Living Tesseracts – a Sermon on John 18:33-37


John 18:33-37
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “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.”

I don’t know if we have any physicists in the room, or people who hang out with a lot of physicists. I don’t really hang out with a bunch of physicists, but I do have a couple of friends who live in that world. One in particular tends from time to time to start talking about multidimensional space. This is an area that I think is really fascinating. But I have to confess to you all – I really do not get it.

5dbb589fabdcab96c9bb12877d5c15c4_preview_cardI know that 4-dimensional space is a thing, and that without it we wouldn’t have a number of key physics discoveries, like Einstein’s concept of spacetime, but I cannot claim to understand it, let alone even higher dimensions. I can look at a Tesseract all day – which looks in 2D or 3D space like two cubes, one inside the other, with lines joining their corners – and no matter how you project and rotate it, I still see two joined cubes, not an independent shape. A Clifford torus just looks like a big swirling donut that sometimes gets turned inside out. My mind does not work spatially in 4D; the shapes just seem impossible.

Thinking in four dimensions requires that you conceive of something visually beyond what your eyes are able to see. While I have great appreciation for the people who work in this area and stretch their brains around the invisible, I am not quite there – and fortunately I don’t have to be, because I am not a physicist.

However, it occurs to me as we celebrate the reign of Christ, that in a different way I am invited every day to wrap my mind around something that I cannot see and to conceive of possibilities that I have never experienced. That is exactly what the reign of Christ is.

Those of us who follow the example of Jesus are invited to live within what is typically called the “kingdom” of God but which I am going to call the “commonwealth,” because kingdom is a term that carries the sense of both male-dominated patriarchy and a hierarchical power structure, while “commonwealth” means a community founded for the common good, and usually implies a more shared sense of power. Disciples of Jesus are told that we are already within the commonwealth of God – that we are the commonwealth of God.

What our eyes can see is Pilate’s headquarters: a world where power is hierarchical, enforced by social status, wealth, and military violence. A world where Jesus is arrested, beaten, abandoned, vulnerable. A world where those who follow him are weak and capable of affecting nothing.

But what we are invited to envision is another dimension of shapes that seem as impossible as a tesseract. The shape of this commonwealth is not limited by the structures of power that exist in the 3D world. It is a fourth dimension and beyond, where possibilities that we cannot see already exist and wait for us to simply live into them.

In the commonwealth of Christ, creative compassion overrides violent force.

In the commonwealth of Christ, real power is rooted in love and expressed in vulnerability.

In the commonwealth of Christ, all of creation is nurtured and tended so that the interconnection between all living things thrives.

In the commonwealth of Christ, clean water, food, housing, and health care are basic parts of the human experience.

In the commonwealth of Christ, bodies with all physical and cognitive abilities are embraced.

In the commonwealth of Christ, true racial equality and the dismantling of white supremacy is not just a pipe dream, but a joyous actuality.

In the commonwealth of Christ, gender and sexual orientation are simply realities, not limitations.  

In the commonwealth of Christ, we have no new names to add to the list that we read on Transgender Day of Remembrance, and we can finally turn to a day of celebration that all people can live as their most authentic selves.

I know all of this can seem like pie in the sky by and by, because it is so different from what our eyes are able to perceive around us. But it is the reality in which we are invited to live, another dimension in which impossible possibilities surround us.

And that dimension begins here at the impossible possibility of this table, where something else is happening beyond what we see. At this table, scattered and disparate people are gathered together not only with each other but with Christ. At this table, all are welcome without barrier and without price. At this table, tiny scraps of bread and sips of grape juice signal another reality of a great feast to come. At this table, we are transported to another dimension, where the impossible shape of the loving, peaceful, and just world we hope for is possible.

And when we leave this table and this sanctuary, we are invited to take that dimension with us – to be, if you will, living tesseracts, embodying the impossible. Because we live in the commonwealth of Christ, even when we can’t quite see it.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Separate cells of the 5-cell (pentachoron).

    Separate cells of the 8-cell (tesseract).

    Separate cells of the 16-cell (hexadecachoron).

    Separate cells of the 24-cell (icositetrachoron).

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