My sermon from November 20th at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on the Feast of Christ the King.
Good morning, St. Timothy’s family, friends and all who have gathered for worship, especially those online. We gather on this day of celebrating the sovereignty of Christ to be reminded of what kingship means in scripture. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Our Gospel reading for the day was 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 in your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Feast of Christ the King is relatively new addition to the liturgical calendar, officially placed in 1925 by Pope Pius the 11th who sought to comfort a war torn and weary Europe with a reminder of a King and kingdom of peace and goodness with no end. It has since grown to be a very ecumenical celebration across all manner of churches, Protestant churches included. To be honest, all week long as I prepared for the day I’ve been singing, humming and listening to Third Day’s King of Glory from their 2000 album Offerings… here are the lyrics:
King of Glory
Who is this King of glory that pursues me with His love
And haunts me with each hearing of His softly spoken words
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need
Who is this King of glory who offers it to me
Who is this King of angels, O blessed Prince of Peace
Revealing things of Heaven and all it’s mysteries
My spirit’s ever longing for His grace in which to stand
Who is this King of glory, Son of God and song of man
His name is Jesus, precious Jesus
The Lord Almighty, the King of my heart
The King of glory
Who is this King of glory with strength and majesty
And wisdom beyond measure, the gracious King of kings
The Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
Who is this King of glory, He’s everything to me
We celebrate Christ the King today with a kinda heavy reading from the Gospels, one recalling the day of his murder. What a strange reading for the Sunday before Advent, and yet not all that completely strange! Just before we begin the beautiful season of Advent, we have this harsh reminder of the ugliest day… and maybe that’s the kind of reminder we need sometimes.
I mean, we do like to jump ahead to the good stuff don’t we? Sometimes we need to be reminded to slow down. Anyone have family who has already decorated their house top to bottom with Christmas stuff? Did they do it even before Halloween? Was it you? Hey, no judgement… I promise. Anyone ever had trouble waiting for Christmas to open a gift? How about waiting to give one? I can’t stand having a gift for someone and not giving it! And I’ll admit I’m usually the first in my family to fire up some Christmas music in the car or at home… and I don’t wait until Advent is ended!
It’s good to have a day on the calendar to be reminded of what it means for Christ to be our King… to be reminded of what God’s Kingdom means for us and the world around us. On the day that Christ gave his all, Christ showed us just what it means to be a king! To be a King, as Jesus was a King:
- is not to assert one’s own rights over others,
- is not to dominate,
- is not to exclude,
- is not to reject or to judge,
- is not to choose violence, and
- is not at all like the political figures of the world.
Indeed, we need this reminder when just barely two years ago on January 6th, 2021, “Christ is King” was chanted by some and seen on flags while our Capitol was attacked in open insurrection. Is that Christ’s kingship? No. Never. Truly, Christ our King never leads us in religious warfare or in a violent mob against our neighbors! But our King leads us against injustices and untruths, first those that have taken root in our own lives, and then those that have rooted in the soil of our society. Christ our King is never imposing his will by force.
Indeed, the Christ we see in scriptures is never cozy with the political powers of his day, but speaking truth to power…
- never seeking to dominate, but to serve
- never seeking to assert his own rights over a neighbor, but offering all he had to those around him
- never fearing or fearmongering about people who were different from him, but always spending time with the least expected and least expecting of the people around him.
The true King who is Christ will never be the comfortable poster boy of the powerful or the mascot of the violent and the hateful. But Christ our King consistently calls us who would follow him to pursue lives of healing, reconciliation, service, love and justice.
Christ, who is our King, consistently draws us ever onward, not judging and rejecting us, but refining and shaping our lives ever more into the shape of the cross, that symbol of service, dedication and of identifying not with the powerful, but with the powerless, with those whom God so loves.
It was a heavy day, when Christ our King was murdered. It was a heavy day when it seemed like violence had won, when it seemed as though love had lost to hate. But if you’ll indulge me jumping ahead just a bit, we know the grave couldn’t hold him, and death and injustice had no more a power to end him than it does to end us.
And the King we follow doesn’t call us to a wooden cross on a hill, but the cross of loving one another. He doesn’t call us to the cost of our lives taken at the hands of violent authorities, but to the cost of forgiving one another.
And even when this world does show us its worst, and the violent ones rise up with their hatred and their guns on the streets of our cities, our King still shines the light of healing, the light of love, the light of justice to keep us on the path of peace and of life. So that when the world shows its worst, and it seems that there is little hope or reason for carrying on, we will still shine our light, we will still salt this earth, with the presence of the King of Glory. Who is this King of Glory? His name is Jesus.
- This is the Jesus who announced his ministry as a proclamation of good news to poor, release and restoration to the oppressed and the marginalized.
- This is the Jesus who refused to judge and condemn the one caught in adultery and dragged before him to be killed.
- This is the Jesus who calls us to radical honesty with one another, that our yes be yes and our no be no.
- This is the Jesus who calls us to renounce hatreds and to love our enemies, and who loved his own enemies, even as they took his life.
- This is the Jesus who taught us that loving our God and loving our neighbor was the whole thing, the top of the charts!
- This is the Jesus who taught us that the way to really live this life is found in feeding the hungry, satisfying the thirsty, clothing the naked, and staying close to the sick and the imprisoned.
- This is the Jesus who called the children to himself, those without power or position, when others barred their way… no one is disposable or valueless in this kingdom.
- This is the Jesus who promised to be with his disciples to the very end, and will stay with us through it all.
So when we read Jesus say “forgive them, they just don’t know what they’re doing” we know we’ve found the King for our lives. When we hear the condemned criminal on the cross treated as a beloved one and welcomed to paradise, we know we’ve found the King for our lives. When we spend time with the Jesus of scripture instead of the flag and the slogans, the Jesus of our faith instead of violent, partisan politics, we know we’ve found the King for our lives.
Who is this King of Glory? His name is Jesus.
We rest in the grace of this King, knowing his love will never fade or fail to carry us through. And we move in the power of his call, knowing that in that pursuit of his love and justice we and our world will one day know peace. Amen, amen and amen.
Be blessed, Rev. Todd