Isaiah 9:1-7, Ephesians 1:15-23
November 22, 2009
When we were kids, we would sometimes have this conversation. One of us would be trying to say he was better than the rest of us. And he would say, “I’m the king!” That was the greatest title we could imagine! But then someone else would say, “Yeah, well I’m king of the whole world!” And so it would go until eventually someone would say, “Yeah, well I’m king of the universe!!”
That’s not where I got this sermon title! I actually got this from the Jewish prayers that are offered during the Passover celebration. At each point in that meal, they would say a prayer thanking God for each of the elements they used. And every prayer would start out with the same words. “Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, king of the universe…” And the reason that came to mind for me is that this is “Christ the King Sunday.”
As we said earlier, next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Later today we’re going to be decorating the sanctuary for Christmas! And, if it’s not distressing enough to think of how fast the calendar year is coming to an end, let me remind you (again) that this Sunday – today – is the end of the Church year! The liturgical calendar begins with Advent. That makes this the last Sunday!
Well, not only is “Christ the King” the last Sunday of the Church calendar, it’s also the culmination of the entire liturgical year. It’s what everything leads up to. Remember the liturgical calendar was set up to celebrate the life and ministry of Jesus. We start with the anticipation of his birth in Advent, and we go then through his ministry, his passion, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. And all of it leads up to the final culmination – the “grand finale” – on this day when we celebrate Jesus Christ the King.
George Frederic Handel forever wrote that thought on our musical hearts when he put the Apostle John’s words to music. “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!” That’s from Revelation 11:15. And by the way, there’s always a question in churches about whether that song, the “Hallelujah Chorus,” is to be sung at Christmas or Easter. (I forget which part of the oratorio it comes from!) Well, I think there is a good case to be made that it should most appropriately be sung on Christ the King Sunday!
We celebrate this day Christ the King. And as we do so, we think of his kingdom in two time frames. The first is described so wonderfully by Paul in our reading from Ephesians. Christ is king by virtue of having ascended to heaven, and now is seated at the right hand of God. “…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come.” And right there at the end he mentions the second of the two time frames. We also celebrate today the future kingdom of Christ. There will come a time at the culmination of all history, when Christ will reign on earth.
Now, the big question of recent days is this. Will the events that lead up to Christ’s ascension to his earthly throne really begin on December 21st 2012? I haven’t seen that movie yet, but it implies that “the end of the world” will begin on that day because of the ancient Mayan calendar. Well, I was watching the History Channel the other day, and I was glad when they pointed out what I was taught about the Mayans years ago. The Mayans didn’t view time as we do. They didn’t see time as linear. Like many ancient civilizations, they saw time as “cyclical.” That is, time moved in a circle, and it repeated itself over and over again. So the Mayans wouldn’t agree that the world would be ending, it would just be starting over.
Now, am I going to see the movie? Sure! It looks pretty amazing! Do I believe some version of it is going to happen that day? (“Hey, it’s Christ the King Sunday! Why not talk about that?”) Well, let me tell you that the one thing Jesus said about the end times is that we will not know the time or the date. Not even he knew that, he said! What he did say was that it would happen on a day that we would not expect. He described it as being like “A thief in the night.” So, in my understanding of scripture, the fact that a date has been named is a good reason to believe that it won’t happen on that day! I’m definitely not taking out a huge loan that has a repayment schedule starting December Twenty Second, 2012!
What I will do is point out what I’m pretty sure a Hollywood movie about the end of the world would not. And that is that Jesus Christ the King, will someday, in the context of all that “doomsday stuff,” return to rule this earth! Christ the King is the central figure in the culmination of history. And do I think his ascension to the throne of this world will begin on 12/21/12? I would say that his ascension has already begun! It started some 2000 years ago!!
So today we think of Christ the King. He is king of the universe as Paul described him. And he is the future king of the earth as John (and Handel) described him. But the real question about all that is the same as the question I’ve often asked about “knowing God.” Do we know God, on an intellectual level, as in we have knowledge about him? Or do we know him on a personal level, as in we have an intimate relationship with him? And don’t forget, the word “knowledge” as it’s used in the Bible, is a close intimate thing. It even referred to the kind of intimacy shared between a man and a woman. When the Angel told Mary she would conceive and bear a son, her question was, “How can this be since I have not known a man?” Our knowledge of God implies that depth of intimacy with God. That’s what our relationship with God is about!
So, I ask you know to make the parallel with our subject for today. Do you know Christ as King? And I don’t mean that in terms of you knowing all that I’ve said about Christ and his sovereignty. I mean that in terms of your life. “Is Christ your king?” Are you really one of his subjects? Does he have your allegiance?
We all know the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag, but did you know that there used to be a Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag! Anyone ever heard of that? I’ve seen it written a couple of times in some really old hymnals! I was thinking that maybe I should find that someday and we should say it together! And it seems to me that this day, Christ the King Sunday, would be the perfect day for that! Would you pledge your allegiance to Jesus as King?
As we move now to this time of communion together, let us remember all that we’ve known about Jesus Christ which is represented in these elements. Let us remember God’s great love, and his amazing Grace. Let us remember Jesus’ example, his passion, his death, and his resurrection – all those things we remember in the various celebrations throughout the church year. And let us now, at the culmination of the year, remember, and celebrate, and pledge ourselves anew, to Jesus Christ the King.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, for you have created us and called us to be your people. You have redeemed us through the sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord, and Savior, and King. Help us to have the strength to follow, and through your Spirit may we know your fellowship in this time, and throughout our lives. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.