Jesus Shall Reign – November 23, 2014, Christ the King Sunday
Psalm 103, I Timothy 6:11-16
November 23, 2014
This is Christ the King Sunday. Again, this is a celebration that definitely gets overshadowed every year by the other events and celebrations going on around it – namely, Thanksgiving, the start of Advent, and of course the ever important “Holiday shopping season.”
Of course, even that’s not like it used to be! “Holiday shopping season used to start on “Black Friday.” Do you remember that? That’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. Oh, but not any more! Now the commercials and the “Christmas specials” start around Halloween, don’t they? And displays are up in stores even before that! I do wonder though, is it still nuts out there on Black Friday? Are the enticements still happening for sales that day? Do people still line up at stores all night? (My brother used to do that!)
Personally, I like the idea of “Cyber Monday.” Do you know what that is? That’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, which has become the biggest on-line shopping day of the year! So, if your computer seems to be running slow that day, that’s why. But I digress…
Christ the King Sunday is, as I’ve said, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. And more importantly, it is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. The liturgical year was set up to recognize and celebrate all aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. We start with his Advent and his birth. Then we look at his ministry, his passion, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his promise of the Holy Spirit. And all of that, all the events we have celebrated all year, have lead us to this event, the day we celebrate Jesus Christ as King. In a way, it should be the biggest of all the celebrations, don’t you think? But that’s not likely to happen, is it!
So, at the very least, if you take nothing else from this service today, make this a bigger event in your mind. Consider today, and for the rest of this week, that Jesus Christ is King. Spend some time thinking about that. Put this morning’s bulletin on your refrigerator with the page showing, that says “Christ the King Sunday.” And no, I don’t have an additional paper for you today. Maybe I should. But, be thinking that. Remind yourself to be thinking about Jesus Christ as King. Keep doing that, and cause that thought to grow in your mind! Next week we start all over. Next week we think Advent. But this week – this week – we think “Christ the King!”
Now, in addition to that, I invite you to think of the kingship of Jesus in two ways. First, he is king in the spiritual sense. When he stood before Pontius Pilate, what did his accusers say about him? Do you remember? “This man said he was “King of the Jews.” Of course that wasn’t true at all! But they knew what they were doing! And that was a big accusation! If Jesus really did claim that, it would be an act of treason against the Roman Empire. And that was a crime that would merit Roman crucifixion! That’s what his accusers were hoping for. That was way more than just the treason of renouncing Roman rule. For Jesus to say he was a king would have been setting himself up as a rival power.
So, as he examined him, Pilate asked him the appropriate question. “Are you a king?” That’s what he had to find out before he could judge him properly. Do you remember Jesus’ answer? He said, “My kingship is not of this world. If it were, my followers would have fought, and I would not be your prisoner right now.” Jesus did not claim earthly kingship – as much as the people of Jerusalem wanted him to! He answered Pilate in a way that was part of the disappointment felt by those shouting “Hosanna” just days earlier. On Palm Sunday, they were ready to crown him king, but he didn’t accept.
Well, as you probably remember, Pilate did not see Jesus as a threat to Rome. He pronounced him as innocent. Think about this story in the Gospels. Pilate wasn’t just giving his opinion about Jesus. He was officiallyjudging this prisoner. He was making legal determinations, and if you think about it, he really did care that justice was served!
There was more going on that day, though. And what we learn in that story is that Jesus is king in the spiritual realm, and his spiritual kingdom is around us. When he was teaching, he told the crowds, “The kingdom of God is” where? It is “among you!” But more than that – and I want you to think about this throughout the week – his kingdom is evident in us! Or it should be. That’s one of the most important things about Christ the King Sunday. When Christ is our King, people should be able to see evidence of his spiritual kingdom in us!
I challenge you to think about that this week. Think about that with every action you take, and every word you utter. “Is what I’m about to do, or what I’m about to say, evidence of Jesus’ spiritual kingdom in our midst?” Or! Does it speak ill of his kingdom? That’s a big challenge! And I hope you see that, and I hope you will take it seriously! I will!
Ok. So that’s the first part of Jesus as King. The second part of Christ the King Sunday – being the culmination of the Church year – is that Jesus will also be king in the culmination of all history. We believe there will be a time when Jesus will return, and at that time he will rule on earth. That’s where the passage from Timothy comes into this. “I charge you to keep the commandment unstained… until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he will be made manifest by God, as King of kings and Lord of lords.”
That time is coming. And we ask for that every week! We say, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…” where? “on earth…” That’s what Jesus taught his people to pray. And yes, part of that is the kingdom evident through us. But part of it speaks plainly of Christ’s return to rule the earth.
As we close today, as we move to this sacrament, know that part of what we believe about Christ the King is that which was so wonderfully set to the majestic music of George Frederic Handel. Someday, it will be true, that “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!”
But, until then… how are you being a demonstration of his kingdom in our midst?
Eternal God, you loved us enough to send your son, to make us part of his kingdom. Help us to think of that every day. And help us to make his kingdom evident in our lives, as we strive to be his light to the world around us. For we pray in his name, Amen.