Perhaps now is a good time to talk about borders.
We use borders to define us. Despite our constant crossing of them, over reaching them and claiming land beyond them, the borders of our nations define the area in which a certain authority, society and culture has rule. Our understanding of our place is determined by them. In Canada, “this land is your land, this land is my land,” but only from Bonavista to Vancouver Island.
And that vast geographic territory has such a diversity within it. The cultural mosaic, a term first used in the 1920’s to describe the influence of so many eastern Europeans and Scandinavians on the prairie landscape, still describes the vast array of cultures and traditions that have found a home here. Multiculturalism is a part of the Canadian identity - within our borders.
Even in The Lion King. Remember that moment when Mufasa is showing young Simba the kingdom and they look out at the vast expanse of the land? Mufasa says that “everything the light touches is our kingdom.” And Simba asks “what about that shadowy place?” “That is beyond our borders,” replies Mufasa, “you must never go there, Simba.”
Even “everything the light touches” has a border. Darkness.
The thing about that, though, is that we see a border - our border - as describing the edge of what’s within it. Our kingdom is defined by what it contains.
This week is Christ the King Sunday or Reign of Christ. It’s the last Sunday of the church calendar, as Advent marks the beginning of the year, and an opportunity to consider the image of Jesus as King, an evocative and powerful image, but a confusing and confounding one for many. What kind of king is Jesus, if the term “king” still has any meaning for us? What, or where, is the kingdom of Jesus? How does Jesus rule in the world?
The gospel story is from John 18, after Jesus is arrested and taken by the temple authorities to Pilate, the Roman governor. They want Pilate, the representative of the power that governs them to deal with Jesus, who, they say, claims to be king of the Jews. Imagine the scene: Jesus, with only the clothes on his back, no money, no army, none of the trappings of what we might recognize as power, stands before Pilate, in the heavily fortified praetorium, his soldiers nearby, surrounded by all the wealth and power of the mighty Roman empire. And Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king. My kingdom is not from this world, Jesus says. When pressed by Pilate, Jesus says “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).
Who really has the power here?
Pilate brings all the physical might of Rome, who’s borders reach almost to the edge of the known world. But empires fall and borders change and the world grows. Even with all that power, Pilate seems to wonder at what’s really happening here.
The kingdom Jesus speaks of us has no borders and cannot be contained. It springs from the smallest geography of all, the heart, to encompass the vastness of life. If Jesus rules in your heart, geographic borders will not stop you from embracing your neighbour, offering aid and care to those in need. If Jesus rules in your heart, love and compassion will stand up to hate and fear, wherever it is found. If Jesus rules in your heart, justice and respect for all, no matter how different, will be the goal of all law and governance. If Jesus rules in your heart, equality and understanding , grace and, above all, love will be the way we live with each other.
Those aren’t just poetic words, they’re real, practical and doable. We bring the kingdom of God by living out what’s in our hearts, not by closing our minds, sealing our borders and separating ourselves from the world. In the world where Jesus rules in our hearts, the light does shine everywhere, even into the shadowy places.