Two Kings

4 Pentecost
First reading and psalm: 1 Kgs. 21:1-10 (11-14), 15-21aPs. 5:1-8

The story is simple and short. Ahab, the king, wants Naboth’s vineyard, which sits adjacent to the palace. The king promises Naboth either a better garden or money. Naboth, however, feels obliged to keep his family’s land, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance” (1 Kgs. 21:3). At Naboth’s refusal, the king becomes resentful, sullen, and falls into a depression. Jezebel, the king’s wife, is outraged. She writes a letter in the king’s name making false accusations against Naboth.

What Jezebel orders is like the crucifixion. “[S]eat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him to death” (1 Kgs. 21:10). Across a synopsis of the four gospels, in nearly identical words, the death of Jesus is recorded: they crucified him. The stoning of Naboth is not, to be sure, the redeeming death of Christ, but it shows no less the cruelty of human pettiness and greed. One human discards another as if disposing of trash. Always and everywhere such instances may be found.

Ahab feels justified. His house is now in order. His rights have been vindicated. But God is not mocked. The earth and dogs will drink the blood of the king.

Another king, the King of Glory, Christ our Lord, wants nothing, demands nothing, seizes nothing. He is himself content and full. He is peace and love and truth. Entering the home of a Pharisee, he takes his place. A woman, hearing that he is present, comes with an alabaster jar of ointment. For a moment she stands behind him, hopeful and apprehensive. Then, she falls to her knees, washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, kisses his feet, and anoints them. Her devotion is deep and unhurried: “from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet” (Luke 7:45). In all this “she has shown great love” (Luke 7:47). Her love is given not to win or plead for forgiveness. Rather, her sins have been forgiven, and thus she pours out love.

Behold a woman in whom there is no guile. She loves the source of love, she senses love’s redeeming and forgiving presence in Christ, she pours out a love that is more than her own. “[I]t is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Her gift and tears and unbound hair and continual kisses are signs that the kingdom is here. Love alone reigns. Christ is all in all.

In worship, though with order and rules, and more freely in private devotion, we are called to love Christ from the heart. “King of glory, King of peace, I will love Thee: And that love may never cease, I will move Thee. … Wherefore with my utmost art, I will sing Thee, And the cream of all my heart, I will bring Thee. … Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise Thee. In my heart, though not in heaven, I can raise Thee. … E’en eternity’s too short to extoll thee” (George Herbert).

Are we embarrassed? Jesus has not come to steal our inheritance. His kingship does not require our subjugation. He does not lift his voice, or bruise a broken reed, or extinguish a dimly burning wick. He is love outpouring and redeeming, our beginning, middle, and end. Stand at the gate of love. Your knees will weaken, tears will come, and you will caress Being’s beautiful Son.

Look It Up: Read Gal. 20:21.
Think About It: Think less about yourself. Fall toward love.

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