Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 – Christ the King Sunday Sermon on John 18:33-37 and Revelation 1:4b-8

You can listen to this sermon here.

John 18:33-37
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Revelation 1:4b-8
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

These next few words are not my own, but they are a blessing that is meant for you.

Grace and peace and mercy are yours from him who is and who was and who is to come. And through him, you are an intricate beloved and blessed part of God’s work in this world. Amen.[1]

Friends, today is Christ the King Sunday. The last Sunday in our church calendar. Next week, we begin an entirely new church year with, as we always do, Advent. So in some ways today symbolizes that everything we do all year long is leading and pointing to this moment – a time when we proclaim Christ as King.

It is hard to know what to preach on a Sunday like this, Christ the King Sunday. To proclaim Christ is the king can seem so triumphant and certain and powerful. Which is not how I feel at all, in light of the attacks this past week in Beirut, Paris, and Mali.

At first, I wanted to come and preach about non-violence and how we shouldn’t respond to violence with violence. I had all these scripture verses lined up to prove my point. Verses where Christ says to his terrorists, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Or “Love your enemy as yourself.” Or to the prophet Ezekiel, where God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone.”

That’s what I wanted to preach. But then I surprised myself. As I was listening to the news on the radio, as I learned that France declared war against ISIS and started dropping bombs, a word came out of my mouth that I was not prepared for:

Good.

Good, I said. And that startled me. It startled me because I am usually pretty good at filtering out those kinds of honest thoughts so that I can still see myself and claim myself as a liberal, peace-maker. But my filter failed. And for a moment, in all honesty, I was relieved to hear of the violence being done to ISIS. I was relieved because I felt less afraid. And more safe.

So how could I preach to you about non-violence when I wanted there to be violence? How could I preach to you about Christ as the non-violent king when Christ wasn’t my king. My fear was my king. My safety was my king.

It is hard to know what to preach on Christ the King Sunday when all too often I do not claim Christ as king.

But then I learned the history of this liturgical day, Christ the King Sunday. And it was born out of a situation in the world that was not unlike ours today.

Christ the King Sunday was started in 1925 by Pope Pius the 11th. It was in-between the two World Wars, but there was no true peace.

Here is what the Pope wrote: Since the close of the Great War individuals, the different classes of society, the nations of the earth have not as yet found true peace… the old rivalries between nations have not ceased to exert their influence… the nations of today live in a state of armed peace which is scarcely better than war itself.

 Pope Pius could see the divisions growing between classes and the divisions growing between nations. People were pledging allegiance to their country over and against their allegiance to God or to humanity. But true peace was not being found. True peace, the Pope declared, could only be found under the Kingship of Christ as “Prince of Peace.”[2]

So the Pope instituted Christ the King Sunday to draw us back together when we’ve become divided. And to give us strength and courage when we’ve become fearful.

And friends, we have become divided and fearful. Not just as a nation, but as a human race.

So maybe we gather together here, at the end of our liturgical year, not because we can claim Christ as our king, but because we need to. We need to claim Christ as our king so that it may draw us back together. So that we don’t let our fear or our nationalism over take us. Over and over again we have to claim Christ as our king and do it together because it is so easy not to.

I looked back at my sermon last year on Christ the king. Do you remember what was going on last year at this time? Our country was debating immigration. And now, here we are, a year later, debating immigration. The only thing that has changed is the nationality of the immigrants about whom we debate.

Pope Pius thought we needed a liturgical day, so that when the world is divided, when chaos and violence is looming, together we might be reminded that our center, our allegiance, our loyalty is not to where we live or to who we vote for, but it is to Christ our King.

So maybe, this day, Christ the King Sunday, is not in contrast to my feelings of fear and uncertainty this week, but rather perhaps it is for my fear and uncertainty. So that I, along with you, may be called back to the Truth. Christ is my king. Christ is my king. Fear is not my king. Safety and success are not my king, Christ is my king. I will seek to follow Christ.

With the gift of this liturgical day, we’ve also been given the gift of some scripture readings. And there are two words – literally two words – from today’s readings that give me hope.

The first word comes from Jesus’ conversation with Pilate. As Christ the king, stands handcuffed and bound before Pilate, looking nothing like a king, Jesus declares, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

And the word that gives me hope is that little word from. My kingdom is not from this world. Without that word, Jesus would simply be saying, “My kingdom is not this world. My kingdom is not here.” But no, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not from this world.” Which says to me, the kingdom of God might not be from here, it might be foreign to us, but it is still here.

The kingdom of God is here. In the midst of tragedy and fear, I need to remind myself that the kingdom of God is not from here, but it is here. It is here. And it is hard to see, because it is not from here. It doesn’t look like the kingdoms of power and might that we are used to.

But it is here. It was present in Paris, when Sikh temples who opened their doors for people seeking shelter. It was there when Parisian taxi drivers turned off their meters to drive people home from the attack zones. It was there when thousands lined up in the streets of Paris to donate blood today. It was there when the doors of homes across Paris were opened wide to offer safe spaces for those displaced by the police activities.[3]

The kingdom of God is not from here, but it is here.

The second hopeful word from our texts today comes from Revelation. John, the author of Revelation, speaks of Jesus who loves us and freed us… and who made us to be a kingdom.

It is that word kingdom. But the translation is a little off. Our translation says that Jesus made us to be a kingdom, but the Greek is better translated as Jesus who loves us and freed us and who made us to be kings.

Christ’s kingdom is not from this world, because Christ’s kingdom does not have one king…it has many.

You.

Christ has made you to be kings and queens in his kingdom that is here now.

And we are called to be different than the kings and queens of this world. Because kings and queen of this world, like children on schoolyard snow pile, fight to the top. Pushing and shoving, grabbing at the heals and limbs of each other just to stand at the top with arms raised and victory claimed, even if just for a moment. But we are called to be kings and queens in the kingdom of God. Which is to say we are to be kings and queens who are born out of grace and love, not power and might.

You can see how Christ’s kingdom is not from this world. Because Christ chooses to not be the only king in his kingdom.

As the great theologian Karl Barth said: If we see (Jesus) alone, we do not see Him at all. If we see (Jesus), we see with and around Him in ever-widening circles, His disciples, the people, His enemies, and the countless millions who have not yet heard His name. We see (Jesus) as theirs, determined by them and for them, belonging to each and every one of them.[4]

I saw a king from the kingdom of God this week. In a video. On the internet. In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, a father and his young son were being interviewed. The child said to the journalist, “We have to be really careful because we have to change houses.

The father responds, “Oh no, don’t worry…we don’t need to move out. France is our home.

But there’s bad guys daddy…

Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere, the dad responds.

They have guns, they can shoot us because they are really, really mean, daddy.

It’s okay. They might have guns, but we have flowers.

But flowers don’t do anything, the child says.

Of course, they do. Look everyone is putting flowers…it’s to fight against the guns. 

It’s to protect?

Exactly.

And the candles too?

It is to remember the people gone yesterday.

And then the child looked at the journalist and said, “The flowers and the candles are here to protect us.” [5]

I started to tear up. Maybe it was because his son reminded me of my son. Elliot would ask those questions. But it was also the father’s voice – so fragile and yet strong. Just like those flowers. His words seemed like something that was not from this world. But from God.

Like flowers in the midst of guns, Christ’s kingdom is here in the midst of all of these other kingdoms. When we cannot claim Christ as our king, Christ claims us as kings and queens of his kingdom. We are kings and queens but we are not armed with armies or guns, but we have water in a font and bread and wine on a table. Which are stronger than guns. Because when the cold chaos of power and destruction wants to divide and turn us on each other, these gifts bring us together to proclaim blessing and welcome to the stranger, forgiveness to the broken, and love to the unloveable.

And these gifts are not from this world. But they are here. They come from God in Christ who is our king and who chooses us as kings and queens in his kingdom as well. May this be our song now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] I’m indebted to my friend, Rev. Charlie Rudd, for this blessing.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_the_King

[3] http://www.odysseynetworks.org/on-scripture-the-bible/isis-keep-focus-divine-call/

[4] http://day1.org/6897-a_kingdom_not_of_this_world

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2S9An4AX0M

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s