Sunday, January 6, 2013

In the Garden (Year B, Reign of Christ)

John 18:1-19:42


Today is the last day of the church’s year.


Next week we herald the beginning of the New Year with ouradvent meditations. (Year C in the lectionary)


This Sunday is designated “The Reign of Christ” when we talkabout the sovereignty of Christ. The long gospel passage spans the arrest,trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

It always seems a strange time of year to read this story. Itseems much more appropriate for Easter than when our minds are already turnedtowards Christmas! However, that may say more about our present culture: alwaysin a hurry, always rushing ahead, eager to reach the next destination, not taking time to enjoy the now!,

It is somewhat ironical that we read the Good Friday storyin the week that contains Black Friday. What a contrast! The gospel report isof a life voluntarily laid down for others and the media reports are of peoplefighting and trampling over each other in order to get the biggest and bestbargains. Selflessness versus selfishness!


Certainly, the irony continues in the gospel itself. Pilatepronounced Jesus the “King of the Jews”. The soldiers shouted, “Hail, King ofthe Jews”. Unbeknowingly, the soldiers shouted truth even though they missedthe inclusive nature of Jesus’ message. Pilate has uttered truth. The realm ofGod is amongst us.


So today, with this passage, we celebrate the reign ofChrist. We do not read of resurrection but are left with Jesus, the sovereign,laid in the tomb. This week we linger at the tomb. Actually, the story endsthere. We do not rush on to resurrection. We look at the story differently. Thisis how we close the year. The words that are left echoing in our minds are “Itis finished”. So at the end of thechurch’s year the story that is usually read as the low, sad point of Easter isactually transformed. It becomes the closing, the finale, the high point of theyear. Sadness becomes celebration!


I would have also liked to talk about Peter and how hisstory is interwoven throughout these scenes. However, we read that next week inThurston so I will exercise some patience and wait.


I do want to mention one other thing that really struck meabout this story. Actually it caused me to ponder much. It is that the storybegins and ends in a garden. (Indeed, we could say that about the whole Biblebut that is not for today)


I love our garden. I really enjoy being in it. It is a placeof peace. There is always something new to see, trees, plants, birds andanimals. A garden reflects the pattern of life with its ever-changing seasons. There is completeness about it.Whatever the season there is still a special peace about the garden. Think ofwinter with the tall bare trees and a covering of crisp white snow or summerwith the amazing array of colour. Each season is special. Each season is to beenjoyed.


This story starts in a garden. A garden which, the passagetells us, was frequented by Jesus and the disciples. Obviously it was a placeof peace, prayer and rest for them. Then the story ends with Jesus being laidin a tomb in a garden. The horrors of the story, betrayal, denial, death, aresandwiched between the peace of the garden. They are contained. They arehedged. The violence is not unruly or out of control but the violence islimited, there is a boundary and that boundary is the peace of a garden. Ifound it a powerful reading. It was helpful to linger with the story and readthe story this way.