Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King Sunday

November 25, 2012

Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1.4b-8; John 18.33-37

+ I hope you all survived the Thanksgiving holiday. Obviously you did. I am not planning any funerals for this coming week. I did, even though I had a pretty rotten cold. But, if you’re like me, you might find such times a bit hectic, especially when it comes to family. In these last few days, I had some family members around. Last night a few of us went out for supper. As we were talking at a local restaurant, I was getting a bit annoyed because the food was very slow in coming. Finally, I made some comment, like, “This is ridiculous!”

One of my family members turned to another and said, “Yup. There’s Jamie and his infamous impatience.”

Infamous impatience! I was not happy to hear that!

I said, “Excuse me, what exactly do you mean, ‘infamous impatience?’”

They then proceeded to share instances throughout my life when my impatience at certain things became a sort of family joke. After my initial frustration over being fodder for their stupid jokes, I realized, finally, that they might be right. I think I might be a bit impatient at times.

But is impatience as bad thing? Well, impatience—and more correctly—longing, are the theme words for the Church season that we are about to enter.

Today, of course, is Christ the King Sunday. It is the End of one Church Year—Year B. Next Sunday will be the First Sunday of Advent and Church Year C begins. And Advent is the season of anticipation—of longing. And dare I say, maybe a fair share of healthy impatience.

For us, as followers of Jesus, we might get a bit impatience about that for which we are longing. Certainly, our journey as followers of Jesus, is filled with anticipation and longing. We know, as we make this journey, that there is an end result to our journey. We know there is a goal. But we might not always be aware of what that goal is or even why we’re journeying toward it.

But today, Christ the King Sunday, get a glimpse of what we are anticipating. Today, we commemorate Christ as King. We are invited to see this King coming to us on clouds, and on wheels of burning fire. I, for one, love the drama and the splendor of such an image. In our readings today—especially our readings from the Prophet Daniel and Revelation, we too, with Daniel and the Apostle John, get a glimpse of what it is we are hoping for, what we are striving for. We also see clearly who it is who has ultimate control of our lives. We see a glimpse of the One we, as Christians, recognize as Christ—that Alpha and Omega—that Beginning and End—that One coming to us on the clouds.

But the Christ we see in our own collective vision this morning is not the humble carpenter, the amazing miracle worker, or the innocent newborn baby we are anticipating in a month’s time. The Christ we encounter this morning is coming to us on clouds, yes, but he also comes to us while standing in the shadow of the Cross—an about-to-be condemned criminal—engaging in a conversation with Pontius Pilate about who he is. The Christ we encounter today is crowned, yes—but he is crowned with thorns.

It seems a long way from the King we find in our readings from the Hebrew Bible and from Revelation—this defeated, beaten young man. But it is the same Christ—the One who will come to us in our anticipation, who guides us and guards us and who, in the end, awaits us as well.. The Christ we encounter today is Christ our King, Christ our Priest, Christ our ultimate Ideal.

We, on this Sunday and in the coming days of Advent, are faced with eschatological reality. Uh oh. There’s a word for us on this Christ the King Sunday—eschatological. It’s a strange word that always trips us up, whether we understand what it means or not. Eschatology is just a fancy Greek word for the “end things.” It is a word that invites us to think about THE END.

As we enter Advent, which, although a beginning, we realize it is also a time of preparation for the End. And there is an End waiting for all of us. There is an End waiting us all collectively as the Church. And there is an End waiting each of individually. And eschatology, Christ the King Sunday and Advent are all about both that collective End and our own personal End.

The King we encounter on this Sunday, the King that awaits us at the end of our days, is not a despotic king. The King that we encounter today is not a King who rules with an iron fist and makes life under his reign oppressive. This King not some stern Judge, waiting to condemn us to hell for what we’ve done or who we are.

But at the same time the King we honor today is not a figurehead or a soft and ineffective ruler. Rather, the King we encounter today is truly Jesus, the one we are following, the one who leads us and guides us and guards us. The King we encounter today is brother, and friend and King and Savior all wrapped up in one.

And his Kingdom, that we anticipate is our ultimate home. We are citizens, at this moment, of that Kingdom. That Kingdom is the place wherein each of belongs, ultimately.

You have heard me say in many, many sermons that our job as Christians, as followers of Jesus, is to make that Kingdom a reality. You hear me often talking about the Kingdom breaking through into our midst. That’s not just fancy, poetic, homeletical talk from the pulpit. It is something I believe in deeply.

The Kingdom—that place toward which we are all headed—is not only some far-off Land in some far-away sky we will eventually get to when we die. It is a reality—right here, right now. That Kingdom is the place which breaks into this world whenever we live out that command of Jesus to love God and to love one another. When we act in love toward one another, the Kingdom of God is present among us.

Again, this is not some difficult theological concept to grasp. It is simply something we do as followers of Jesus. When we love, Christ’s true home is made here, with us, in the midst of our love. A kingdom of harmony and peace and love become a reality, when we sow seeds of harmony and peace and love. . And, in that moment when the Kingdom breaks through to us, here and now, we get to see what awaits us in our personal and collective End.

As we prepare for this END—and we should always be preparing for the END—we should rejoice in this King, who is the ruler of our true home. And we should rejoice in the fact that, in the end, all of us will be received by that King into that Kingdom he promises to us, that we catch glimpses of, here in this place, when we act and serve each other out of love for one another.

The Kingdom is here, with us, right now. It is here, in the love we share and in the ministries we do.

So, on this Christ the King Sunday, let us ponder the End, but let us remember that the End is not a terrible thing. The End is, in fact, that very Kingdom that we have seen in our midst already. For us the End is that Kingdom—a Kingdome where there is a King who rules out of love and concern for us.

“I am the Alpha—the beginning—and the Omega—the End,” he says to us.

But in our End, we truly do find our beginning. What a glorious King we have!

“To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” Amen.

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