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November 23, 2003

Christ the King and the Soldiers at My Door

This is one of the great feast days, the feast of Christ the King. A couple of months ago, a parishioner in Cimarron said, “Fr. John, it’s taken a year, but I’ve finally figured you out. It’s not that you are against the United States. You are against all governments anywhere. You want everyone to follow Jesus as their leader.” And I said, “Yes, that’s it.”

I have never voted because I think all governments and political parties are corrupt and misguided and violent, and now, because I been protested against our country’s wars so much, as a convicted felon, I’m actually not allowed to vote anymore anyway.

Like you, I’m trying to let Jesus be my king and my leader, to make his kingdom my government, because there is no one like Jesus, no political leader in the world who can match him, even just for integrity and truth. Like you, I want to be a citizen first and foremost of the kingdom of God, to pledge allegiance to the kingdom of God, and to obey his laws and his rules and to do what he commands me and orders me. And I want all of us to be obedient to Jesus, to be citizens of his kingdom, to do what he says. I want us to be totally focused on King Jesus, to pray “Your kingdom come,” to get ready to enter his kingdom because when we die, that’s where we’re going; so we have to get ready.

This dramatic moment in the Gospel of John comes after his arrest and torture when Jesus is brought before Pilate and is condemned to death. In a few hours, he will be executed. So these are Jesus’ last words. Pilate interrogates him, and asks him if he is a king, and Jesus declares that his kingdom is not of this world, that his kingdom is completely different from the world, that his kingdom does not operate like the Roman empire or the United States or Great Britain. So the question is, how is the kingdom of Jesus different?

“ If my kingdom did belong to this world,” he says, “my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over.” That’s the difference. There is no fighting in his kingdom. His attendants are not allowed to fight.

Who are these attendants? His attendants are those first disciples, the saints and all of us. We are the servants and attendants of Jesus, so we’re not allowed to fight. We live in relationship to him, and serve his needs. We do what he says, we obey him and we refuse to act like everyone else.

So my hope and prayer is that we will be good attendants for Jesus, that we will try to apply his kingdom to our lives, that there will be no fighting among us ever again, that we will pledge never to hurt another human being ever again, that we never do violence to ourselves, that we will never do violence to our children, our spouses, our parents, those around us, that there will be no more domestic violence among us or in our families, that we will never support any violence anywhere, and that we will be people of the kingdom of God for the rest of our lives.

That means too that we can’t support this disastrous, immoral war against the poor people of Iraq. If we follow Jesus, the Gospel says we are forbidden to fight, so we’re not going to fight for Bush and Cheney, and kill people in Iraq so they can steal more oil. That’s why the Pope has been so outspoken against this ongoing disaster, because he wants us to be attendants of the great King.

People think I’m not supportive of our people, but on the contrary, I love and support our people so much that I’m speaking out for them because I don’t want one of them to be killed or to kill anyone. I want every American in Iraq to come home. I want the United Nations to go in and resolve our disaster in Iraq, and I want all of us to get on with the life of following King Jesus.

You may have heard what happened to me on Thursday morning (November 20th). I was sound asleep and woken up at 6 a.m. when 75 reservists were marching down main street in Springer, marching around the church, chanting death slogans about killing, saying terrible things like, “Swings your guns from left to right, we can kill those guys all night” and “Kill! Kill! Kill!” I was very upset at their shouting and screaming, but at 7 a.m., I noticed that it suddenly got much louder, so I looked out the window and the soldiers had stopped in front of the rectory and church, and were shouting out about killing people.

So I put on my coat and walked outside, right into their midst, and they all stopped and looked at me, and I said, “In the name of Jesus, I order all of you to stop this nonsense, not to go to Iraq, not to kill people, to disobey any orders to kill, to stop preparing for war, to quit the military and to start obeying Jesus and his commandment to love our enemies and to start practicing his way of nonviolence. I don’t want any one of you to be killed or to kill anyone. Go home and stop this nonsense. God bless you.”

Their jaws dropped, they stood in silence and stared at me, and then they all laughed at me.

But our Gospel is serious. The blood of Jesus and the blood of the children of Iraq is serious. I want all of us to follow Jesus. He’s the only one worth giving our lives for because he gave his life for us. So we all have to stop fighting and start following.

The question today on this great feast is: How much allegiance do you want to give to Jesus? How seriously do you want to be his attendant? Whom do you serve and obey? Dare we take Jesus at his word and fashion our lives after his and proclaim his reign of nonviolence in our culture of violence?

The last word in our Gospel says that Jesus tells Pilate that all those who belong to the truth listen to the voice of Jesus. I hope and pray that we can be people who belong to the truth, people who seek the truth, people who listen seriously to Jesus, people who recognize that Jesus is the truth, and that we can do what he says, because in the end, like Jesus, we do not belong to this world. We are attendants of the Great King. We belong to the kingdom of God, the kingdom of nonviolence, love, justice and peace. Amen.


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