial trial and execution of the King. For this was a powerful revolution. Indeed it saw the establishment of a republic, the Commonwealth and Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Moreover, in that latter period there was also an extraordinary flowering of truly radical religious and political life and thought. That, I think, was what especially drew me into the study of history. For the origin of many liberal democratic things we take for granted lie there – for example, the insistence on no taxation or legislation without representation, on regular elections, fixed parliamentary terms, equal votes, and, vitally, on religious freedom for different types of groups, particularly the marginalised. Indeed, Cromwell even reopened England to the Jews, who had been banned for centuries. For his supporters were also part of the movements which helped create Congregationalism, the original founding tradition of Pitt Street Uniting Church...
There are two titles for this Sunday in the lectionary, namely Christ the King or the Reign of Christ. Which do you prefer? Think about it for a moment. Have a look too at today’s two New Testament readings (Colossians 1.11-20 and Luke 23.33-43). They also have different emphases. Which of these would you choose for preference? The answer of course is that both of these are valuable and balance one another. Yet, as with the title of this Sunday, there is a genuine tension between them and, in wrestling with this tension, we are led into a deeper understanding of God and our relationship with God and one another…
by Jon Inkpin for Christ the King Sunday 2014
Have you ever seen, or heard, Rowan Atkinson’s sketch about Hell? In this, the comedian plays the part of the devil and welcomes newcomers to hell, directing various types of people into different groups. Through humour he thereby pokes fun at our stereotypes, not least English stereotypes, and challenges us to think again about who we regard as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘in’ or ‘out’, in the eyes of God.
So what do we make of the idea of the Last Judgement? It is, after all, an article of the Apostles Creed which Christians are invited to affirm together.. As our modern translation of this ancient shared Christian understanding has it:
On the third day he (Jesus Christ) rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
‘He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead’ – what does this mean? It is ringing language, isn’t it? Yet it is very strong theological, mythic, or picture, language. It is not easy to understand, even though it is an expression of that deep assurance at the heart of the Christian Faith: that, despite much present appearances, ultimately the love of God in Jesus Christ is in charge and all that belongs to love will be vindicated in the end. That is not quite the message of Rowan Atkinson’s comedy sketch, is it? For God, in Jesus Christ, takes us beyond ordinary human judgement into the ultimate, and even more surprising, reality of eternal compassion…