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Holy Eucharist with Healing Prayer

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Sermon for Christ the King Sunday
A sermon preached by Sandi Albom on November 22, 2015

On Christ the King Sunday we come to the final Sunday of the church year.  In reality, this is not simply the end of the church year; it is a culmination of a story.  It is a time for us to reflect on God’s Kingdom and where it fits in to our life’s story. It is a time to recognize Jesus as the one that sits with the Most High, as the one that is truly who we call the ruler of our hearts and minds and lives.  

And so we will sing some of my very favorite hymns.  “King of glory, King of peace, I will love thee”, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” and “Crown him with many crowns”.  It is all pomp and circumstance…glory, glory, glory.  And, doesn’t it thrill us to sing those words and to imagine the incredible power of God the Father and the majesty of God the Son, way up high above this world?

And, I find it not just a little strange to be suddenly in the Gospel according to John and not in Mark where we have spent much of the time after Pentecost walking with our Lord and his disciples.  And, here we are in Pilate’s chamber with Jesus after he is taken from his followers, where he is to be tried as a criminal and sentenced to death.  I know that we knew what was coming as they make their way to Jerusalem.  And we know this because Jesus himself has been preparing us for what will come; but still we are completely upended.  It is happening too fast.  And…this is absolutely not the way things should be turning out. Jesus, the messiah, the anointed one, is to die the death of a common offender, and it is a shameful, pitiable way.  This is a loser’s ending, not that of a king! 

The courtroom scene in the passage from John we are given to consider takes place after Pilate has a conversation with the Jewish authorities. They have asked Pilate to judge him guilty and put him to death.  Please understand, these Jews that John shows us are not the Jewish men and women that have been following Jesus.  They are not the Jewish peasants of the Roman Empire. These are powerful men that have feared Jesus’ popularity and his message that condemns their oppressive practices and jeopardizes their lives of relative safety under Roman rule.   They paint him as a dangerously subversive character that will incite the crowds that follow him to rise up against the powers that be. 

So, Pilate goes into his chamber curious about this man Jesus who has shaken things up.  The interchanges between Pilate and Jesus are not what Pilate expects them to be.  Instead of having the upper hand, of being the one that does the intimidating, Pilate finds himself faced with a man that will not play his game.  Really what Pilate wants is to know from Jesus is  - Who are you? Why are you such a threat to the leaders of your people? And, are you a threat to me?  Jesus is calm and very deliberate in his replies. 

Allow me to paraphrase and add in a bit of interpretation.

P- Are you the King of the Jews?

J -Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?

P –I’m not a Jew, (not from your people.  How would I have heard?)  It is your own authorities that have handed you over to me.  What have you done?

J -My kingdom is not from this world (basically, I have nothing to do with them and their political ways.  They are not my people either)…..My kingdom is not from here.

P – So, you are a king? 

J- You say I am a king.  I was born to tell out the truth, God’s truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (Those are my people, those who can hear and listen to God’s truth)

Jesus is the one that come across as the person with authority, with truth.  Jesus’ message subverts the traditional understanding of kingship.  He does not claim to be a ruler, one that oppresses and takes and takes until there is nothing left of value.  The truth that Jesus speaks is not a truth that comes from an intellectual exercise or philosophical exchange.  It is a truth that is a verb, exactly in the same way that we are called to “do love”.  And indeed, from John 3:16, (God so loved the world…) we know that Jesus is here to witness to the truth.  That truth is that God is love.  

This truth of how we are to “do love” has been revealed for us in the last few weeks as we have walked with him and learned along with his followers.  It was a truth that was difficult for Peter and James and John and the others to understand.  It is hard for us too.  Jesus does not his use parables and lessons to simply paint us a pretty picture of God’s Kingdom, he often presents it to us in ways that help us to be able to identify what it is not

As I was thinking about the scripture for this week I could not get the last line from Mark’s gospel passage from last Sunday out of my head.  Remember, in Mark 13 what Jesus says in relation to the disciples’ comments about the structure of powers exemplified by the buildings constructed of large stones.  They will fall.  It is God’s power and love that destabilizes power grounded in greed and apathy and oppression.  And he talks about worldly understandings of power in destructive metaphors of earthquakes and wars and false prophets.  There are certainly examples of destruction in our world we can point to without much effort.  He says, “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs”.  At first I found that a disturbing thought, as in what more might be unleashed. And then I felt hope, hope in what could be brought into the world with right understanding of God’s love and truth. 

Ever since then, over and over this week I have been tuned in to hearing words about birth, midwives, bringing life into the world.  It seemed like the metaphor was in every lecture I attended, every conversation I took part in.  I was watching a TED talk the other day as I was preparing for a workshop.  TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.  Dr. Brene Brown, a clinical psychologist, gave this particular TED talk on research she has done on vulnerability, worthiness, courage and shame and how they influence living life wholeheartedly.  In her talk she tells about coming back to church after having, what she affectionately calls a “small breakdown”, or what her counselor calls a “spiritual awakening”.  She says this, “I went to church to find comfort.  Instead what I found was challenge.  Church was not an epidural, it was a midwife.  It just stood next to me and said, ‘Push, it’s supposed to hurt a bit’.”

What Jesus has been telling us, those that can hear the truth, that he is here to urge us on, to be the midwife to his church.  We, the church, each one of us, are called to participate in the birthing of the kingdom, or perhaps, more appropriately, the kin-dom of God, and it won’t be easy or comfortable. 

I am not a parent.  I have never given birth.  But I don’t believe any of us are required to have gone through childbirth in order to understand that the process is not without pain or distress or anxiety.  It is a journey of patience and anticipation.  It requires sacrifice and accepting help from others.  It requires learning how to do what we have done before, and in different and creative ways.  It presents challenges to what we think we know, and shows us what we could never have imagined before. 

But here’s the thing about giving birth I do know; (and if you recall, I am a nurse), once the process starts, there’s no stopping it.  It will be very hard once the transformation starts to take place from conception to new life in Christ to avert our eyes from injustice.  We will not be able to stand silent as our sisters and brothers are persecuted and dishonored for their faith or skin color or ethnicity.  We will not allow hunger and poverty to be hidden from view.  We will not hide from the truth that is revealed to us, not matter how much we want to stay in our place of familiarity and comfort.  Jesus is urging us on – “Push, it’s supposed to hurt a bit.”

We heard from the Book of Revelation this morning that God is the one that is, and who was and who is to come.  God is, was and is to come.  God is our present, here and now and in all time.  And, Jesus, ruler of our hearts, with God from the beginning, has made us to be a kingdom of priests, serving God forever and ever.  I know, it all sounds so high and lofty, and that can make it seem too otherworldly, out of our grasp.  But God is never far from our hearts, and we are told that Christ loves – present tense – loves us and that he freed us.  Jesus liberates us and calls us to act like we are free….. free and willing to respond spontaneously to his truth…… free to the possibilities of new birth and life in him. 

This is Christ, our King, urging us on.  And what is brought into the world can only happen through God’s Spirit manifesting truth and love in us.  Even as we look ahead to Advent and toward the birth of the baby Jesus, we can’t turn away from the cross that we are so close to in John’s gospel today.  Love is a risk.  It’s hard, and it’s sacrifice.  And, it is the hope of resurrected life.  The risen Christ, who is, and was, and is to come, is our witness, guide and companion as he births his kin-dom here and now among us. 

So let us pray, pray that we might be witnesses of God’s love; that we not shrink back in fear of loss or criticism.  Pray that we might find strength in the One who demonstrated power through weakness, who manifested strength through vulnerability and who established justice through mercy, and who built and builds the Kingdom of God by embracing a confused, chaotic, and violent world, by dying and rising to life again, and by showing us that love is stronger than hate and that with God all things are possible.[1]



[1] Paraphrasing – davidlose.net

Last Published: November 23, 2015 4:03 PM