Bible Study: Last Sunday After Pentecost / Christ the King (B)

November 25, 2012

Sarah Ginolfi, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” (John 18:37)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
2 Samuel 23:1-7 and Psalm 132:1-13, (14-19) (or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 and Psalm 93); Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

2 Samuel 23:1-7

In King David we see a man of both triumph and woe. This crafty king rose in status by toppling Goliath, yet King David would not be the king who would go on to defeat death. His last song in Second Samuel reminds us that time restricts even a king’s human walk on earth. On Christ the King Sunday, however, King David’s last song prepares us to welcome the Christ child into the world – the everlasting King whose song still rings in churches, homes and communities throughout the world. In our preparation for Advent, this reading helps us to see that God’s leadership in the world is everlasting and that God’s continued leadership on earth through Christ transcends human limitation.

Why do we celebrate times of transition?

How do we prepare our communities and ourselves?

Psalm 132:1-13, (14-19)

When I was a teenager, my church youth leaders took my friends and me on a number of outings. During these trips, our leaders gave us free reign to listen to whatever music we wanted along the way. As we made our way to the museum, the camp ground, the soup kitchen, etc., we shouted popular songs at the top of our lungs. Often, the car ride was the most memorable part of the trip.

I’ve lost touch with most of my friends from youth group and my taste in music has changed, but every now and then, I hear one of the songs that my friends and I used to sing on our outings and feel a deep sense of rootedness despite our physical separation. These memories keep me united with the God who is beyond touch, time and, thankfully, my teenaged preference in music.

While we cannot pinpoint the exact derivation of Psalm 132, a song often grouped in a collection called “ascent psalms” (Ps 120-134), we have evidence that it might have originated on pilgrim journeys to Jerusalem. By remembering King David through song, the ancient Israelites recalled the many ways that God worked through David’s life. These memories created an everlasting image of kingship that would continue in the life, death and perpetual memory of Christ that we celebrate today.

What makes your heart sing?

What songs do you associate with your walk in Christ?

Revelation 1:4b-8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come.

I wonder why the writer of Revelation doesn’t not proclaim that God is all the letters of the Greek alphabet. Wouldn’t this help us imagine the God who is as well as the God who was and is to come? This image of God – the one who is today – is the hardest for me to locate on a daily basis. Christ came to earth to model the God who is, but sometimes I get so lost in my own what is – school assignments, projects around the house, business meetings – that I lose sight of the greater GOD WHO IS. Only when I live fully into the life of community – the church without walls of service, friendship and family – I am reminded of God’s daily presence in my life.

What does the God who is look, taste, touch, smell and feel like?

How does life in community help you find the God who is?

John 18:33-37

Immediately following this passage, Pilate asks Jesus: “What is the truth?” What is the truth? Well, we never receive a direct answer to this question. The unanswered question lingers in our minds as Pilate walks to consult “the Jews.” (Here, I place “Jews” in quotations to emphasize how the Gospel of John refers to Jesus’ opponents, in general, as “the Jews.” John does not use the term in an anti-Semitic way.)

I wonder what Pilate was thinking each time he walked back and forth between Jesus and the crowd of shouting Jews. Who is this man who proclaims to be from another world, and why is he in my headquarters? Or: Why can’t these people manage their own judgment and punishment? Here, John’s gospel portrays “the truth” as an unanswerable question sandwiched between Jesus and his opponents.

Today, we acknowledge a truth in Christ that can be hard to explain to our friends, neighbors and global family. Pilate’s movement back and forth between Jesus and the crowd mimics our own struggle to live into such a truth.

So – how do we share a complicated truth with the world?

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