On a mountain in Galilee, according to Matthew, the risen Christ gave final instructions to his disciples. We find this snippet of the good news in this week’s lectionary because of the Trinitarian formulation he tells them to use when they baptize disciples in all nations, but I am drawn instead to his final words.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
It’s almost a trope in times of trial to ask where Jesus would be in war, in plague, in protest. We need to feel the presence of Christ right now, in the midst of unrest in the United States, with authority figures in many cities and states treating citizens like enemies and the President threatening to mobilize the military against protestors. As preachers, we have the opportunity to point to the places we see Christ. We might picture him at the front of the Black Lives Matter march, or holding a hand in the ICU; some perhaps like to imagine him healing the people of their choice, or waving a wand to keep the virus away, but that’s not where I see him.
His neck is under the knee of empire.
The story of our faith has no tidy, triumphalist ending. The same disciples sent out into the world by Christ would be run out of town and stoned and crucified. Yet our story has been co-opted to serve empire in all its expressions, sugarcoated in local traditions, emblazoned with the armor of state religion, and corrupted beyond recognition. The truth of the good news is not an earthly kingdom victory. The truth of the good news is solidarity with the poor, the weak, the hungry, the outcast, and the imprisoned. The truth of the good news is courage determined to turn over the tables and call out oppression. The truth of the good news is “No justice, no peace.” The truth of the good news is love stronger than death, always with us, to the end of the age.