Leonard Cohen vs. Reign of X

It’s Christ the King Sunday.   The last of the church year.
What’s your reaction / first thoughts when i offer you that image??

I’ve just come from the States.

What has been your reaction/ first thoughts to the election of Donald Trump?

  • Shock, anger, fear…
  • – Last night mike pence at at Broadway theatre show… we are anxious.

– White supremacy.  terrorism and christians.

Christ the King

Established, in 1925, between the two Great (sic) Wars — in the face of growing nationalism and secularism — Christ the King Sunday is intended to proclaim the headship, the rulerdom of Jesus over all human institutions, political entities, every economic and cultural ethos (even then kingdoms were kind of on the way out).

Catholic Italian Church and Mussolini…  was in many ways silent during the holocaust… leonard cohen psalm.  Interesting when we take the idea and put it in the hands of those with no power… much truer to the story…

1.Christ the King is male and patriarchal image power.

Reign of Christ…

2.Domesticating celebrity…. royal family sell magazines.   Elvis.  not political enough.

3. The Presidency of Christ…   Christ the President, Christ the Trump,  how does that challenge our image of Christ or Trump.. Herod..

Any image for God is helpful but it is always limited and needs to be broken … its a bit like calling an ordained person Reverend…. which I’ve got a lot more in the last few weeks.   It’s an image that is powerful for good but it also lies… so it needs breaking…

And soThe Gospel’s give us three different images of Christ the King. Year B Mark ended in the Last Judgment. And Year A Matthew will end in the argument Pilate has with Jesus, in which Jesus says his kingdom is not of this world. All three describe the Reign of Christ.”Year C Luke ends on the cross.

Of course the text shows us that Jesus the Christ reigns in a very different way, over a different kind of Kingdom than those of this world.

Jonathan Martin wrote a rollicking rant you want it darker: on race, Trump, apocalypse, and the need for more prophets than priests.where he quotes cohen

In a week already full of heaviness, we lost one of our greatest songwriters, Leonard Cohen, at 82. Just weeks ago, the singer and seer released his final album, eerily prophetic for our times. I took the title of this piece from the opening track,“ You want it darker…we kill the flame.” This is the reality of apocalyptic time — while this may be a time when the Spirit descends on sons and daughters as a flame of fire, this is also a time when we kill the flame.

In biblical Apocalyptic the sun goes out.. things get darker before they get better.  time drives the demons that have been hidden in the darkness into the light. It is now-there-is-no-place-to-hide time. It is a time for principalities and powers to be exposed. These are both embodied, institutional forms of evil, injustice and oppression (in political, ecclesial, and institutional structures), but also spiritual forces that transcend human categories, that draw their life force from some sort of disembodied evil of which the whole is somehow greater than the parts

you want it darker describes this passage well…

Different Kind of Kingdom

This ten-verse section from Luke’s elaborate passion narrative shows a humiliation, not a coronation. This is not a triumphant sovereign taking his rightful throne, but a convicted criminal being mocked with the word “king.” While the Roman and Jewish leaders responded to Jesus’ challenge of their power with violence and retribution by making a sacrifice of him so as to restore a distorted balance of justice.   This is an image of torture (Donald Trump) Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom of God compels him to broker forgiveness for the powers and principalities that have condemned him to torture and death.

Remember Me

The dichotomy between these two kingdoms seems to be played out in the criminals strung up with him.

But there is a dichotomy of response …One criminal joined the mocking soldiers, aligning himself with his own executioners and the power that drives the mechanisms of this world.

The second criminal says to Jesus, “Remember me when you come in to your kingdom.” Remember me as if I were someone who has been known. Not as a Trump loser or a Hilary something ill-used and discarded by the system. It is a dehumanizing kingdom versus a humanizing kingdom.

For Luke and the church year its represents End of the ridiculous Journey and a successful mission.

In the course of four days, Jesus has gone from being the coronated King to being a captured criminal. The fickle nature of once faithful followers should serve as a constant reminder to us not to give up when all hope seems lost; for the lesson of Easter is that what appears to be our greatest failure may actually be a precursor of God?s greatest victory!”

No Longer Enslaved

Jesus responds with the pronouncement, today you will be with me in paradise. One human being nailed to a cross assures another human being nailed to a cross that the kingdom of this world which has enslaved you by its systems will no longer hold you. You will return to the garden, to paradise.

in a week of funerals… what is paradise…… pie in the sky when you die…is it here and now

The Hardest Question

Who is Jesus talking to when he says, today you will be with me in paradise?

Jesus is talking to the only person out there who knows what’s actually going on.His disciples are nowhere to be found, the women around Jesus are overwhelmed with grief and the leaders of the religious establishment are preoccupied with yelling smart-arse insults from the foot of the Cross.There’s a thief hanging next to Jesus who has heard his words of forgiveness,looked over to him and seen a king. The only one.It’s a revelation for that man because those words of forgiveness open a gap of love, a way home to God that he can squeeze through – not tomorrow, the day after or at some point in the future, but now.

Jesus says “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He doesn’t say “You’ll have to hang on for three days until I’ve risen from the dead.” He says “TODAY”.In other words – you may be hanging from that cross and suffering the same agony as me but you’ve understood how to find God.It’s through love and forgiveness. You’ve been reborn and that makes you freer and happier than any of that lot down there.

It’s in stark contrast to the other man being crucified who keeps going on in Christ’s other ear about getting out of it, like some sort of gaolbreak – “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.” Come on. DO SOMETHING. This person is still thinking only of himself and it is this that keeps him apart from God. He’s stuck. He’s going nowhere. He doesn’t understand that being reborn in God’s love is the only way to get off that cross and it is forgiving – being forgiven and forgiving others – that makes that sort of resurrection possible.

OR what about the other guy… and everyone else…

It all seems so absurd. Is Jesus bestowing this salvation only on the one criminal, when he is surrounded by so many criminals, mockers, players, soldiers and sinners who are equally enslaved?   Univeralisty of Salvation in Luke.  I was debating with someone if the Greek word is plural … today youse will be in paradise with me..

Fredrick Buchner once said…  As far as I know, there is only one good reason for believing that JESUS was who he said he was. One of the crooks he was strung up with put it this way: “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). Save us from whatever we need most to be saved from. Save us from each other. Save us from ourselves. Save us from death both beyond the grave and before.

There’s a whole lot of that in the response to Trump.  How does he exist? What have we become? how did we get here…

Save us from ourselves…  and yet even this is a turning to Christ…

Buchner If he is, he can. If he isn’t, he can’t. It may be that the only way in the world to find out is to give him the chance, whatever that involves. It may be just as simple and just as complicated as that.   So perhaps the bad chiefs response isn’t so bad… perhaps he’s in paradise…

The Grace offered by this alternative King this love and forgiveness demands a response.  Even an imperfect one… Anthem – from The Future 1992 “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

As turning to Christ… in anger, in self preservation in debate, in awe and understanding of our life and death in the scheme of things.  Forgiveness that gives me a whole lot more hope than a trump presidency.

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker

To Cohen Jesus is the Saviour who never came. The flame is killed only to be commemorated by a million candles, there for the help that never comes.

But Cohen’s longed for Christ has come and is still alive. The Resurrection changes everything and turns the background of these dark lyrics into wonderful light.

In the song Treaty he speaks of his own weariness and the longing for a link between God and man.

I’ve seen you change the water into wine
I’ve seen you change it back to water, too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine


Dance me to your beauty


With a burning violin


Dance me through the panic


Till I’m gathered safely in


Lift me like an olive branch


And be my homeward dove

D7                     Gm

Dance me to the end of love

D7                Gm7add11 Gm

Dance me to the end of love