Much as I enjoy attending the South Whidbey Lectionary discussion group, I have to admit that sometimes I am puzzled by the effect of my comments on the group. Today we were talking about the passage in John which is assigned for "Christ the King Sunday", i.e., the Sunday before Advent begins, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
The passage is from John 18 and Jesus is being questioned by Pilate, who essentially asks him "what have you done to make these people angry? Are you calling yourself the king of the Jews?" And Jesus replies "you are saying that I call myself this, but my kingdom is not of this world. I come for this, to preach the truth." (abridged version, of course)
The conversation touched on the idea of kingship, of authority, and the meaning of kingship in this day and age, and then it veered into comments about what Jesus's kingdom was, how he saw himself and his authority, etc. There was a certain amount of substitutionary theology offered, thoughts about whether this is clear evidence of Jesus' offering himself as a substitute for the sins of humankind by his death, and such, which seems to me to miss the point of Jesus' whole life.
I hadn't said much so far, but finally I offered the comment that because I have an understanding of Jesus the Christ as the incarnation of Divine Love, I saw this in terms of Jesus defining his kingdom as a kingdom of love and justice, not of political rule. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say; I even prefaced it by saying that though I am a Christian, I minister to many people who are not Christian and that speaking of Jesus as a metaphor for love makes Jesus understandable to them.
There was silence in the room. Nobody made eye contact with me. Nobody commented. There was dead silence, as though they were just waiting an appropriate amount of time before they could go on. And then they went on without a single nod to what I had said. I almost commented on their silence but decided not to. It felt more like a stunned silence than an offended silence, but I can't be sure.
I don't know if I shocked them, offended them, irritated them, or just what. I don't think they quite know what to make of me, how to receive what I think without arguing or letting go of their own opinions. I don't think what I said was particularly challenging nor far out. Most of them are fairly liberal themselves, but they do seem to take the scripture more as fact than as metaphor and seem uncomfortable with metaphorizing Jesus.
They are lovely guys, all of them, and I like them a lot. But I wonder about this kind of reaction from them.