Sermon - Christ the King
Sermon: CHRIST-THE-KING, November 24th, 2019
In the Name…
When Sue and I lived in Newport News, Virginia, there was a realtor in our area who had a big sign outside his office which read, “The Rapture is Coming.” Now, why would this guy try to sell you real estate if he thinks the world is about to end? And, if you agree with him, why would you buy it? Never figured that out.
Now I don’t know about you, but I like living. I enjoy God's creation – the trees and animals, the cities, the mountains and the sea. I like being amongst people who love me and whom I love. I like eating my favourite foods, going on holidays. I enjoy the ministry. Basically, I like life and the thought of everything coming to an end is a bit depressing, if not scary.
Because, if I read my Bible right, not only will the Last Day bring about the end of everything I enjoy on this earth, but, there will also be a final judgement. God will ask me how well my faith has affected my daily life. Have I given food to the hungry, a cup of water to the thirsty, or visited the sick? How did I trust him when the chips were down? All my excuses will be reviewed. How scary is that! Especially when I realize that for me, the end is probably going to come a lot sooner than The End.
So, on this last Sunday of the Church Year, what help can I get from today’s readings to help understand a bit more about the Last Day, for me or all the years? What comfort can I take away?
Well, I might consider that our Gospel is taken from the last day of Jesus’ life on earth. Strange. Isn’t this something that belongs in Holy Week? Have we mixed up our calendar, here? Not really. St. Luke, in his Gospel, and St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, from which we also heard, both see Jesus not just as a man who was wrongly condemned and badly treated. They describe him as Lord and King; someone who has authority and power.
In the world, kings are figures of great authority and power. They are honoured or dishonoured for their military and political successes or failures. They live in palaces; wear fancy robes and crowns; host lavish banquets; and entertain the world's rich and famous. And, they pass judgements, often harsh.
Paul goes to great lengths to emphasise that Jesus is the King of kings, and that “in him all things in heaven and on earth were created.” But, he goes on to tell us something very peculiar about this king. He died on a cross.
And, not only that, he died for those who had not lived according to the laws of the Father.
Luke gives us more details about this king. You hear in fairy tales how a king dresses up as a peasant and mingles with them in the local village. But, Jesus doesn’t just dress up like us, he is one of us. He takes on our human nature and lives among ordinary people, especially sinners and outcasts, including lepers and the demon possessed. Hardly kingly.
And, then, Luke tells us how Jesus suffered the mockery of those standing around the Cross. They call out, "If you are a king, then save yourself."
But, on that hill outside Jerusalem, there is one person who sees something in Jesus that no one else sees. In spite of the gashes from the whip and the nails, the wounds and the blood, the nakedness and the shame, one of the criminals recognises a kingship and he says, "Jesus. Remember me, when you come into your kingdom!" And, Jesus replies, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
And that’s the really good news.
Jesus was a different kind of king, and our God is a different kind of god. Pagan gods were frightening because they were created in Man’s image and were petty and jealous, unjust and self-serving, lusting and greedy, petulant and stupid. Just like any human king. But, the Bible tells of a God who is perfect justice, perfect love, perfect generosity, perfect wisdom. And, this perfect God did something incredibly imperfect. He came down from heaven and was made Man. And, when Jesus ascended to the Father, he did not discard his body, he took it with him.
And what this means is that God knows what it is like to be a human in a very different way than God knows what it means, for example, to be a fish or anything else. God knows what it is like to be a human being because, and there doesn't seem to be a better way of expressing it, God remembers what it is like.
When we consider God, when we approach God, and when we try to talk with God, it is important to remember that we are dealing with the one who remembers – remembers his own experience and who does not just speculate abstractly on what our lives might be like. It’s not like the way we wonder what our cats are thinking. No, God remembers what it is like to laugh and to love, to be hurt and afraid, to celebrate and to mourn. God remembers what it is like to live and what it is like to die. God knows this, and God knows because God has done it.
So, we are able to reach out to God with an incredible degree of confidence. We are not only approaching the creator of the universe and the ruler of all time and eternity; we are also approaching someone who knows us best and who cares about us most because he has been us and his desire is for all of us to join him where he is now.
So, the End, be it long-term or short-term, doesn’t have to depress or frighten me.
I am not perfect. And I know that when I die I will still not be perfect. But, Jesus is. And, when I stand before him, he will not be holding a ledger book and ticking off where I was naughty or nice. He will be looking at me with eyes of compassion and love.
And, I will feel small. I will feel embarrassed. I will probably undergo a sensation of intense burning agony as I realize how much he did for me and how little I appreciated it. But, then, he will extend his hand to grasp mine and that feeling will pass as we walk together. That day. Into Paradise.
In the Name…