Kingdom vs Empire

Kingdom vs Empire December 13, 2015


Ahnnalise Stevens-Jennings

This is a sermon that I wrote for Christ the King Sunday. It was given to the American University Methodist Protestant Community and commemorates yet another year of their commitment to being a reconciling community.

The scriptures that this sermon reflects on are,  John 18:33-37, and Psalm 146 .


In John 18, we see two leaders who represent two different powers. Pilot, the man in charge of this meeting, represents the Roman Empire. Jesus, the man on trial, represent the Kingdom of God. This is Christ the King Sunday, and I would like to spend it talking about Christ’s Kingdom, and why it is not the Empire.

The Empire is something that we are all too familiar with. We live in it. It is the collective powers and principalities of this material world. The Empire uses specific tools to keep itself and those who will sustain it in control, while taking power from those who demand justice. The Empire uses many tools to reach its goals. There are three tools its its core, they are; fear, violence, and division.

The world abounds with examples of how these tools get used, and sadly an example has been put before us in the last few months as the world has been trying to figure out what to do about the Syrian refugee crisis. Now, after the brutal attack on Paris, even more people are getting into the conversation.

I have to admit to you all, that I have a real problem with getting into political discussions on facebook. This week has given me many opportunities to have those discussions. I have mostly refrained actually, but that does not mean that I have not seen some things that make me want to throw my computer out of a window. One such post said this, “If you had 1,000 M&Ms in a bowl and one of them was poisoned, would you still reach in and grab a handful?” The author of that post wants the reader to say, “Of course not” so that it would then become clear that we should not allow refugees here because some of them could be dangerous. The author is using the tools of the Empire. Violence is being used to cause fear, and then fear is being used to cause division.

Many followers of Christ who want to see the Empire fall, and the Kingdom come in full glory and justice have fallen into a trap. They have started trying to use the tools of the Empire to dismantle the Empire, but as Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.

Well meaning, justice seeking people have used fear, violence, and division while attempting to bring about an end to injustice. When we dehumanize those who disagree with us, we are using the master’s tools. When we let fear control our actions and thoughts, we are using the master’s tools. When we divide ourselves from those with whom we disagree, we are using the master’s tools. When we intentionally cause division out of the fear that our goals will not be met, we do not move toward’s justice, but away from it.

How then do we dismantle the master’s house? How to we overthrow the Empire? We use the tools of the Kingdom. The Kingdom’s answers to fear, violence, and division, are hope, love, and community. Remember the words of psalm 146, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed;who gives food to the hungry.”

Using the tools of the Kingdom looks like living hopefully, living lovingly, and living inclusively. 

Imagine if we faced every conflict with love, hope, and inclusion. I am a United Methodist, and my church is currently facing a difficult struggle over LGBTQ inclusion. What both sides of the conversation are forgetting is that when all of the dust settles, whatever decision is made we are still going to have to come to the same communion table. I mean that literally, as in the actual table at the end of the aisle, and in the Christ’s heavenly banquet table way. The conversation has to change if justice is ever to be found. We will have to learn to live stop using fear, violence, division, and instead learn to live in hope that Christ’s love will bind us up together in community. So thank you all for being a part of the work of the Kingdom by being a reconciling community. I pray that as you continue your work, you will not put your trust in princes, but look to the Lord the God of Jacob, the Holy Spirit our Advocate, and to Christ the King.








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