When I was younger, many of my favorite characters on TV, or in print, were those who lived normal lives but also felt a sense of calling or obligation to fight for justice. These characters were all over the place, and in many ways, still fascinate our imaginations.
They are names of heroes, superheroes even. Superman, Wonderwoman, Lone Ranger, the Incredibles and even Captain Planet. They were all people who, though having normal lives in one moment, possessed the uncanny ability to transform into a different person when a need or opportunity to help emerged.
What all of these heroes have is common is not simply that they fought for justice, for what was right in the world, but that in their everyday lives they were open to the opportunities to do good where ever it was needed most, right then, in that moment; even if it meant flying across the city to make it happen or spending nights looking up at the sky.
Look, it took me a long while to realize that many of gospel texts that seem to be about cosmic judgment aren’t really about some cosmic-epic judgment at all. They are really about how it is that we live our lives in the day to day. Stories like that of Christ the king who sits on throne and who draws a line between those who do good wherever they see it, and those who do good when they think others will see it, is not something that should startle us.
Rather, this parable really puts doing good for others back on us. Like many of the other stories that we read in our communities of faith throughout the calendar year, the feasts and festivals that the church holds as part of what it means to do life together shapes us to see the world with a different set of eyes and to hear with a different set of ears.
The parable of Christ the King, one often read as far more judging than calling, beckons us like the batman symbol cast across the Gotham skyline to see justice not as something that will get enacted out in the future, but rather as something that we enact every day, in every moment, with every choice. Or, as Tony Jones suggests at the intersection of our ongoing journey with others.
Look, in a sense, what our Christian readings, prayers, and our table fellowship call us to today, is to dress up in justice and to play our part in the reign of God that exists always before us. And this reign, is not something that happens in one place of creation and not in another. The rule of God always covers us all. The rule of God, the reign of God, is more like the ground of all being that gets glimpsed and tied into than simply put in place when the right people are in power. Rule of God is always happening though not always enacted.
What the church enacts through its readings, liturgies, and prayers, is a calling of Christians (and all who participate in them) to be in the rule of God and to Look (for the good in others, for the good in self); to search for the opportunities and places where we can help the other, where we can do justice in the world, where can do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
When we do this, when we put on the eyes of faith, we come to see that Jesus doesn’t want us to do things in this world because he told us to. Jesus wants us do justice (to do good) in this world because as we do justice, as we do good in the world, we bring a little bit of hope to those that need it most. We bring a little more of that which is sacred to the forefront of people’s experience and vision.
And, if I’m guessing, as we do unto others as we would have done unto us, and as we share our talents with one another, as we gather rather than divide, bind those that are injured, see someone crying and offer a shoulder or help, see someone that is hungry and give them food, see the thirsty and give them water, see those that are cold and give them a jacket; as we imitate the saints living and present among us…we might just figure out that there are a few more heroes out there in the world, and in our communities of faith than we thought.
And that my friends, is pretty super.
Joshua Case is an Episcopal blogger, creative, and public theologian. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Known as “Josh” of The Nick & Josh Podcast, Joshua currently works at Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. When not curating things religious and cultural Joshua works as a professional golf instructor.