Monday, November 22, 2010

Sermon: Christ the King

Proper 29 Year C 
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43
Vicki Hesse, Ministry Intern

Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Well, here we are –It’s Christ the King day and
the last Sunday in our liturgical year,
Happy New Year! 
Instead of singing Auld Lang Syne,
we will sing Crown Him With Many Crowns.

I wonder what other Kings we know of...
·        King of Pop – Michael Jackson
·        King of Soul – Otis Redding (if you grew up – or can remember – the 60s)
·        King of Queens – a popular TV show             
·        King of Beer – usually on the mind of Sunday afternoon football watchers
·        King Kong?
·        Or maybe the news of Prince William marrying Kate?

But what kind of Kings are they?

They are “the best” in their field
and their notoriety piques our interest
their charisma enthralls us.

What kind of power
do these kings have for us? 

== == ==
Historically, a king would be
the person at the top with all the political power,
the head of the state.

He usually got all his power
by being born into a royal family
sometimes from self-proclamation
after attacking villages and scattering the people,
then taking power over the people. 

While not all kings were violent and evil,
Sometimes, this kind of king ruled as an autocrat
with absolute power over state and government,
ruling by fear and decree.

And while the King was
legally responsible
for the welfare of the widows and orphans,
sometimes it wasn’t out of generosity –
many of  these unfortunate people
were usually relegated to
many years of labor
in exchange for their care. 

How would you feel
as a subject under this kind of king? 

I don’t know about you, but
I would probably be in yellow terror alert  
if they were anywhere near. 
I’d do what they asked –
after all, the King has all the power
and the subjects have none. 

As a subject of this kind of king,
I would have to swear to be
obedient to the King alone,
or be charged with treason.

Like I said, not all kings were like this, but many were.

So why is today celebrated as Christ the King Sunday?
Well, it was in 1925, that Pope Pius 11th
was peeved about
the increasing nationalism and secularism
that he saw in the world. 

In his yearly encyclical,
the Pope noted that
“the majority of {people} had thrust Jesus Christ…
out of their lives,”
as Pope saw it, folks had no place for Jesus
“private affairs or in politics”
and he wanted to address that.

Of course, that was only in 1925…
[Does this still apply to today?]

And so, the Pope marked this day as a celebration in our liturgical year as the crowning glory
of all the days of the year.
As the hymn says,
“crown him the Lord of Heaven,
enthroned in worlds above,
crown him the King to whom is given
the wondrous name of Love.”

Our readings today capture
the glory of that kind of King

In the first reading (Jeremiah,)
God promises to send forth
A new kind of King –
a faithful ruler who will gather all who are exiled.
This is not the kind of king we talked about earlier,
that power-mongering, disrupting kind of king
who expects the subjects
to figure it out themselves.

Have you ever been exiled and
thought you had to figure it out on your own?
Have you ever thought,
“Can’t we just all get along?”

In this Kingdom, we can get along, together.
We are welcomed home.

That’s a new kind of King. 

In the second reading (Colossians),
we hear that this King
offers to share his power and strength with us –
not the grim, teeth-gritting strength,
but God-given glory-strength.

Have you ever needed strength to be patient?
Have you ever needed just to endure?

This King gives us power to transform –
to be patient when someone cuts us off on the freeway,
to be thankful for what we do have
even when working in a minimum wage job,
to be forgiven for those very-human mistakes we make.

This King’s glory-power
brings together – all things
“in heaven and in earth –  seen and unseen”
How spacious, how roomy
is this Kingdom!

That’s a new kind of King. 

In the Gospel reading from Luke,
we recognize the humanity of this King –
how hard it is to be human,
to bear the taunts,
to have someone poke fun at us,
to be cursed. 

We empathize with this King
and sense our compassion growing inside.

THEN we get a demonstration
of a new kind of King’s
when he says,
to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The story shifts, and
in a moment of intimate familiarity,
the thief addresses the King by his first name –
Jesus –
and asks simply
to be remembered.

This King – who came
“to proclaim salvation to the poor and the marginalized,”
and who came  “to seek and save the lost” –
promises to him -
that he will be made whole,
that he will be welcomed home,
that he will be forgiven

And he does so
with mutual intimacy and affection.

That’s a new kind of King. 

== == ==
And what’s been gnawing on me all week is this question: if this is my king, how am I different?
And what of us, this King’s subjects? 
How does this change us?

Part of the answer is that
it makes us a new kind of person.

Under this King,
we are not “subjects,”
we are disciples, followers,–
and our life is transformed
from being ruled through the
feudalistic lordship of pop culture
to a life in companionship with our King.

We are transformed more and more
into compassionate beings,
“into the likeness of Christ.”

With Christ as our King,
we are gathered, empowered and forgiven.
it makes us a new kind of person.

Under this King,
We show up at the homeless shelter,
feed each other, and
realize that we are gathered up.

Under this King,
we have glory-strength
to confront those who bully
and to welcome people
who are different than us.

Under this King,
Even when we are confused,
we can find confidence and rest
in the spaciousness of God.
in the wondrous name of Love. 

it makes us a new kind of person.

As a new kind of person,
We are called to share in his glory-strength and
in the face of this world
work for peace and reconciliation.

To put together backpacks for kids
To teach children tolerance
To use our voice and political will
to change systems that oppress our neighbors or ourselves.

As a new kind of person
With a new kind of King,

Our call today is to seek and to serve
Christ the King
in each other.

Our call today is to forgive ourselves and others.


Because today,
we will be with Christ in paradise.


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