First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Dr. Cynthia Lindenmeyer
November 25, 2018
Scripture: John 18:33-37
Sermon: “Lost in Translation”
Setting the stage for this Scripture—Jesus has been arrested and dragged before the Sanhedrin where he is beaten and mocked for claiming to be the Son of God. He is then taken to the home of the High Priest, Caiaphas, where other priests gather to mock and beat him as well. Dragged from place to place all night, as the sun rises Jewish leaders bring the radical Jesus before Pilate, the military Roman governor of Judea. That is the scene of today’s Scripture reading which will be read in the practice of Lectio Divina, “sacred reading,” which is a deeper approach to experiencing Scripture. I’ve asked Don to read the Scripture three times—the first time just listen, the second time listen in a reflective mindset and the third time in a contemplative manner—be aware of a word or phrase that speaks out to you….
Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”
Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?”
Pilate said, “Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?”
“My kindom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.”
Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?”
Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.”
What spoke to you? In the reading of the scripture did a phrase or a word or even an image that might not have been part of reading come to mind….
Often times we enter into to Scripture like a movie trailer, wondering where it will lead our imagination. Scripture, when read three, maybe four times, if we are still, then possibly our hearts are open to what the spirit says to us. We experience something that might be totally separate from a spirit-less encounter.
What is going on here between Pilate and Jesus? In the liturgical year of the church, we are on the final and last Sunday, known as Christ the King or The Reign of Christ. The new calendar begins next week and the banners will change to blue and Advent begins. The words “king” and “kingdom” bring up many ideas, and this Sunday is meant for the church to be political. This trial was very political. But two very different conversations are going on between Jesus and Pilate. Much is lost not only in translation for Pilate, but to us as well as we are fixated on government ideas of kingdoms, not spiritual ones.
I actually had a totally different sermon written until I received a news alert on Friday from the “Washington Post” that read, “Major Trump Administration Climate Report Says Damage is Intensifying Across the Country.” As Pilate and Jesus discuss the concept of kingdom, two very distinct concepts of kingdom are at play. Much is lost in translation. And their conversation reminds me of the two very different perspectives on climate change. Again, much is lost in translation between those who deny climate change and those who do not.
Today’s interchange between Christ and Pilate juxtapose rulers of two different worlds. Jesus is a king, but a king from another kingdom. For the kingdoms of this world demand from us a commitment that conflicts with our true self, and the kingdoms of this world attempt to control our understandings of what is and what is not possible. The kingdom of this world is very limiting, but the kingdom from which we came from, the kingdom of which Jesus speaks, is limitless. Think of the kingdom Jesus speaks of as one where the earth is healthy and its inhabitants at peace with one another. There is no war. There are no wildfires. There is no wall. There are no rising ocean levels. The ecosystem is in harmony, balance.
The heart of much of Jesus’ teachings is found in this interchange—in verse 36:
“My kindom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.
The Greek word for Kingdom is basileia, yet what is lost in translation rests here—for a better translation would “reign”—My reign is not from this world. The concept of Kingdom of Heaven created a theology that the kingdom of which Jesus speaks is a place—and somehow Santa Clause theology entered in and Heaven became a place where those who were nice entered and those who were naughty, well, they did not get into Heaven.
What if the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God is not a physical place—“it doesn’t consist of what you see around you.” Jim Marion, in his book The Mind of Christ, says that the kingdom of God is a metaphor for a state of consciousness—it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. A whole new way of looking at the world—an ability to see totally different. A different realm.
In other words, we live in the physical world—we can see, touch, smell. But there is this other world that surrounds us—the divine realm. These two realms are very different. And if we dare to say we are a follower of Christ, then we are daring to say that we desire to see and live in this other realm. How to be able to cut the thin veil that separates the realm we see and the one we do not? I believe mediation helps us to begin to see differently. Meditation being different than prayer, as prayer is religious. Meditation invites us to search within, to deep dive into our consciousness. I’ll ask you to close your eyes as we embark on a guided meditation entitled, “Who Am I”:
Who am I? Meditation by Sri Ramana Maharshi
I have a body, but I am not my body. I can see and feel my body, and what can be seen and felt is not the true Seer. My body may be tired or excited, sick or healthy, heavy or light, anxious or calm, but that has nothing to do with my inward I, the Witness. I have a body, but I am not my body.
I have desires, but I am not my desires. I can know my desires, and what can be known is not the true Knower. Desires come and go, floating through my awareness, but they do not affect my inward I, the Witness. I have desires, but I am not my desires.
I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. I can feel and sense my emotions, and what can be felt and sensed is not the true Feeler. Emotions pass through me, but they do not affect my inward I, the Witness. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.
I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts. I can see and know my thoughts, and what can be known is not the true Knower. Thoughts come to me and thoughts leave me, but they do not affect my inward I, the Witness. I have thoughts but I am not my thoughts.
Transforming the consciousness helps us to experience the realm Christ refers to over and over in the Scriptures as, “The Kingdom of God.” If we reread the Gospels we hear evidence of this teaching over and over, and probably best illustrated in the parable that keeps me up at night—the workers in the vineyard. The Kingdom is like a landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard—at 0600, 0900, three in the afternoon and then again at five. When it comes time for them to be paid, they all receive the same wages.
Our world mindset, the one that has been constructed since the day we went to school, says this isn’t fair. We are keeping track of who works more, who works less, what is fair, what is not fair. But the Kingdom of God isn’t like that.
It’s the material v. the non-material world. Pilate is trapped by the constructs of the political system he thinks gives him power, but the political system limits his ability to understand what Jesus is saying and who Jesus is. Pilate is attached to the realm of what he can see–Jesus reminds us that when we recognize him and hear his voice, then we are connected to the realm from which we were born. We are connected to God
Jesus says, “Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” I hear the voice and desire to be awakened to a realm that reveals a kingdom that ancient Hebrews refer to as the chesed, or the Mercy of God—a force that holds human and divine energies together. It is the imaginal world, or what Buddhists refer to as Enlightenment.
What is the role of the church when it comes to climate change? A week before Advent, how have we as Christians responded to the revolutionary world Jesus calls us to live in? Jesus calls us to be loyal and true to a world enveloped in love for one another and creation, but have we as Christians adapted to this world and rule no differently than the Pilates among us? Or are we so comfortable in Pilate’s kingdom that we are part of the unfolding cry of the earth referred to as climate change?
Pilate’s kingdom says, “In order to find peace, complete an unending to-do list.” But the kingdom of Christ beckons us to be still. Pilate’s kingdom says, “In order to find joy, achieve your full potential.” But the kingdom of God, a new transformational consciousness, empowers us to love ourselves as our Creator loves us. Pilate’s kingdom says, “In order to obtain happiness, avoid anything painful.” But the kingdom of God, a new transformational awareness, helps us grow in our suffering. Pilate’s kingdom says “Climate change is inevitable, what can one person do?” But the kingdom of God, a new way of seeing, calls us to be a community that speaks to the Pilates of this world and get political. Or do we fear what will happen if we speak out?
Jesus is on trial because the Jews have brought him before the political powers. They are more concerned for themselves than they are about the message Jesus teaches regarding a new heaven, a consciousness where loving one’s neighbor is the same as loving oneself.
About 20 years ago, a book entitled The Celestine Prophecy captured this new way of seeing thinking and about the energy that exists between us, between the planet…I think about the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven and I wonder what if this energy is love, it is what connects you and I, and all of us to the earth. And so the alarming call about climate change is not what is out there, but within us. As we are connected to the earth, the cry to the earth is a cry to ourselves. And it will take a huge climate change in our mind, in our heart, in our consciousness, to begin to not only see the Kingdom of God, but live in that realm. How do we loosen the grip of living in this world to be able to understand the Kingdom of God? I wish I could tell you, but I am on the journey myself. And I struggle.
In the first century at the time of Jesus, the phrase “Caesar is Lord” was the ultimate test of loyalty to the Roman Empire. What is our modern day test of loyalty? That brings me back to climate change. On Black Friday I was a consumer. I went to the Apple Store. Scheels. Best Buy. And I will wrap presents. What world am I living in? I can hear the cry of the earth, but it is a faint cry amidst the chaos of consumerism. To give in to temptation to think there’s not much we can do about climate change reveals our attachment to the kingdom of this visible world. To simply ignore the scientific evidence and the loss of life occurring reveals an attachment to a lifestyle that perpetuates climate change.
I’ve given up meat because the methane produced by animals bred for consumption comprise more toxic gases released in the air than our automobiles. I hear a voice within yearning to give up plastic use for a year, but the defense in my mental trial responds with a voice of Pilate, “That is too difficult.” I am so entrapped in the Kingdom of Pilate. The voices without, the voices of the Kingdom of the World put on trial our inner voices connected to our Creator. Behind me, you see images of disciples in the stained glass. They are depicted in this world, but an orb over their head, or halo, represents an energy, energy of love. I wonder if once people could see these orbs—I know there are people now who can see the energy of other. There is more to this life than what we see. And yet, what we see is being destroyed. If the Kingdom of God is within us, and we are one with one another, and with God, and God is one with the earth, then how have we become so attached to the kingdoms of this world that we no longer feel that climate change isn’t a distant destruction, but an internal one? Jesus asks us to get political. Will we? Or are we lost in translation?