Christ the King – November 25, 2012

(November 22, 2009)

2 Samuel 23:1-7 – David’s last words: He has made with me an everlasting covenant.
or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 – Daniel’s apocalypse: the son of man comes in the clouds to the Ancient One and is given dominion and glory and kingship.

Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18) – O Lord, remember David’s hardships and his faithfulness.
or Psalm 93 – Ever since the world began, your throne has been established. (Ps. 93:3)
Revelation 1:4b-8 – He is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him. I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord. John 18:33-37
– Jesus: My kingdom is not of this world. I testify to the truth. Pilate: What is truth?

Today I’m speaking/writing to you from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sunday the Texans beat the Bears and the Saints beat the formerly undefeated Atlanta Falcons. It is a beautiful fall day here in Philly. People here, however, have clearly been traumatized by the recent storms. Being without power six days is different when its cold. The worst of it is further toward the coast of New Jersey, about six hours away, but it seems everybody is a bit shaken up.

Each year bishops are asked to visit one of our eight ELCA seminaries. This is to keep the church aware of what’s going on in seminaries, and the seminaries aware of what is going on in the church. We meet with faculty, and with students, especially seniors who are about to transition from the seminary into the parish and are very interested in the assignment process. While here we will meet with the admissions department, meet with the president, participate in chapel and also attend a couple of classes. I always learn volumes.

The seminary in Philadelphia was formed in 1864 after the Pennsylvania Ministerium withdrew from the General Synod over Schmucker’s attempt to "revise" the Augsburg Confession. Faculty broke with Gettysburg Seminary and formed Philadelphia, 134 miles away. There has ever since been a strong rivalry, mostly expressed today through flag football games. There are 420 students. The president is the Rev. Dr. Phil Krey.

This coming Sunday is the end of the Church year. December 2 we begin Year C, a year of Luke, with the first Sunday of Advent.

Polarized pundits have been making prey upon good people, by whipping them into a frenzy so they will vote for one candidate or the other. With the national debt topping 16 trillion dollars, there is no question we are in a tough financial spot. Headlines like "U.S. about to go over the fiscal cliff" top the news as we head toward draconian austerity measures that congress put in place, pending a legislative deal. Voters were led by dramatic political preaching to believe that their candidate would save the day, and the other would surely lead us into disaster. Now that the election is over, some are overjoyed, while others are devastated.

Though its a bit over-dramatic, the fiscal cliff does indeed loom, and people are a bit nervous. The sharp political rhetoric has left some folks quite unsettled.

In the midst of all this, here are the gospel readings for the end of November, and beginning of December:

November 18 – P25: Mark 13:1-8

November 25 – CTK: John 18:33-37

December 2 – A1: Luke 21:25-36

These are all somewhat apocalyptic texts. The end of the church year, Christ the King and the first Sunday of Advent usually have end things as their theme. The parousia, judgment day, the end of the world.

Mark 13 says, "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs." (vv. 7-8)

In Advent I, Jesus says, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

I distinctly remember my Baptist secretary asking me on September 11, 2001, as our jaws were dropped listening to the news of the Twin Towers, "So, do you think this is it? The end of the world?"

While most may not have this kind of outlook, there is nevertheless in some places a general unrest. The climate leads me to think we might want to be preaching a word of hope. Of course, we’re always to be preaching hope, but these might be times to pay special attention to the task. Perhaps it’s time for some comfort food.

Our house was about a mile from the church. One Wednesday night I walked home with my brother and sister, because our activities were over but my parents were still in class or choir or something. When I walked in the door I knew something was wrong. The house had been ransacked. Drawers were pulled out. Stuff was all over the floor. Cupboards and closets were open. The place was a wreck. We called the police who told us to get out of the house. We sat on the curb in the front yard waiting for the police to arrive. The neighbors called my parents.

I remember being a bit upset by it all. Mom, however, sat us down and talked us through it with a calm, reassuring voice. In time we were laughing about it. They were clearly looking for drugs. All they got was diarrhetic pills. "Won’t they be in for a surprise?" we laughed. And then we had comfort food for dinner the next couple of days.

Perhaps this is time for comfort food in worship. Edgy, prophetic words can wait for John the Baptist to come on the scene Advent II. Perhaps the current climate in our culture calls for words of comfort and hope – a little bit of chicken soup.

I’m not saying that we should avoid these apocalyptic texts. The truth that things end should be faced. And yet, it is our hope in the resurrection that give us the power to face them, to look sin in the eye, death in the eye, tragedy in the eye, and say, with Paul in Romans 8, "Nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." Or with the Psalmist a couple weeks ago, "Though the mountains quake in the heart of the sea… we will not fear."

Embedded in all the cataclysmic texts is a word of comfort and hope. In last week’s gospel, Jesus said, "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed…" We often miss the "do not be alarmed" part. Jesus talks about end things, but with the soothing tones of a loving mother, comforting while matter-of-factly stating the truth.

In Luke 21 next week, (Advent 1C) Jesus tells his followers: When people are filled with fear and foreboding over what is happening, stand up, hold your head high, because your redemption is drawing near.

This coming Sunday, Christ the King, we remember not cataclysm, but rather Christ’s victory over death and the cosmic forces of evil. It falls to the preacher to invoke that victory. Jesus says, "My kingdom is not from 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…" We are invited to invest in the reign of God that transcends all earthly thrones, and all flawed governments. "Put not your trust in earthly rulers…"

The Bible must say 100 times, "Be not afraid." So let us proclaim the hope of the world with unbridled joy, and a dose of such joyful music that it chases the devil away as Luther loved to say.

For me the message of Christ the King is this: Whatever happens in our lives, in our jobs, in our health, in this world, in life or death, rest assured, Christ is King, and his kingdom is out of this world.

"If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s."

-Romans 14

Yours in Christ,

Mike Rinehart, bishop