The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


No Kings (or heirs to the throne)

Isn’t the narrative of a venerable God enough?

by Russell Rathbun

Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 1:1-4

For Sunday, Dec. 25 , 2011: Year B—Christmas Day

The first four verses of Hebrews, tells of the inheritor of the Cosmic Throne or Throne of Heaven—the appointed heir of all things.

Looking Down

I like my Jesus down on the ground. I like the God with us, the one who is among us, not the Jesus who looks down on us from his seat next to the Majesty on high, even if he looks down on us with benevolence and forgiveness, he is still looking down.

This is Christmas, where we celebrating God entering the world, and the way I read the Gospels, God doesn’t leave and return to God’s palace.


The opening words from Hebrews seem to be explaining that Jesus had a job to do here—he came, did it and climbed back up on his throne.

When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

It seems so transactional and not at all relational. I am not saying that I don’t think there is a great tension between our ability to know and be known by God and the complete otherness of God. That dialectic is present throughout our Holy Book.

Or Relational?

I am saying that I don’t think imagery of human hierarchy is even close to helping us understand what the Godhead is like. God is not above, but maybe more like among, even if in an unknowable way.

I don’t think the reconciling event of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ can be illuminated in any way by speaking of it as a royal gesture.

The Hardest Question

Isn’t the narrative of a venerable God found in the Gospels enough to put an end to hierarchical royal images the Godhead?

Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.


  1. Jim says:

    I don’t know. I have kind of a both-and rather than an either-or view of God. He is above but also among … and below … and through … and every other possible preposition we can imagine … and probably plus some we can’t.

  2. Nixon is Lord says:

    Who cares? The whole thing is shrinking away anyway. Mainline Protestantism is disappearing faster than a pizza in front of Michael Moore. By 2050 you’ll be down to one member in the ELCA. Barely 3% of those under 30 in the US are affiliated with ANY mainline protestant denomination; your median age is 57-and rising. Your deconstructing nonsense, hoping that you can get the shape right to stave off irrelevance for another year but you’re just wasting your time.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Presence of God is very important to me. One of the most comforting things I know of, but I sure like the idea of the One in charge being my advocate.

    Maybe the thing about the king/throne imagery is you’re looking at it through the filter of how kings/those on thrones ‘tend’ to be, how kings have always been in our history. Maybe Christ as King should redefine the office of King so that you couldn’t help but feel good about it. I mean, honestly, how could you not love the King who is a Servant at the same time. Wouldn’t you rather have someone in charge who is al-Mighty, all righteous, and all compassionate as well?

How do you read?