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QCB Friday Eucharist, 20/1/84
Gospel: Luke 9.18-27 (699 words)
"There are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God."
How reminiscent these words are of those of Simon: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace , ... for mine eyes have seen they salvation." Thus Luke lets us know that if we would look for God's kingdom, his reign, we must look to Jesus.
If there is a sense in which Luke's gospel is less cross-centred, less concentrated solely upon the passion, than our other three gospels, then it is a matter of degree and not of kind. This is because it is God's gracious reign, his kingdom, that has been manifested in their midst in the whole of Jesus' ministry, as we find it in the words of Jesus in Luke, "the kingdom is among you". It is this gracious reign, this reign of grace, set for the rise and fall of many in Israel in Jesus' person, as Simeon has said to Mary. It is this very reign which we heard of in last night's gospel, when the woman who was a sinner was given the wholeness of forgiveness, the wholeness of mercy.
The cross, then, sets the seal on this whole manifestation of the mercy of God, which is his reign. The cross is where Jesus wholly and without reservation "puts his money where his mouth is". It is precisely in the cross in Luke that Jesus' Sonship is most clearly set forth, the very showing forth of God's will, God's reign, when Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It is at the cross that Jesus goes all the way with the penitent thief - no halfway measures here: "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise", keeping company with him even through the gate of death. It is precisely in the cross that Jesus' total dependence upon God the Father alone and not himself that is to be heard in the final words in Luke: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit".
Nowhere else in Luke's Gospel is Jesus' total conformity to the Father's will so intensely set forth. And that will, God's reign, is defined in Luke precisely as "You shall be merciful as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6.36).
It is this same showing forth of the mercy that has been seen in Jesus that is to be seen in his follower, Stephen, at the time of his stoning. Stephen has the vision of the Son of Man standing at God's right hand - standing, not seated, for the standing is the active, helping position. And now, addressing Jesus, Stephen repeats Jesus' prayers: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
Here is the continuing manifestation of God's reign, his Kingdom. For the reign comes when we look to Jesus as the very embodiment of God's Wisdom, his Love, his Mercy. And, as we go in fellowship with Jesus, we are freed to enter into the showing forth of that reign as we forego "my rights", "my perks", "my justice", - yes, even the conviction that "my ways of thinking are the truly right ones", "my ways of worship are the truly right ones". It is as we forego all this and die to ourselves that others may live, that others may have worth and dignity, that we, living under the mercy, manifest the mercy that is God's reign, his kingdom.
We have seen his reign in Jesus; we shall feed on the power of that reign at his table in the foretaste of the messianic banquet. And may that reign so fill our lives, our community and our churches, that in mutual mercy we may be reconciled and reconciling in order that we may come into that unity to which God calls us in Christ, into that unity of love which is itself a showing forth and a ministering of the reign of God to the end that the whole of mankind may experience the joy, peace and justice which is God's reign, which is his glory, and which we have seen in the face of Jesus Christ.