Christ the King Sunday
Advent 1B, 11/27/11Mark 13:24-37About that day or hour no one knows.
Advent 2B, 12/4/11Mark 1:1-8The voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the lord.
Advent 3B, 12/11/11Jn 1:6-8, 19-28John: The voice in the wilderness
Advent 4B, 12/18/11Luke 1:26-38The Annunciation
As I mentioned last week in November this year we get the three parables of Matthew 25: Virgins, Talents and Sheep and Goats. In this passage Jesus tells us what’s important in the Messianic Age: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and imprisoned. Those who do these things encounter Christ himself. For whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me.
Christ the King is the last holy Sunday in the Western liturgical calendar. It is the newest of Christian festivals. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in… 1925, to counter the rise of secularism and the rise of secular dictatorships in Europe. Pius hoped:
1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom and immunity from the state
2. That leaders and nations would give respect to Christ
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast
Because Christ is King, death is destroyed, and we are free from our bondage to other gods, so that we might be a servant church.
What does it mean to confess Christ the King? What does it mean to profess, Jesus is Lord?
One of my mentors taught us: Saying “I believe Jesus is Lord” is saying “I believe in Jesus’ way of being in the world as my way of being in the world.” In other words, faith is more than assent to an intellectual proposition. (“Oh yeah, I believe that Jesus and God are related, somehow, up in the sky somewhere. Where do I sign?”)
Instead, it is saying I believe that Jesus is lord of my life, Christ is king of my life, my time, my priorities, my money, my work life, my love life, my future. And that, all of a sudden, becomes a very serious matter, does it not? I am affirming that Christ has some claim on my life, and that changes everything. To follow the Jesus of the cross, to be in Christ, means to live my life in a cruciform way. It is to allow his baptism to be my baptism, his death to be my death, his resurrection to be my resurrection. As Irenaeus said, later shaped by Athanasius: “God became what we are to make us what he is.”
I am reminded of the story of the Great Lundin, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope, with a wheelbarrow.
Lundin: “Do you believe I can push this wheelbarrow across this tightrope over Niagara Falls?”
People: “Yes! We believe!”
Lundin: “Good! Who will get in the wheelbarrow?”
Faith is getting into the wheelbarrow. Faith is trust. Faith is my daughter jumping with abandon from the kitchen counter into my waiting arms.
To have faith in Christ as King, is to trust God with with my whole life, in life and death. It means following Jesus who jumped into the encouraging and trustworthy arms of a loving parent.
Today I want to talk with you about five implications of taking Jesus seriously. What does it really mean to call Christ the King? What does it mean to abandon everything, and jump into our God’s loving arms?
Luther said we are always worshipping a pantheon of Gods. Because Christ is King,
You are not
Caesar is not
Money is not
I am not
Sin and death are not
1. Because Christ is King, you are not.
No offense. This means I’m free from the tyranny of the urgent. We make too many decisions in the church and in the world based on who is going to be mad. But if Christ is King, I am going to have to answer to God for my actions, not you. Time to self-define. Time to operate not out of what others think, but out of an internal moral compass, a Christ-patterned moral center.
“This person wants me to do this, but that person wants me to do that, oh no, what am I going to do?” Yes, we’re called to be servants, but we’re servants of the King. The King’s Steward is a servant with authority. They told me to do it. Mom: If they told you to jump off a cliff would you do it? How many of you heard that come out of your parents mouths? Aren’t those fun? (If I’ve told you once… There are children starving in… I brought you into this world and I can… If you keep making that face…) “We are going to miss you so much.” Because if Jesus is Lord, then you are not.And if the only power you have in your church is to walk away, you haven’t been serving. Because you gain power through serving.If you want something, we’ll take it to council and pray, pray, pray. And then we’ll decide based on what we believe God is calling us to do. The church follows Jesus, not the person with the loudest voice, or the deepest pockets.
2. Because Christ is King, Caesar is not. In today’s terms: the government is not.For the early church, saying “Christ is King” meant “Caesar is not,” and those were fightin’ words. Christians were burned at the stake and fed to the lions for uttering those words. Jesus went to the cross over it. What sign did they hang on the cross? King of the Jews. To say “Christ is King” is to say “Herod is not.” To say “Christ is King” is to say “Uncle Sam” is not. It is to say “we love our government, but our primary allegiance is to God.”
As we prioritize our allegiances God is above country. Followers of Christ are part of a community that transcends nationalism. We do not worship the flag. This is why there is no flag up here. We are citizens with the saints in the kingdom of God. We are part of a community: 1 billion followers of Christ, most of who are not North Americans. In the Nuremburg trials when they asked soldiers how they could have done such horrific things, what did they say? “I was following orders.” Never let your obedience to country transcend your faith, your morals, your conscience.
To say Christ is King is to say hatred and violence are not. Injustice is not. As followers of Christ, we will not stand by and watch injustice, intolerance, hatred and violence stand. We will stand up and speak up. We will resist evil on every front, even if they drag us into court. Jesus says, “When they drag you into court,” not if. I’m jealous of those of your who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. If you haven’t been dragged into court, you’re going to have some explaining to do when you get to heaven.
To say Christ is King is to say Caesar is not.
3. Because Christ is King, money is not. Business is not.
We are so addicted to worshipping the almighty dollar, we don’t even see it anymore. In a capitalistic society with a market economy we seem to be willing to let money determine everything. We can’t stop spending. No matter how much we have, we spend more. Most Americans believe if they made just 10% more, then they’d be happy. Even though we’re the richest people in the world, with the highest standard of living, we say, “I’ll give more to the church, when I’m older and make more money.” And yet, studies show, when we get that raise, we just buy more expensive cars, houses and TVs. In fact, the more money people make, the less they give away, as a percentage of income. We are addicted, like a bad drug, and it is keeping us from being true to our moral center.
“We spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”
If Christ is king, then corporations are not. Do you believe it? Thomas Jefferson believed if we let the multinational corporations run the world, the poor would be trampled underfoot along with our freedoms. With all the interest in talking about the Tea Party, lets. Most people think the Boston Tea Party was about taxation, without representation. That’s what I was taught. And it was to some extent. But it was really about the monopoly that the East India Trading Company had on tea in the Colonies. A monopoly given to them by members of Parliament, most of whom owned stock in… the East India Trading Company.
A few years ago, one of America’s largest automobile companies decided to put gas tanks on the outside of their pickups’ steel frames. They did so against the express recommendation of their engineers, because it would turn the truck into a rolling firebomb. But they did it anyway, because allowed them to have 40-gallon tanks, twice that of their competitors. Putting the tanks inside the frame would have cost $2.20 more per truck. The marketing people showed that given the millions of trucks they would sell, it would be cheaper in the long run to pay the death benefits than to build a safe truck. In other words, they allowed the dollar to make the decision. After 1,800 fiery deaths, America asked, what value system would drive a major corporation to make such an inhuman decision? We would say sin: worshipping other gods.
To say Christ is King is to say GM is not, Ford is not, Chrysler is not, Shell is not, Exxon is not, Halliburton is not. Will I be crucified after service? To say Christ is King is to say Enron is not. Fannie Mae is not. Goldman Sachs is not. The Dow Jones Stock Exchange is not.
4. To say Christ is King is to say I am not. You are not, Caesar is not, money is not, and (oh no), I am not. Paul says in Philippians 2: Have this mind among you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant.
To say Christ is King, is to walk the way of the cross. It is to empty ourselves, like Jesus. If Jesus is Lord, then I cannot be. I am dethroned. Dr. Laura used to say we all live to serve the profane trinity: me, myself and I. What’s best for me, is the highest value in my life, the rest of the world be damned. If Christ is Lord, then I am not.
To say Christ is King is to live life in a cruciform way. It is to be claimed and shaped by Christ. When we say Christ is King we allow the Holy Spirit to mold into Christ’s image. As Irenaeus said, later shaped by Athanasius: “God became what we are to make us what he is.” Today at this table we become what we eat: the body of Christ. You are what you eat.
When Jesus wanted to show the disciples what it meant to be King, he took off his robe, put a towel around his waist, and washed the disciples’ feet. I do this as an example for you. The son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. As the Father has sent me, so now I send you.
For Jesus, kingship means servanthood. It meant, for him, going to the cross. It meant divesting himself of divinity, becoming downwardly mobile, and giving himself for the life of the world. If the church is the body of Christ, the King, we are then, naturally to do the same.
5. Because Christ is King, sin and death are no more; all is forgiven, and we are freed to take up our cross and follow Christ into the world as a servant church. To say Christ is King is to believe his word: this is my body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. To the thief on the cross: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Because Christ is King, God throws our sins and far as the East is from the West, and remembers them no more. Nothing in all creation can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not life, not even death. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also.
If Christ is King, then death is destroyed. And if death, the final enemy has been defeated, then we are free to live with no fear of what is to come.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Christ is King, and all is forgiven, your sins have been nailed to the cross. Death has been destroyed. You are now free from bondage to Caesar, and money and everything that enslaves you. Go, give generously, welcome openly,serve selflessly, as servants of the servant, Christ the King.