Some thoughts on ministry, a collection of sermons, theological musings and of course, random thoughts.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Jesus as King
CTK Sunday- November 25, 2012
I’d like for us to pause for just a second this morning. I want everyone to take a big deep breath. Sit in the calm of this sanctuary this morning and feel the presence of God. For most of us, our Thanksgiving celebrations are over. Many of us have enjoyed time with friends and family, some of us have experienced a profound sense of loss without someone special at the table this year. Some of us are tired from shopping all weekend- and some of us are happily in a carbohydrate coma from all we ate in the last few days.
Let me reorient you to time and place. You are in God’s house and this is God’s time. The church has a slightly different calendar than the rest of the world. We measure holy time in seasons and we are coming to the end of a long stretch of church time that is called, “ordinary time.” In ordinary time we decorate with green, we celebrate growth, we learn more about Jesus’ teachings and sacred scriptures of all kinds. This is the last Sunday of ordinary time- next Sunday we will begin the extraordinary season of Advent. Normally those church folk who help with decorating the church scurry around the Saturday after Thanksgiving and decorate the church for Advent, but every few years we get the gift of an extra Sunday. This last Sunday after ordinary time, when it comes after Thanksgiving is an opportunity to catch our breath and rest in God’s presence. With God, of course, even ordinary time is extraordinary.
When you heard our Gospel reading this morning, you may have thought I was extra confused about the church calendar. If we were playing a trivia game and I asked you the question, “During which season of the church year would you read about Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate?” What would you say? Well, you’d probably ask me to pick a different game for family game night, but you would answer, “Lent or Easter,” right? Because if Jesus is standing before Pilate- then we know that he will soon be sentenced, killed, buried, and eventually, resurrected. That’s the Easter story- not a pre-Christmas tale, right? Yet, every part of Jesus’ life is relevant to every other part. Jesus’ story is an integral part of our story and we need to see how the pieces connect.
Jesus’ story is really the story of a king. In the coming weeks we will sing all kinds of songs about our coming king and it will be helpful for us to remind ourselves about all that the title, “king” implies.
Toward the end of his life, Jesus stood before Pilate and was asked a question that would determine his fate. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Because Jesus is really more of a question guy than an answer guy, he asks back, “Do you ask me this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Apparently Pilate doesn’t fully understand what Jesus is asking, because he talks past Jesus, without directly answering him. He ends up asking Jesus, “What have you done?”
This is when Jesus starts to talk about his kingdom. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of 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.”
Here is where the mediator in me wants to step in. I want to say to Pilate, “Yes, Pilate, Jesus is saying that he is a king- but not like the king you have in mind. He isn’t trying to vie for the power you have- he doesn’t want that power. In fact the power he has is much greater, he has within him the power of God.” However, I wasn’t there- and they didn’t ask me to mediate. Jesus goes on to say, “You say that I am king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
It seems as if Jesus himself wasn’t comfortable with the title, “king” because it didn’t quite describe his job on earth. Humans have certain connotations when they hear the word, “king,” and Jesus wasn’t going to fit those expectations. We’re not too comfortable with the word, “king” ourselves. We don’t have a Monarchical ruler in the United States. We do have a Burger King, we do have a king of rock-n-roll named Elvis, we all liked the movie, “Lion King.” But Jesus isn’t a king in the sense that any of this others are kings.
We actually know more about what being king doesn’t mean for Jesus. Kingship for Jesus does not mean that he is a political power. Kingship does not mean that Jesus is the toughest warrior. Jesus is not a reigning Monarch who is more of a symbol than a ruler. If we are to be comfortable with calling Jesus- King, we have to know that it means something completely different than when we call in other person in all of history, “King.”
Although we can’t fully understand what it means for Jesus to be king, we know in part being “King” means being a Truth-Teller. Jesus doesn’t care what you call him as long as you understand what kind of ruler he is. He came to testify to the truth. Jesus came to bring God’s truth- even when people didn’t want to hear it. The truth sometimes looks like a rich man selling all his possessions to get closer to God. The truth means eating with people that most wouldn’t want to hang out with. The truth means inviting everyone to the banquet- not only the people you like. Testifying to the truth means bringing the kingdom of God to the world- even if doing so will get you killed. Jesus came to testify to the truth. He wasn’t the kind of king that needed the affirmation of a title, or material riches, he simply came to show us how to love people as God loves them. Centuries later, we are still trying to figure out how love like Jesus loved.
Knowing what it means to truly call Jesus our King is our life-long journey. This happens not only through studying God’s word, but also through our personal relationship with Christ. In our personal devotion and prayer time we come to know Jesus not only as King, but also the other names he has been given such as savior, prince of peace, redeemer, and friend. Jesus says that, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” I don’t know about you- but I would like to “belong to the truth.” I’m thankful for the ways this church community helps me to belong to the truth.
Next Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent. During this week, people will be scurrying all over the church making it look beautiful. Next week the colors in our sanctuary will be purple, or royal blue. These are the colors of royalty. We acknowledge as a people of faith that Jesus is our one and only King.
What kind of celebration befits this truth telling king? We will celebrate with a different gift every week. In our worship time together we will bring to the baby-King our gifts of worship. We will bring him the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love. I want to encourage you to remember whose birth you are celebrating this year. We are celebrating our King Jesus.
Preacher David Lose (workingpreacher.org) has a good reminder for us as we head into the Christmas season. “It’s simple: that we are enough. That we are worthy of love and honor and respect. That we don’t have to do anything-or buy anything- to earn God’s love because God has already given that love freely and abundantly in Jesus Christ. In fact from the very first verses of John’s Gospel, when we hear that the only begotten Son and eternal Word has taken on our flesh in order to reveal to us the Father’s heart, we are assured of God’s love, a love so big it encompasses the whole cosmos.”
Whew- those words make me want to exhale deeply and relax a little. Nothing I do in the next five weeks, or don’t do, can make God love me any more than I am already loved. In response to this knowledge, Lose suggests we celebrate with joy rather than frenzy this year.
I’m going to try to give up frenzy and obligation this year in my celebration of the birth of the King. And in their place I am going to attempt to bring more love, more peace, more hope and more joy to the manger. Won’t you join me in worshiping our truth-telling King, Jesus the Christ?