“A King Changes Everything” Nov. 25, 2018
“A King Changes Everything”
2 Samuel 23:1-7
“Today is both the end and the climax of the Christian year. Today we indulge ourselves in a holy nonsense which is in fact the most beautiful truth: we celebrate the festival of Christ the King.
He had no troops and built no palace, yet his rule is now boundless. He had no throne and wore no crown, yet as a king he is on his own. The truth, grace, and peace of Christ the King be with you all.” I wish that I could tell you who it was that wrote this introduction to this special day. I’d like to give credit where credit is due. Nonetheless, it seems like a great idea to “indulge ourselves in a holy nonsense which is in fact the most beautiful truth: a king changes everything.
And furthermore, I believe we have permission to take this special day and use it however we see fit. After all, it is not a religious festival that has been handed down from the mouth of God to the ears of Moses. In fact, the Feast of Christ the King is fairly recent. It was first instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to a growing attitude that the church should have no influence on how a nation governs itself along with a resurgence of nationalism in the church. I’d like to think that it was meant to be a gut check: to dedicate a day in the Christian year to really, really take stock of who is in charge here. This festival was originally known as “The Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Wow- now that’s a mouthful. It wasn’t until the Protestant churches adopted this holiday that things got real – at least that’s the way I’m seeing it. So let’s do it; let’s indulge ourselves in a little holy nonsense, which is in fact the most beautiful thing. As we approach the time of Advent, the time that we “await” the birth of the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace, let’s visit the fundamentals of our faith – the peace that has come into our hearts and the joy in our souls – because of all the rulers and leaders and heroes in this world, there is only one who we can call a King without feeling embarrassed or phony or ill-informed, and that is Jesus of Nazareth.
Ralph Milton, who writes a religious blog called “Rumors” had an interesting piece on Pontius Pilate. He told the story leading up to our gospel text today from the perspective of Pilate’s wife. She starts out saying, “I wonder sometimes, if they might have been friends. If they had met in some other circumstances, I think my husband and Jesus might have liked each other. They were about the same age. Both of them passionate, committed, opinionated. Bullheaded sometimes. And intelligent too, I think. Except they thought so differently.” Except they thought so differently. It was an interesting perspective, coming from Pilate’s wife. According to her, Pilate would never had landed the job except for the fact that she was the grand daughter of Emperor Augustus. Yet Pilate was doing the best he could in the hopes that he could rise up to a position not quite as…well, frustrating.
The story goes on to say that Pilate never understood the Jews, and that drove him almost to distraction. “You can’t get a clear answer out of them about anything,” he would fume. “Ask them a straight, logical question and they tell you a story, for crying out loud!”
You have to wonder why we are talking about a gospel usually read during the time of Lent when we are a week away from Advent? I admit, it kind of threw me at first; but this is Christ the King Sunday. Let’s indulge in a holy nonsense. And this brief dialog between Jesus and Pontius Pilate is the one time when Jesus is totally candid about the kingdom of God with someone outside of his circle- definitely the first time with a Roman. I’ve always felt that Pilate was an honorable man – he hadn’t been a Roman governor long enough to become jaded and corrupt. No, he had a certain amount of integrity, and I suspect that Jesus recognized this. But he was curious. When he asked Jesus (Jn 18:33) “Are you the king of the Jews?” it was a loaded question and he should have known better, but he had to know. Jesus puts him on the defensive, however, by answering, (vs 34) “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” It put Pilate on the defensive sure, but it was also an invitation. It was an invitation to be truthful. What Pilate was thinking perhaps, is, “sure others have told me about you, but I want to know myself; are you the king of the Jews?” Instead he evades the issue entirely by saying, (vs35) “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and chief priests have handed you over to me.” And then, still curious, he asks, “What have you done?” What have you done?
You know, the concept of truth – absolute, positive, without-a-doubt truth – is a dicey thing. It’s been kicked around and used and abused for thousands of years. Sometimes we would like to think that there is no such thing; that what is true on one side of the mountain is false on the other side. And truth is so final. It was Edward Murrow who said, “Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little,” and it was good old Harry Truman who once said, “I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.” The bottom line is that we rarely see things as they are; we see things as we are.
This year as we embark on the journey of Advent, it is my hope and my prayer that we come out on the other side with all the joy and sense of presence and peace that we wish for in this beautiful season of holy nonsense. But along the way, let’s give credit where credit is due: God came to us in the flesh so that we could know the truth and by knowing the truth we can live it. God sent to us a King – the real deal – and a King changes everything.
Amen & Shalom