Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ the King

November 22, 2015

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

+ As you have probably guessed: It’s one of those special Sundays in the liturgical year, as you maybe can tell all ready. 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.  So, it’s kind of like New Year’s, almost a month early.

You can just feel it. Something is just…happening.  Advent, that time of preparation for Christmas, is about to happen.

I wish I had a dollar for every person who says to me: I LOVE Advent. Because I would be making money from myself as well.

 I LOVE Advent too.  I’m not a big Christmas fan—sorry to say that—but I am HUGE Advent fan.  Advent is, of course, the season of anticipation—of longing.  And dare I say, maybe a fair share of healthy impatience. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. I am an impatient person—as anyone who has worked with me for any period of time knows.

Certainly, we, as followers of Jesus, might get a bit impatient about that for which we are longing.  Our journey as followers of Jesus, is filled with anticipation and longing.  We know, as we make this journey through life, that there is an end 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, we get a little glimpse of that goal. We get to get an idea of what it is we are anticipating. We get a glimpse of the THE END of the story. We are invited, on this Sunday, 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 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 today is the traditional Cosmic Christ—this Christ who is limitless, who is all-powerful, who transcends time and place.  This Christ is the God who comes to as incarnational force—comes to us with a face like our face.  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.

In this past week, we have heard a bit about condemned people. There is no way we can escape all the talk of refugees. We have heard all the debates this past w eek about whether or not we should accept Syrian refugees or turn them away. We know where the governor of North Dakota stands on this issue, sadly.  And even more sadly, so much of these debates are based in fear.

There has been much fear-mongering in the air. And, as we know, fear-mongering

is not an option for us as Christians. FEAR is not an option for as a Christians. And when it comes to refugees, we need to remember. This King we celebrate today—this King crowned as he is with a crown of thorns—he too was also a refugee. He too, with his family, escaped blood-thirsty soldiers and another despotic king who tried to kill him.  He too lived in a world of terror and fear, where fear and terror were daily realities in his life.  This is the Christ we encounter as well today.

The Christ we encounter today is Christ our King, Christ our Priest, Christ our ultimate Ideal. But he is also the one that some would also judge as Christ the Rebel, Christ the Misfit, Christ the Refugee, Christ the Failure.  And this is a very real part of our message on Christ the King Sunday.

In the midst of the brokenness of Christ, he is truly victorious. And because he is, we too, even despite our brokenness, despite our rebelliousness, despite our failures, we too will ultimately triumph in Christ.

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 is not some stern Judge, waiting to condemn us to hell for what we’ve done or not done or for 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 the One we are following, the One who leads us and guides us and guards us.  This King does not allow us to have fear as an option in our lives.  The King we encounter today is the refugee, the misfit, the rebel, the outcast, the marginalized one, who has triumphed and who commands us to welcome and love all those who are marginalized and fleeing and living with terror and fear in their own lives.  And his Kingdom, that we anticipate, is our ultimate home.

No one is a refugee in that Kingdom

We are all—all of us, every single one of us, no matter who we are—, at this moment, citizens of that Kingdom.  That Kingdom is the place wherein each of belongs, ultimately.

You have heard me say it 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 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 Kingdom wherein 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.

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

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