The Dragonfly and the Victim
Sermon delivered by Shirley Lin on November 22, 2009 at Santa Monica Taiwan Presbyterian Church
As you all know, Christmas is coming up soon. In fact, the retailers have already started their holiday advertisements. The first sales have begun. The beginning of the Church year begins next week, because Advent starts next week. That would mean that today is the last Sunday of the church calendar. And today, the church celebrates Christ the King.
So, what we have for today’s reading is about Christ being king. You might be asking—what is the significance of this holiday? After all, we already know Christ is king. He IS the Son of God. What we read today is the Gospel of John. This scene takes place during the trial of Jesus after He was arrested. Jesus had already been through a trial by the Jewish religious leadership and was now turned over to Pilate for prosecution.
In the reading, we have an interrogation between Pilate and Jesus. Pilate is trying to understand what the ruckus is all about. Who was this Jesus of Nazareth and what is his deal? Basically, all he knows is that the Jewish leadership does not like Jesus because Jesus says he’s the King of the Jews.
So, doing the logical thing, Pilate asks.
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
The short answer, of course, is yes. Jesus IS King.But the long answer is that there is so much more to that question than Pilate realizes. For you and me, there are two important things to take away from this conversation taking place. First, it’s an encouragement—hope for the future.Second, it’s empowerment—the redistribution of power not only for Christ, but for each and every one of us.
How is this an encouragement to us? How does this provide hope?
Well, it’s like the little water beetles who lived in a community under a lily pad in the muddy waters. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond with few disturbances and interruptions. Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened; their friend was dead, gone forever.
Then, one day, a little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top. When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so warm, that he decided he must take a nap.
As he slept, his body changed and when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body designed for flying. So, fly he did! And, as he soared he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a far superior way of life to what he had never known existed.
Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking by now he was dead. He wanted to go back to tell them, and explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been before. His life had been fulfilled rather than ended. But, his new body would not go down into the water. He could not get back to tell his friends the good news. Then he understood that their time would come, when they, too, would know what he now knew. So, he raised his wings and flew off into his joyous new life!
See, unlike the little water beetle, we know what comes after, because Jesus tells us; it is the place where He will be King. The future is not a mystery. The future is, in fact, NOT unknown to us.No matter what happens in this world, we know that what is to come is a new world, a far superior way of life that we cannot imagine. The uncertainties that we face in this world will no longer exist. The troubles that we encounter will be left behind. OUR future is secure, because the future we have is Christ’s Kingdom.
Therefore, no matter how bad things are; no matter how bad things may be—we always have something better to look forward to.Of course, sometimes, that’s just not enough. I’m an optimist, but I know that when bad things are happening, I can feel like I am completely alone, powerless to change things. A victim, if you will.
And that really is the second half of what Jesus was saying. Rather, it is what he did. In allowing himself to be persecuted AND prosecuted, Jesus changed the rules. In this scene, Jesus demonstrated that nobody; not Pilate, nor the Jewish leadership has any power over him, because Jesus is claiming his power. Things are bad. He’s going to die. We know this and HE knows this.
Even still, Jesus is NOT a victim and does not act as such. I know what you're thinking. OF COURSE. Of course Jesus is not a victim. Jesus is God. We aren’t.
By taking on human flesh and living a human life, Jesus was empowering us because He BECOMES one of us. When we think of difficult times that we go through, it can be hard to feel in control or to believe that things can get better—that WE can make things better. Imagine if we were standing before a judging who was going to put us to death—we would not think that there is anything we can do. But the truth is, when we stop being victims of our circumstances, we regain our power and things do become better.
This is easier said than done. In fact, I’m sure you’re probably saying to yourself, what is she talking about?
My mother, bless her heart, is a very well meaning woman. But let me tell you, she sure nags a lot. It’s what mothers do, right? It used to bother me a lot, especially after I left for college. I felt like, I’m an adult. Why do you keep telling me things to make me feel like a kid? I remember this one time, just a few years ago, actually. My mother and I were chatting on the computer. She and my dad were having a disagreement. She wanted him to do something and he refused. She thought that it would be more convincing if I called my father and told him to do it.
She IMed (instant messaged) me and told me to tell my dad to do that thing she wanted. So here I am, stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m no dummy. I knew he was already mad at HER and now she’s going to put me in a place where he’s going to be mad at ME! I just didn’t feel like that was right. After all, this was her battle. She should fight it. So I told her, No. I am not going to do that. If you want him to do something, you tell him.
Let me tell you, I think this was the first time that I’ve ever actually said that in a calm and rational way rather than being really upset and throwing a tantrum or just doing what she wanted even though I was annoyed and upset on the inside. So I’m sitting in front of my computer, kind of shaking a bit. I’m about 26 at this time, but still. Shaking. Waiting. But reminding myself that this is the right thing to do.
The screen flashes.
Two words: Bad daughter.
Time kind of froze, I tell you. And at that moment, I was like oh my God! That is so unfair! She’s the bad parent, trying to get me to team up with her against my dad! But of course, I don’t want to be a bad daughter! I started feeling sorry for myself. I’m such a victim here! And then I remembered. I am not a victim because for the first time in my life, I stood up for myself in a fair, mature, and honest way. I did what I thought I needed to do for what is true and what is right for me. I honestly and rationally told her.
I cannot control how she responded to me, and I am also not going to start feeling sorry for myself and become victimized because that is really not who I am. I am empowered. She may be mad at me on that day in that moment, but she will calm down and things will be fine because I am her daughter. What’s more, we are all children of God. That means we don’t have to be victims. We are capable of making decisions for ourselves and taking responsibility for it because Jesus will continue to love us, no matter what.
Jesus said, yes. I am the king of the Jews. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. The truth is, Christ changed the world. Power is not about being the Roman emperor. Power is not even about being the one that everyone listens to. Inner power is to have the wisdom to determine the truth and to have the courage to follow through with our beliefs.
After church today, we are celebrating Thanksgiving. This is a holiday for us to remember all the things that we are thankful for; all the people we are grateful to. Today, we should be thankful that Christ is King. That God would love us so much that God would allow Himself to be subjected to Pilate’s judgment to show us that we do not have to be afraid in the face of uncertainty and even death. Not only are we more powerful than we might feel, but we have a bright future to look forward to.
May we be reminded of the power instilled in each of us, that we have the courage to do what may sometimes be hard, knowing full well that no matter what happens in this world. May we give thanks to God and to each other for the encouragement, strength, and love that we receive each and every day.