“This Is Our King” November 24, 2019
“This Is Our King”
Greetings and welcome to worship on this, the 24th of November in the year of our Lord, 2019. This week, the church celebrates “Christ the King” or “The Reign of Christ” Sunday and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s a big deal because this is a hinge week – sort of a pivot point – between the liturgical season of Ordinary Time and Advent. To put that into perspective, this season we call “ordinary time” began all the way back in June on Pentecost Sunday. In that time, we have read from the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament, as well as the letters of Paul. But mostly, our worship has been centered on the gospel writings of the Apostle Luke. I’ve always considered Ordinary Time to be the meat and potatoes of the church year. It’s during this time that we revisit the parables, the teachings, and the ministry of Christ. It’s a time to regroup, to rethink, and to imagine once again what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s the time that we celebrate our place in the Kingdom of God… as Christians and as the church. But with the coming of Advent and then, the Christmas season, it has always seemed to me that things get more personal. It’s the time that we turn from the practical to the… well, the magical. The coming of Advent is the time when we stop asking “how” Jesus wants things done, and turn to the amazing truth that our God has a love too big, too pure, and too amazing for us to ever really understand.
Emmanuel, God with us; these are words we will be speaking and singing for the next month. And we marvel at this incredible thing that the prophets told us would come to be. Our reading from the prophet Jeremiah today is just one of many: (Jer 23:5) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. “A righteous Branch, and he shall reign as King.” You have to love the power of a statement like that. The wise scholars who put together what we call the Lectionary made an excellent choice here. That’s what Christ the King Sunday is all about – – at least we would think. What I mean is that when we look at the lectionary choices for this special Sunday, we would expect something glorious from the book of Revelation; perhaps, Jesus sitting on a jeweled throne, decked out in splendid robes and a jeweled crown. Or something majestic from Isaiah: “Onto us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders.” Or at least a glorious moment from the gospels: Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. That’s what we would expect on Christ the King Sunday. But no. We find none of these. What we find instead is a crucifixion scene. This is what the wise scholars decided should be our gospel reading some 40 odd years ago.
My first thought was to find something else to preach on today; something – anything – instead of this gruesome picture of Christ on the cross. Surely, I could find something more noble, more majestic; something more deserving of a king. But here’s the thing: if we are honest, we have to confess that this is the perfect scripture for this day. Because this is our king. Take a moment and be remember that it is Christ on the cross that is the heart of our faith. This is our King. This is our king. This is our king that for the love of us, he chose not to save himself. This is our king that for the love of us, he chose to answer the jeers and rejection with a promise of salvation. This is our king that for the love of us, even as he hung on the cross, Jesus promised salvation to a thief who confessed his belief. This is our king, and it is beautiful and humbling at the same time. Speaking of the crucifixion scene, the writer Debie Thomas writes, “If there is any moment in the Christian calendar that must smack all smugness out of us — all arrogance, all self-righteousness, all contempt — this one has to be it. Our king was a dead man walking. His chosen path to glory was the cross.”
The season of Advent is traditionally a season of waiting, of longing, and of listening. During this time, the presence of Christ will pursue us; it will chase after us without stopping. Let it. During this time God’s grace will rain down on us even in our darkest hours (especially in our darkest hours.) Let it rain. And during this time we will hear again and again the promise of our salvation. Believe it. For this is the promise of Emmanuel, God with us. This is the promise of a king, our king, a king like no other.
Amen & Shalom