Our Victory is Certain

Homily delivered to the quarterly meeting of Religious in the Diocese of Missouri, April 10, 2021

Psalm 104; Exodus 13:7-14:4; John 16:16-33

“I have conquered the world.”

Think how extraordinary these words are.

“I have conquered the world.”

Jesus was going to Jerusalem, where he knows he will be arrested, tried, and executed.  He was warnign the disciples about these things. And yet, here he was claiming victory.

“I have conquered the world.”

Jesus knew what was coming, but he was telling his disciples not to be afraid. Because even before he was crucified, Jesus had indeed conquered the world. At this point, he had done all he needed to do. He had shown the world what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. He had made sure the message of that Kingdom would keep going. All that was left was the coup de grâce, the conquering of death and sin in crucifixion and his vindication in the resurrection.

“I have conquered the world.”

This week in our Lesser Feasts and Fasts lectionary we celebrated Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman who actively resisted Hitler’s regime. After being arrested for taking part in the plot to assassinate Hitler, he was confined to a concentration camp, and then executed. Before he died, he wrote to a friend, “Our victory is certain.”

Even knowing he was facing death, Bonhoeffer claimed victory. And so can we all. As Christians, we do not have to fear death, it’s already been defeated. One of the most wonderful parts of the burial liturgy to me is one that comes from a 9th century Eastern Byzantine rite: “All of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song. Alleluia, Alleliua, Alleluia.

There is a story told by N.T. Wright in a sermon delivered while he was Bishop of Durham. Wright recounted a conversation with a cab driver about the kerfuffle over the ordination of women:

“The way I look at it,” the cabdriver said, “is this: if God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, all the rest is basically rock’n’roll.’”

Now, the cab driver was talking about the doctrinal differences between Christians, but I think it can be looked at as having a deeper meaning. If indeed God raised Christ from the dead, the battles have all really been won. What remains is living into the Kingship of Christ as bearers of the image of God to the world. There is nothing we need to fear.

God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Everything else is rock ‘n roll.

Our victory is certain.

He has conquered the world.

Amen

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