“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it
was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and
thought “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is
made.” I marvelled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have
sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my
understanding: “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.”
— Julian of Norwich
Punishment is easier to preach than grace. Well, punishment is more available in the theological vocabulary of my life and that of my parishioners. We understand the concept. Steal a piece of candy, get caught, shamefully confess, work hard to do better and be satisfied without candy. Yell at your kids for some inconsequential infraction, see the humiliation dawn in their eyes, feel the recriminating glare as you look in the mirror, skulk to the bedroom to cry out the pain you were yelling at them. Hear a joking, yet critical, remark about how you handle the impending deadline at work. Snap back a much too hasty and sarcastic remark. Realize your mistake after reacting poorly to your haggard co-worker. Spend hours wondering what causes you to be so sensitive and flagellate the little bit of God-image left after years of self-righteous indignation over how ineptly you have learned the “God-way.” You poor little human, you deserve no less than punishment. How you wish and hope that one day you can leave behind this human shell and get the “God-thing” right.
But on Christ the King Sunday, we see the error of this way. Julian saw the crucified and risen Christ not inflicting punishment, rather cradling “all that is made” with tender protective love. In the shelter of Christ the King’s palm, Julian saw the littleness of the universe and the littleness of our often misguided hearts held by crucified hands. The hands of One impaled because he refused to fight the system of oppression in the same way that system fought him. The hands of One pierced because he saw in every outcast the circumstances of her heart and the root of pain that had grown into self-serving action. The crucified hands that hold the hazelnut of our existence, these hands were dead and now live, these hands knew suffering and pain and have risen again sharing the conquering healing of God with all who have known death and destruction. The scarred hands of a crucified and kingly Christ reign over the universe with tender compassion for those who have been blinded by ignorance, self-pity, and hatred. These wounded reigning palms reach out to set us free from the tyranny of self-doubt and self-hatred. These hands coax us into a grace that is harder to accept than punishment. The crucified and living Christ who sits enthroned over all that has been made does so as one who gave himself up to suffering in this world, not because he had to, not because God made him, not because some old human debt had to be settled by a divine blood-letting [punishment]. The crucified reigning Christ entered into our human existence not to “teach us a lesson” but to invite us into a new way, a way that acknowledges and accepts a brokenness in creation that will not be fixed by punishment, a way that accepts and surrenders to death which shall be overcome by the power of Unrequited Life in God. Hear the invitation to participate in the reign of a Kingdom unfettered by our need to do anything other than accept our inheritance in it and to see the royalty of straw and rags in an humble stable and to be embraced in the mighty and impenetrable grasp of One whose reigning fists are closed tightly around the wounds of the cosmos.
© Amy Persons Parkes 2014