A Quote from Ellen Davis for the Feast of Christ the King

The following is quotation from Ellen Davis’s rich collection of sermons, Preaching the Luminous Word, that seems especially appropriate for the Feast of Christ the King:

“There would be nothing very interesting about Israel proclaiming the inexhaustible greatness of its God if this people were one of the big winners of history.  But, in fact, the very opposite is the case.  For centuries Israel was one of the pawns in the ancient Near Eastern game of empire-making, strategically located and therefore successively overrun by armies from Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and finally Rome.  First-century Jews recited Psalm 145 after Emperor Vespasian’s army had killed their priests, razed their Temple, and erected one to Jupiter in its place; in the twentieth century, Jews recited Psalm 145 at Auschwitz, praying these words:

Your kingship is kingship over all worlds,

and your dominion lasts through generation after generation.

The LORD sustains all who are fallen

and raises up all who are bowed down. (vv. 13-14)

Here the psalmist flies in the face of what we would call the facts—the facts of Realpolitik.  Think about it: a people noteworthy chiefly for their bad political luck here proclaim the absolute dominion of their God over all times and circumstances.  This is an extraordinary thing, bespeaking either mass delusion (which is surely how the builders of Babel would have judged it) or else an unusually deep understanding of the nature of reality, the kind of fresh perception that comes to us only when God speaks.  The essence of that new perception is this: if God’s kingship is indeed over all worlds, then the way we ordinarily think about the shaping forces of our lives, of history, is woefully inadequate.  If God’s majesty is absolute, then the social, economic, political, and personal facts on which we spend so much energy are not determinative.  They are important, and we must attend to them, in good times and bad.  But if God is ruler over all, then it is God’s goodness and that alone that determines the shape and quality of our lives, when viewed from the perspective of eternity.  The psalmist, singing God’s praise against the vicissitudes of history, throws out to the hard-pressed Israelites the lifeline of God’s inexhaustible goodness.”1

  1. Ellen Davis, Preaching the Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2016), 135.

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