11/22/2015 Christ the King The text is John 18:33-37.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, the church year finishes its course. When Advent began last November, followed closely by Christmas, we saw the Baby King of heaven lying in a manger. During Epiphany, we saw the Baby growing into the King of Light. Lent led us to see our King on a cross, crowned not with jewels, but with cruel thorns. Easter heralded him as King over death and the grave through the resurrection to new life. Now, on this last Sunday of the church year, we see him crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
There is no scepter passed on this day. There are no election results to consider, no ballots to count. Jesus has been Lord from the foundation of the earth and crowned king in the light of the resurrection. As we celebrate Jesus’ kingship on this day, we celebrate our relationship with him – for through him we have a secure future in a scary world. We, who have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, have a place at the banquet feast without end. This is a promised inheritance granted to us who are made children of God through the waters of rebirth, and it is a promise reaffirmed every time we gather around the Lord’s table.
When we come to communion, we get a foretaste of our future – a glimpse into the oneness we have in, with, and through Jesus, and the oneness we share with the saints of every time and place. For Jesus rules a kingdom without end – a kingdom opened to all who believe in every time and place. We can only dream of that kingdom – of a world of total peace, joy and blessedness, a world without pain and tears. For if we are realistic, we know that everything for us is not perfect. Every day will not be sunny and warm. We all face hardships and challenges in our lifetime. But, we do not face them alone. For, the God who established for us a bright and glorious future is the Christ whose kingship is founded on a cross, and in his suffering for us and with us.
Now, we may not understand what kingship and kingdoms are all about. The terms come from a medieval world of almost mythological proportions. But, we do know what it is like to live in a world in which we have little control over our fate – a world in which the government often takes more than it gives, a world in which companies set rates without concern for the consumer in order to get the biggest profits, a world in which disease robs us of quality of life, and retirement is often golden only for those in the medical profession.
In Jesus’ times, kings controlled the fate of their subjects. The kings set all the laws and ruled with an iron fist. But, the kingdom of Jesus is different. It is not of this world. There is no castle or palace for the king. No congress or parliament deciding what laws there will be. Jesus has neither army nor navy, no air force to guard the frontiers to keep out unwanted strangers and maintain the enemy’s fears. In fact, he seems to encourage immigration, even of disreputable people, like fishermen, publicans and sinners, along with the righteous and desirable.
In his kingdom, there is no IRS and taxes for us to pay. No Form 1040 comes in April to be filled out before the fifteenth, with penalties charged for nonpayment, beginning upon the sixteenth. For there is no need of money – no currency with his picture, no coinage engraved with his name. All is provided by the king who has no robes made of velvet and fur, no crown made of gold set with diamonds. The Lord shall provide for his subjects and no one will be in need.
Unlike earthly kings who have their empires within geographical limits, Jesus is not limited to his own people. He is also king of the Romans, of the Greeks, of the barbarians, of all humankind of every time and every place. He is a king who truly identifies with his people and bears their burdens – even to giving his life.
There’s a wonderful story that you may have heard before about this kind of king. It happened many years ago, when Hitler’s forces occupied Denmark. The order came that all Jews in Denmark were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with yellow stars of David. The Danes had heard of the extermination of Jews in other countries and guessed that this was the first step in that process in their country. The King of Denmark did not defy the orders. He had every Jew wear the star and he himself wore the Star of David. He told his people that he expected every loyal Dane to do the same. The king said, “We are all Danes. One Danish person is the same as the next.” He wore his yellow star when going into Copenhagen every day in order to encourage his people. The King of Denmark identified with his people, even to the point of putting his own life on the line.
This is wonderful story with a powerful point. The only problem is it’s not true. It’s an urban legend that’s been around for a long time and has been told thousands of times. The only king who has truly identified with the plight of people is Christ the King. Our Lord took our sin and our death upon himself. He died in our place so that we may have life. Our universal king shows no partiality. He loves all of us equally and identifies with every race, every color, every age. He is concerned about our hardships, about injustices within our world, about human suffering of every kind wherever it may occur. Our king came us as a defenseless, tattered young rabbi, whose friends all but deserted him. He was crucified by the ruler of the land. But the grave could not hold him. For his kingdom “is not of this world.”
Jesus Christ is the ruler of all the kings and presidents and chiefs and premiers and governors and prime ministers. If Barak Obama were to say to Jesus, “How can you be the ruler over me? I have my office by election of the people of the United States, a sovereign nation, and by virtue of a constitutional inauguration and installation.” Jesus could simply point out that he has his position as ruler of the universe by God’s election and by virtue of his resurrection from the dead, his indestructible life, and his place at the Father’s right hand. For his kingdom is not of this world. And that’s what it takes. That’s what it takes to find a kind who identifies with the people – a King of heaven, a King of kings, a king from some place other than the scary world in which we live.
Truly, he is the Son of God – the one who welcomes us into the family through baptism and who invites us to come to the table and feast in the company of the saints. He is the Lord of life. He is Christ the King.
So, today we remember and we celebrate. We remember the story of a humble birth, a cruel death, and a glorious resurrection and ascension. We remember the gifts and promises of Jesus with thanks giving. And we celebrate. We celebrate the expansion of our family as two sisters are baptized. We celebrate the expansion of our table as three youth take their place with us. We celebrate the oneness we have in Christ who bears our sorrows and burdens. And we celebrate – knowing the gates of the kingdom are opened to us by none other than the King.
Let us rejoice and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.