CCC September 10 2017 Matthew 18:15-20 and Roman 13:8 – 14
How many of you have watched Game of thrones and I am not referring to what has been happening in Washington recently?
For those of you who have not, here is a bit of a run-down of this 7 season long HBO medieval-imaginary world with dragons and a seven kingdom realm where various groups are vying for it, or just plain trying to survive. It is fascinating and quite captivating, at least for me and nearly 11 million other viewers!
Now, how in heavens, you might be wondering, does the Game of thrones have to do with today’s scriptures?
Early this week, I was reading the scriptures for today and I was struck by the words from the apostle Paul to the Church in Rome, Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. As I was meditating on those words I thought of one young character in the Game of thrones, Arya. She was left an orphan in some pretty brutal circumstances, and separated from her family. For several seasons, she wandered several of the kingdoms, trying to survive, but also with a deep desire for vengeance on those who murdered many of her family. You see, Arya, for a time, was training with the Faceless men, individuals who learn to physically transform themselves to look like whoever they choose to be to achieve whatever their plan. She had mastered that ability and was able to put on whoever she wanted to be.
Now the apostle Paul similarly, tells us to put on Christ. Just like Arya, we are told to put on the outside the appearance of Christ! So my fellow travellers of this world with many kingdoms, what would that mean for us?
But why, why does Paul tell the church in Rome to put on Christ?
Now Paul uses, to encourage his readers, the idea that they know the time is nearer for their salvation. He tells them that the night is far gone, the day is near. Paul was expecting the return of Christ and because of that, they were to put on Christ. What do we need to be aware of to motivate us to put on Christ? Although, the belief in the second coming of Christ is part of our traditional beliefs, a literal interpretation of it is generally not the case. What then can motivate us to put on Christ?
If we return to the Game of thrones, the big threat for all the Kingdoms was that Winter was coming. Their winter though had no predictable end. Well for us, that imagery does not make it, we all know Winter is coming! It is only in March that we tend to think that winter will never end, but it always does.
Maybe their other big motivator might speak to us. There was now a common enemy, the army of the dead, and they were marching and would overrun and kill all other living creatures.
I believe in many ways, things are the same in this world as well. The army of the dead are all those who seek to dehumanize people, call it racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, misogyny. The army of the dead are all those who, to retain power, will sacrifice their civilian population, or part of it. The list of countries where this is the case seems to be getting longer and longer. The hundreds of thousands of refugees are the consequence of it. The influx of refugees at our doors are also the result of decisions made down south.
My friends, if we do not put on Christ, who the hell will? Who will stand up to the army of the dead?
But how do we put on Christ?
In the TV series, people are always plotting, making plans. We too need to have a plan as to how we will put on Christ.
Earlier in this same passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells the Church not to owe anyone anything but love. We have to understand that 1st century Roman society was bound by hierarchy, slaves/masters, women/ men, classes were very important. You owed respect and obedience to whoever was above you in the hierarchy. The apostle Paul was changing the paradigm. All relationships are to governed by LOVE!
The foundation to any of our plans, our actions, has to be love. That is a biggy. Just as Paul says, as he gives he lists the commandments, loving our neighbour influences all our actions. Love does not wrong a neighbour.
Our plan to put on Christ comes to a reality as we make love the underlying base for all our actions.
Faced then with the darkness that seeks to destroy the light, I encourage you to put on Christ as we make love the guiding force in our lives.
Put on Christ, put on LOVE!
Now, what will that mean for each one of us?
I want to take a moment for each one of us to reflect a bit here. If you were to put on Christ, what would need to change? Just like Arya, could change her physical appearance all together, what would you need to change to resemble Christ? Let’s get practical. What needs to change for people to see Christ in how you live, and how you act?
For each one of us, it will likely be different. In the confession we recite every service, we ask God to forgive us for wat we have done and what we have failed to do. We recite it so quickly, we don’t have time to think about it. What needs to change as you put on Christ, so people will see Christ in you? A clue might be, where is there not LOVE in your actions?
PAUSE for reflection
My sisters and brothers, winter is coming and the army of the dead is marching and destroying all that is good and alive, what do you need to change to put on Christ?
Now, we need to put on Christ and we will need to change certain things in how we act, how we respond. It does not end there. In the Game of thrones, allegiances are changing. In the Gospel, we read where to or three are gathered, Christ is with them. The gospel passage also says whatever we bound on earth, will be bound in heaven, whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Now this passage has often been used to justify the Church’s control of who is in and who is out, you are a sinner you are out. It seems the Church forgot how Jesus responded to sinners and tax collectors, he went out to them. I was reading a commentary this week that gave a very helpful different spin to this passage. What we bind on earth is talking about our allegiances.
As someone who has put on Christ, what do you bind yourself to? What are the causes as someone who has put on Christ you feel called to bind yourself to?
There is a loveable, very earthy character in the game of thrones, called Sam, who has been trying to find his way amidst all the turmoil and political intrigues. Determined he is to help the cause and he keeps trying to find his way. Just like Sam, it is not always clear for us either where we are called to serve, but called we are.
I know of an elderly Christian woman who got involved in the issue of fighting human trafficking. With a group from a synagogue near her, and with the help of the police, she has learned what to look for that becomes clues to a person being used for human trafficking. During the Grand Prix, a lot of women are brought to Montreal to satisfy the tourists’ appetite for prostitutes. So this senior citizen goes to hotels and sensitizes the management on what to be looking for that might be pointing to human trafficking. That has become one of the causes that she has bound herself to so the light of Christ will dispel the darkness.
As men and women who have put on Christ we are called, to bind ourselves to causes that are for God’s kingdom. Like Sam in the Game of thrones, it might not always be clear but we must seek out those allegiances that will further the work of Christ who we have put on.
Sisters and brothers on this journey, which at times is like a Game of thrones, winter is coming. We cannot be naïve, there is darkness about that kills. More than ever, we are called to put on Christ and that happens as we make LOVE our guiding force.
We are called to look at our lives and decide what we need to do so that it will be clearer that we have put on Christ.
Finally, seek out the allegiances, the causes that you can commit yourself to, so that you can bring light to the darkness.
For such is our calling as those who have put on Christ. AMEN