22 December 2008

O Rex gentium

O King of all nations, Lord for whom they long, O Cornerstone that binds in one Jew and Gentile: Come and save mankind, save the men and women you have moulded from the earth.
To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. (Daniel 7.14)

you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2.19, 20)
Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed. (Revelation 15.3, 4)
Just as Christ has broken down the walls dividing us from the Father, so is He also the cause and source of our unity with all humanity. This is a very Pauline view, expressed for example in Galatians 3.29: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female; for all of you one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, you are the issue of Abraham and so heirs by promise.’ Here we see not only the wall dividing Jew and Gentile torn down, but even the customary way of becoming Jews and heirs to the promise overthrown. No Jewish male could confer membership in Israel. It travelled through the mother. But now instead it is Jesus who makes us heirs of the promise. He unites all in a new dispensation, one which supersedes the old.

The Church, in its delight that the Messiah has come, often forgets that it, too, must wait for the fulfilment of the promise and that the waiting is terrible, painful frustration. One of the points of Advent is precisely to remind us that we are still on the way. No one can read that quotation from Galatians and smugly assume that we have arrived. Anti-Semitism, racism of all kinds, religious intolerance, misogyny, unthinking hatred of sexual minorities too often colour our world and our Church.

On the other hand, all that we need for the fulfilment of the promise is already in place. These changes have already been effected, perfectly, in Christ. Christ has already broken down these barriers on the cross. That is the reality. All that stands in the way of its fulfilment is our unbelief.
O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.

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