Thine is the Kin-dom
Rev. Karla Jean Miller
November 20, 2016
The Reign of Christ Sunday, Year C
Psalm 46, Luke 1: 68-79
Prayer of Illumination:
remind us of Your simplicity.
“You are the light of the world.”
“Do not be afraid.”
“Love one another.”
“I will be with you.”
(Rev. Jennifer Garrison Brownwell, https://revgalblogpals.org/2016/11/19/saturday-prayer-simple/)
Be with us now, in simple holiness, as we ponder your Word this morning.
One of the joys of having spent the past six weeks leading Children’s Church (besides, well, the children) has been in the discovering of all the amazing resources for children’s ministry out in cyberspace. One such resource is out of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, called Storypath. Storypath seeks to link children’s literature with the weekly lectionary, which is a three year cycle of weekly scripture readings that Dennis and I typically preach from. For example, today, is a significant day and time in the lectionary cycle, for it is the last day of the liturgical year, called Christ the King Sunday.
Knowing me as you do by now, you might guess this might not be my FAVORITE day of the lectionary year.
(Do I need to spell it out? Patriarchy? Maleness of God? Kingdoms? Oppressive rule? Preferential treatment for power not the poor?)
So imagine my delight when I discovered that Storypath’s suggestion of a children’s book for today is entitled, “Princess Knight.”
Right up until the last page the story is wonderful. Violetta is the only princess in a family of four. Her brothers are uncouth, loud, overbearing knights, taught to be masters of the sword and jousting and all things knightly by their father, the King. Unfortunately, Princess Violetta’s mother dies, and so can’t teach her the proper way to be a princess. The King takes matters into his own hands, and teaches everything he taught to his sons about being knightly, to Violetta. Unfortunately, her knightly brothers tease her, because they are physically stronger and able than her. So, she secretly works hard in the shadows of night to become nimble with her sword and fast upon her horse. She becomes the fastest, cleverest, bravest knight of all.
One day, the King issues an invitation to all the knights in the land to a grand tournament. Violetta is very excited, wondering what the “prize” would be! When the King announces that the prize would be Violetta’s hand in marriage, she will have nothing to do with it. So, she dresses up as an anonymous knight, Sir No-Name, who defeats all of the knights in the tournament, including her brothers and Percy the Pitiless. The King is excited to award Sir No-Name the prize of his beloved daughter, but is caught speechless when Sir No-Name is the Princess Knight Violetta. She proclaims her own prize, which is that no one will win her hand in marriage without defeating Sir No-Name, and then rides away, far, far away for a year and a day. (Maybe a Gap year? Costa Rica? Soul of Leadership Training?) The book doesn’t say.
The Princess Knight (Cornelia Fund and Kerstin Meyer, Scholastic Press:New York, 2011) is a royal story I can get behind. A woman upsets patriarchy, uses her own will to pave a path that is meaniful and true, and levels the playing field.
It’s one where kin-ship becomes the rule of the land, not KING-ship.
Earlier this week, someone asked why, when during the Lord’s prayer, Dennis and I pray “for thine is the kin-dom” rather than “for thine is the kingdom”. Honestly, I didn’t know if anyone really noticed, but I am glad some of you have.
First, as 21st century American Christians, we don’t really have an experience of what living under a true monarchy is like. We have to imagine this~~and I fear my imagination is formed by Game of Thrones, where everyone and her sister, grandmother, uncle, brother and aunt will do anything, —-and I mean anything— evil and cruel and oppressive to scrabble their way to the throne that rules the Seven Kingdoms.
But kin-dom, KIN-dom, to me signifies a reign of God that is completely different. Kin is family, right?
The theology of the kin-dom of God was first put forth by mujerista theologian, Cuban-born Ada Maria Isasi Diaz.
Isasi-Diaz believed that “the fullness of life and liberation of families and communities cannot be attained through oppression of others. Emphasizing the importance of family in Latina culture, she use[d] the metaphor of “Kin-dom,” grounding the concept in the hopes and dreams of family and relationship as a sustaining foundation for all societal and spiritual experience. In this, and many other cultures, the shared experience of life forms the basis for how people survive and flourish. Intrinsically linked to the honor of family, this framework is a multi-generational union of voices and experiences in which there is room for all.” ( Ellen Stevens, https://medium.com/feminist-theology-2/we-are-family-views-on-the-kin-dom-of-god-fc63cc3b1a6a#.o45olidu5)
So, for me, to pray “Thine is the Kin-dom” is to pray that we, you, all of us, are the kin-dom of God. We pray for flourishing of life, grounded in Christ, for all. Women, men, people of color, the queer community, immigrants, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, Muslims, everyone. We belong together, we are God’s family, and we are called together to care for one another, and this world we live in. Especially in these complicated times e find ourselves in.
Which brings me back to Christ the King Sunday. I grumble about it every year, and yet, this year, I was challenged to actually research it by a friend. Which was pretty humbling. The genesis of this day in our church year is fairly recent.
The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI for the Church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He was concerned that the burgeoning of secularism in Europe was giving over to what he saw as an increasing denial of Christ, of Christ’s authority, and even of Christ’s existence. This spilled over in the denial of the Church, and the Church’s power and authority. Remember, this was a time when the world was witnessing the rise of non-Christian dictatorships (Mussolini, Hitler, just to name a couple) in Europe. Pope Pius’ concern was over how his people were being swayed by these dictators, who often worked to assert authority over and above the church. In short, The Feast of Christ the King came at a time when it was needed most. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_the_King)
When kin-ship was needed most
And like the Princess Knight, Christ’s kingship is not about what the world deems as strong and powerful, but what is humble, drawing on inner strength, and servant-like. Remember these words from Mark?
For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45, NAB).
The reign of Christ reminds us that true kin-ship is a kin-dom of justice balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. Jesus knew the oppressive nature of secular kings, and in contrast to them, he connected his role as king to humble service, and commanded his followers to be servants as well.
This week, many of us will gather with kin to celebrate all that we are grateful for. Some of you will be with those who completely do not get you, no matter where or who you are on life’s journey. Believe me, I get it. My dear 90 year old father thinks I am going to burn in hell and shouldn’t be a pastor because I am married to a woman. It’s confusing to have a broken heart so full of love for a parent that doesn’t get you and still loves you, too.
It’s true for us, too, as a church. Many of you are still reeling, either from elation or despair from election results.
But, if you are sitting right here today, claiming your journey, whether it be skeptically or saintly or questioning or clear, as a follower of Christ, you are kin. Jesus redefined family in Matthew 12. He was teaching to a large crowd, and his mother and brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak with him. Someone told him this, and he asked this question, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” He pointed to his followers and said, “here are my mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
So, for better or worse, politically and spiritually, we are family. And we follow Christ…the head of our family, the ruler of our kin-dom. The one who leads us to serve, to be last, to give up what the world tells us is important. We are called to bring forth a kin-dom where all are welcome, safe, offered mercy, justice, and love. No matter what. Because beyond our commonwealth, we belong first and foremost, to God.
Oh dear God in heaven, hallowed be thy name. For thine, thine, is the kin-dom.