Christ the King Sunday
November 25, 2007
Sho-po-ca-lypse (shah PAW kuh lips) n. The end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!
Jay takes what is known as Black Friday and links it to Good Friday.
Sermon for Christ the King Sunday
November 25, 2007
I learned a new term this week, the Shopacalypse. The Shopacalypse is defined as: the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt.
Every Black Friday it seems as though there is the potential for the Shopacalypse to come in all its terrible glory. People arise at 3:30 AM or earlier to arrive for door buster specials which are limited quantities of desirable items, whether they be cashmere scarfs, how low can you go Plasma TVS, or half prized jewelry.
As part of this week's sermon preparations I rose early and hit the local retailers to do research Friday morning. As I drove by the mall I noticed that the parking lot was plum full.
Lines of cars circled like vultures looking for a resting spot for their vehicle so they could get out and begin their shopping spree. Being not much of a fan of waiting, I decided to keep driving and eventually I found a store whose lot wasn't so full--they weren't offering any door busters by the way.
Instead their specials lasted two full days during regular hours so there wasn't an incentive to stop, shop, and buy before the 11 AM deadline when other store's specials go poof into thin air.
After a brief stop I decided to head to one of the stores offering door busters. When I arrived, I initially thought it didn't look too busy. And then I realized that the line to make a purchase stretched to the back of the store and then crossed over another line for the cashiers operating at the other entrance at the front of the store. There was hardly room to walk the aisles because of the lines.
I asked one of the store employees how long she'd been working. She told me since 3:40 AM and she'd be there until 4 PM. That's a long day I said. I asked her if it was busier now or earlier. She said the line at 5 AM was a 1 ݢ hour wait from the back of the store to the cashier. At 8:30 AM it was a much more manageable 45 minutes. This was because most of the door busters were long gone.
I was amazed. Perhaps this really was the shopacalypse. Was I witnessing the end of humankind? People arising hours before sunrise to buy merchandise that may be later recalled b/c of lead, or to buy electronic equipment that might not last a year, while putting it all on a new store credit card to get an additional 10% off of an already super incredible 50% off?
I wondered, are there no ends to humanity's motivation for more? Is there no end to the consumption of stuff no one needs? I began to believe that the Shopacalypse had arrived.
With this realization I came down with the Black Friday blues. Fortunately for me, I had a sermon to work on so I brought my retail research to a close and focused on today's story about Jesus.
This gospel text from Luke takes place on Good Friday, a day in which Jesus was put to death after being rejected, betrayed, handed over, and abandoned by most of those whom had known him. It's strange that the day was given the name "good" in that it was a very gruesome and dark day.
This story of Jesus dying on a cross is the image we are given as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday.
Do you find this strange? We recognize Jesus as king and lord of all as he is dying on a cross. He is vulnerable, he suffers, he thirsts, and he questions whether God has abandoned him. Is this the image of a king?
Normally we think of a king as all powerful, always in control, always in charge, doing what ever is needed to protect their power and privilege. This is not the image of Jesus. His rule is not defined by keeping all for himself behind high walls and military might.
Instead his rule is characterized by his vulnerability. He opens himself to everyone, both to those who would welcome him as well as to those who would hurt him.
His love is abundant and it has no boundaries. Because he loved generously and challenged those who did not, people were afraid and angered by his words and deeds. Imagine yourself holding up a mirror to your life and finding your actions, and your commitments lacking. That's what it was like for many who met Jesus and didn't share his commitment to love.
In his time and in our time too, Jesus had become too powerful a mirror for the people to face. They didn't like what they saw so they decided to silence him and put him to death.
It is while dying on the cross that Jesus gifts his followers and even a nameless thief with words of promise, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
His promise is not for short lines, and innumerable consumer products. His promise is not a guarantee to find an open parking space near the front of the store.
Rather the promise is that in the face of his destruction, in the face of his dying and eventually his death, somehow God would work a miracle and turn this tragic end into a pathway to victory.
And not only will it be his victory but it will also become a victory for all humankind, including a nameless thief, one we would have guessed to be outside the bounds of hope. This promise of Jesus is a true door buster, or should we say tomb buster because not even death can stand in his way. It is in this act of love that Jesus makes his rule as king known.
In some ways, the culture of Black Friday has it right, because most people are out buying presents for people they care about. The intent is to buy presents to show loved ones how much we care for them. So perhaps the focus is correct but maybe the means and the measure are off kilter.
If we are going to live as Jesus followers and share our love as he has loved us, what other means might we choose that would better reflect Jesus light shining in us, and help to share the promise of paradise with others?
Rather than focus on preparing for the celebration of Jesus birth by purchasing more and more stuff that will have brief impact, we have an opportunity to focus on preparing in ways that reach out and bring the possibility of life to others so that they will experience God's love through us.
There are a variety of organizations and ministries whose sole purpose is to proclaim Jesus love through disaster relief, medical treatment, orphan and elderly care, educational scholarship, and fair trade products, just to name a few.
Opportunities such as these will be presented at next Saturday and Sunday's Making Advent Meaningful fair here at Good Shepherd. I hope you will consider alternative forms of gift giving this season, forms which give life, nurture life, and provide people opportunities for a better life. That is a truly satisfying Christmas gift. And it won't leave you with that empty black Friday blues feeling.
When we begin to shape our giving in this way/ both we and others begin to experience Jesus promise of life in God's kingdom,
of life in paradise, in its fullness here and now. That's EXCITING!!!!
When I arrived at church today, there was no one camped outside waiting to get in. There were no door busters to get you to come here. You came here to give worship to God and to hear Jesus words. You have plenty of other options for your time yet you made the choice to come here this morning.
Thankfully, Jesus promise isn't given to only the first fifty people. It has the same value no matter what time of day we receive it. It has value beyond any earthly item and the promise he gives won't break down, it won't wear out, it won't be recalled, become obsolete, or need an extended warranty.
This gift comes to us as is, and it's the most precious promise we can receive. You will be with me in paradise is not a promise of wealth, sunshine, and afternoon cocktails. Rather it's a promise of living in the presence of Jesus both now and in the future.
Today, as we end the church year, we are reminded that Jesus is the king of kings and he rules in each of our lives when we open ourselves to live in his promise and allow our selves to be shaped by it, to recognize that beyond each Good Friday lies Easter. This is the cure for the post Black Friday blues. Amen.
Rev. Jay Rudi
Rev. Jay Rudi is a Pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Minneapolis, MN.