In the second of his blogs for churches preparing for Living Wage Week (Monday 15th to Sunday 21st November) our Director reflects on the lectionary readings for the Feast of Christ the King, which falls on Sunday 21st.
Readings: Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14 | Revelation 1.4b-8 | John 18.33-37
In the Gospel reading, Jesus begins his teaching with a negative statement: “My kingdom is not from this world.” St Augustine draws our attention to the nuances of these statements: his kingdom is in this world, but not of it. It is here, though not from here. If his kingdom had been “from here,” Jesus tells Pilate, his followers would be fighting to keep him from being “handed over.”
Whereas this world’s empires are founded on physical force, Jesus’ kingdom is founded upon the compelling power of truth: “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.”
While earthly empires shed the blood of others to maintain their rule, Jesus’ kingdom is founded on his self-offering. In the words of our reading from Revelation, Christ has “freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father.”
Our reading from Daniel, describing the enthronement of “one like human being,” is prophesying the defeat of the powers of evil – symbolised earlier in the chapter by beasts who emerge from the sea.
One of the central messages of Revelation is that this prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus. He is the “one like a human being” who has defeated the powers of evil by his sacrifice upon the cross. By his resurrection and ascension, he bears a redeemed humanity back into the presence of the Father (the “Ancient One”).
Both apocalyptic books make sense of their readers’ tribulations in this present world in terms of a cosmic battle. Revelation seeks to sustain the faithful in the midst of the violence and excess of “Babylon” with a vision of the “new Jerusalem,” where God will dwell and reign among his people.
As Herbert McCabe puts it, “Christ will only be at home in the Kingdom of the future” for this world will always be resistant to his piercing and truthful witness. In every age, “he is to be found in those who unmask he present world, those in whom the meaninglessness and inhumanity and contradictions of our society are exposed.”
The Living Wage campaign is an example of this piercing and truthful witness. For it unmasks the contradictions of a society in which growing prosperity has not led to well-being for all. Despite our material abundance, low-waged workers still have to work excessive hours (leaving them too little time for family and community life) and struggle with food and fuel poverty.
The practice of community organising echoes the pattern of the Scriptures, in which it is those who bear the heaviest part of society’s “inhumanity and contradictions” who are at the heart of God’s transforming work.
Their witness invites poor and rich alike to discover a different, life-giving way of being – a way of being in which the good gifts of Creation are not hoarded by a few, but become a means for the building of a just and generous common life. In the building of such a life, we catch a glimpse of “the Kingdom of the future” becoming flesh in our midst.