Sermon delivered on Christ the King Sunday A, November 23, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.
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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing to you our Lord and King.
In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Feast we celebrate today is fairly new to the Church. It originated in the 1900’s in Roman Catholic Church as a way of remind the people of God that it was Christ who was the ultimate authority not the secular governments. This was a time in which many secular governments were claiming that they were the ultimate authority even over matters of church and faith. That is not to say that the Christian church ever doubted that Christ was King, but the feast brought a new emphasis to counter-balance this secular trend. Over a fairly short time the feast began to be celebrated and Christ royal role reflected upon by many other denominations including our own. America with the exception of its rebellion from the British Crown has no history of a King providing either actual leadership or even a ceremonial role. Yet Americans are as a group entranced by the concept of royalty. Great news coverage occurs over the latest rumors or announcements concerning new heirs to the British thrown. We run mini-series on our televisions concerning actual or fictional Kings and Queens. Many of the computer and console games deal with one form or another of royalty. It should come as no surprise. Kings are seen as people or instruments of great power.
Kings command people. Kings wield armies. Kings make laws on their own. Kings have the power to preserve life or to destroy it. Kings have the power to pardon. Kings wear expensive jewelry and crowns. Kings take care of their friends. The children of the King can look forward to one day exercising that royal role. It is no wonder that the idea of a King to lead the people is so attractive and it was so to the people of Israel.
Originally God’s chosen people were lead by individuals who were more prophets than rulers. They spoke for God providing the leadership that would take them from Egypt into the promised land. Once settled there, the people did not originally feel the need for an individual leader. There were individuals who were called Judges. These were individuals of faith and learning who would provide guidance to both individuals and to the whole community. There were not, however, political leaders in any true sense. The last of these Judges was Samuel. It was during his life, that he people began to notice that the countries around them were lead by Kings and they started to pester the Lord to have one of their own. The Lord God resisted this call and through his prophets let them know that this would not be good move. Finally God gave in. If they wanted a King, then a King they shall have. He instructed Samuel to anoint Saul to be the first King of Israel. Saul was an obvious choice. A member of the tribe of Benjamin, he was tall, handsome, and humble. He seemed like the perfect person for the job. (Probably would have done very well in today’s TV based politics.) While he started off well, the power and role of King soon went to his head and his humility was replaced by excessive pride. He soon deliberately failed to follow God’s direction. Eventually his life came to an end by his own hand. Saul was followed as King by David. David was anointed for his royal role while still a young boy. He was first and foremost a shepherd. He was short of stature and ruddy in appearance, but still had many of the physical characteristics that made him attractive as a leader. He was skilled at war, he was handsome, strong, and brave. He was a musician and poet. Though he suffered some human frailties, he was said to be a person after God’s own heart and provided faithful leadership for Israel. It was because of this that he was promised that David’s family should rule forever. This now leads us to consider the Firs Reading from Ezekiel. The Leadership of people has broken down under Saul and many of the people have been scattered physically and even more importantly have been separate from God by false teaching of those leaders described as false shepherds or even more dramatically as the fat sheep. Leaders who have become fat by denying the people of God from what truly belongs to them. God makes it clear, that He God will rescue the people.
God will see that they are fed and nurtured. God will shepherd his flock. God will be the judge who rewards and who punishes those who have been faithful and those who have not been faithful. God will do this though David the Shepherd King. In this role, David is not only God’s chosen Instrument but King David becomes the symbol and foreshadowing of the Messianic King – Jesus the Christ. In the Gospel from Matthew, we are given a picture of Christ the King coming in great glory accompanied by the royal court of angels to bring final judgment on the peoples of the nations. Again the symbolism is that of the shepherd who separates the people as a shepherd who separate the sheep from the goats. The faithful are invited to enter into the kingdom prepared for them.
Jesus continues for I has hungry and you feed me, thirsty and you gave me drink. stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you gave me clothes, in prison and you visited me. Perhaps surprisingly the faithful respond when did we do these things for you. Jesus responds when you did it for he least. Why one may ask would they be surprised. Is this not what Jesus asked them to do? I think the answer may be that the faithful want so much to serve their King that they can hardly believe that their simple acts of love and service would be worthy return for the love He has already shown them. They have committed themselves to be faithful subjects of the King and every thing else that flows from that relationship seems insignificant to them – but not to God. Caring for the least is just a normal result of the love that they are experiencing from their Lord and King. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he captures this thought in the first sentence when he says ” I have heard of your faith and your love toward the saints.” Faith in Jesus Christ naturally leads to Love, we can translate in this situation into care, for the saints, that is our brothers and sisters in the Lord, who are in need.
But how do we see Jesus as King? Let us look again as those aspects that we attribute to a King. Kings are persons with great power. There is no doubt that Jesus had great power. He healed the sick, He raised the dead, He turned water into wine. He lead a revolution in religious thought. Kings wield armies. Jesus wields a Church militant committed to conquering the world not with force but with love (not to mention a couple of legions of angels when needed). Kings make laws. Jesus gave us as law to Love our neighbor, those who need us most, as we do ourselves. Kings have the power to preserve life or destroy it. Jesus has given us the means to obtain to obtain eternal life. Kings have the power to pardon. Jesus has pardon us of our sins. Kings wears crowns. Jesus will one day come in great glory but as the servant King, he was willing to wear a crown of thorns. The children and friends of the King can look forward to one day sharing in the royal rule. Though Christ we are called to be co-heirs with Christ, and children of the Father to abide in his Kingdom forever. It is thus that we can acknowledge as we did in the opening Prayer that Jesus Christ, the only and well-beloved Son of the Father, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords through whom the peoples of the earth, now divided and enslaved by sin, will one day be freed and brought together under His most gracious rule.
In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.