Nov23WedA sermon for Christ the King Sunday November 23, 2022 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
When we think of Kings and Queens,
Perhaps the first images we think of are stuffy, outdated,
out-of touch monarchs, relics from a bygone era,
Men in pantyhose and big wigs.
We might think at first that Kings and Queens are necessarily powerful,
but it really depends on what their kingdom looks like.
For example, Queen Victoria was very powerful at a time
When the British Empire ruled over 1/4 of the world’s population.
But there are Kings and Queens of very small kingdoms
and their power is tiny.
For example the King of Wallis, an island in the South Pacific,
only rules in theory over a population of 8,000 people.
With the death of Queen Elizabeth in September,
King Charles is now our King, whether we like it or not,
and newcomers to Canada and MPs
need to swear an oath to King Charles the Third.
While Kings used to wield immense power,
nowadays they are largely figureheads
and their main power is as influencers.
The real Kings today are of course billionaires and elected politicians,
as well as Pop culture royalty: icons and influencers, like
Queen Bey, Justin Bieber, the Prince of Pop
Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk and Vlodomyr Zelensky.
Wealth, power and ambition crown our modern-day kings and queens.
But Jesus is a different kind of king.
He is an eternal king, but also one who chooses to lay down his life.
Very strange indeed.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he writes about how
15Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; …..18He is the head of the body, the church;
Paul describes Jesus in very lofty imagery here:
as the image of the invisible God,
the same one who rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Jesus is no wandering peasant preacher here,
but the leader of the church universal, the first to be resurrected, and trample death underfoot.
Jesus is second only in power to God the Father,
and is the ruler of an eternal kingdom,
a kingdom free from sin, death and the devil,
because they have been vanquished through his death on the cross.
And how did that death on the cross play out?
In our reading from Luke,
We heard how Jesus was crucified with criminals to his left and right,
And how the religious leaders scoffed:
“He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God,
his chosen one” and get down from the cross.
Jesus had the ability to save himself,
but he didn’t,
because he needed to die.
Jesus is a different kind of King,
someone who doesn’t use his powers for petty retaliation, or for abuse, or for pure showmanship.
Jesus saves his kingly powers for the big picture, Jesus keeps his eyes on the prize of destroying death, sin and the devil.
There’s also the detail of
the Inscription on the cross, that is, the prosecution charge against Jesus “this is the King of the Jews”
Abbreviated in Latin by INRI.
But that of course was the wrong accusation,
and just a necessary evil to get him condemned.
Jesus never claimed to be the King of the Jews.
He was a different kind of King, and the religious leaders just couldn’t see it.
Jesus was a King, but not of this world.
Jesus was the King of Hearts,
not the King of diamonds or clubs.
Later on the second criminal begs Jesus:
“remember me when you come into your kingdom”
To which Jesus responds:
Truly, today you will be with me in paradise.
Which reinforces that Jesus’ kingdom is otherworldly, a place not bounded by temporal dimensions, not centred in some actual capital city,
but this kingdom could be called paradise, a place of eternal rest and peace,
where tears and sorrows are no more.
A place after the sufferings of existence have ceased.
I’d like to draw your attention now to the high altar,
In the centre and above the high altarwe have …two images of Jesus,
and neither is of a traditional King reigning in glory…
I’d like you to focus on the high altar golden crucifix,
As well as the Christus statue
with arms outstretched just right behind.
The crucifix, the closer image of Jesus, is of a gold and silver transcendent dead Lord,
Jesus is royal, displayed in precious metal tones, yet disfigured through a painful death, demonstrating all the cruelty that a Roman execution could produce.
It is foolishness to the wise that somehow the cross is in fact not just a shameful ending, but ends up embodying the eventual triumph of the King of love.
And then by the back wall, a welcoming, resurrected Jesus
(I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed
the nail marks in his hands),
he is a friendly Jesus, inviting us into an embrace of comfort for all of us —who are weary and heavy-burdened, offering us rest.
These two depictions of Christ the King
are very different to what one would expect of royalty.
We see firstly a King exposed in weakness, a King who can no longer reign because he is dead,
and then also a King making himself available, a King who freely gives of himself without cost.
Jesus is a strange, different kind of King,
A paradox, a contradiction in terms.
Now if someone asks you: who is Jesus?What do you respond?
You might answer:
“Jesus is Lord” and in fact, “Lord” is a way to address a King.
But what does it mean to address Jesus as Lord?
What it doesn’t mean is that Jesus is a magical on-demand King:
You want him to do things for you,
In the vein of “please help me cure my illness, pay my debts, make her love me, fix this problem”.
If we want him to be a magician King who performs magic for us
We will be disappointed.
Because what happens when he doesn’t do what we want?
The religious leaders around the cross wanted Jesus to get down from the cross.
But Jesus didn’t just do what they wanted him to do.
That wasn’t God’s will.
When Jesus doesn’t do —what we want him to do,
Do we laugh, or mock, or give up and shrug our shoulders?
It is frustrating when Jesus does not act like our image of him would dictate.
There was an old woman who once told me:
“I have prayed so much to Jesus, to either ease my pain,
or bring me home to my late husband,
Why has nothing yet happened?”
All I could answer was: “You know, Jesus doesn’t always do what we want. He’s not a magic King we have paid to do tricks.
We need to remember, that Jesus is a different kind of King.
Not one who does what we want, but what God wants.
Jesus’ kingdom is not one of torture, colonialism, Christian Nationalism,
and the rule of swords and guns.
In the Garden of Gethsamene, Jesus reached for the cross,
while Peter reached for the sword.
Jesus prayed “your will be done” while his zealous disciples wanted to overthrow the Romans,
And erect a new throne for Jesus to sit on.
So if Jesus is a different kind of King,
What does his kingdom look like?
Jesus’ kingdom is a Kingdom of remembrance.
Jesus is one who remembers us when he comes in to his own.
Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of forgiveness,
A place where all our sins are forgiven, our debts are paid in full.
His is a kingdom of accompaniment,
He is a shepherd king who walks with us through the darkest valley.
His is a servant kingdom, for he calls us to lives of service, to care for the needy.
Jesus’ dominion is one which is turned upside down, we see Jesus, the King, in the lost, the last and the least.
Christ’s reign is one of peace, justice and reconciliation,
and dedication to God, influencing us to love our neighbour as ourself.
Jesus built a new kingdom to change the world,
not through violence, but because it was powerful in love.
And in these ways, Jesus Christ is King.
A different kind of King.