The concept of a king is, I think, foreign to most of us today. Even the countries that still have royalty are not ruled by their royals. In the days of kings and queens, those who lived under the rule of the royals were subject to them. If you lived under an auspicious monarch, you would, if you had means, live a comfortable life. If you lived under a corrupt monarch, or perhaps better stated, a monarch, who perceived you as an enemy. Your life would be at best hard, and at worst, very short. As I preach this sermon, I want to point out that my inspiration for all I will say today, is from Soren Kierkegaard’s book, Teaching Christ. If you would like to hear the original text, which is too long to share in this sermon, come to tell me more, I will read it there.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. We call Jesus our king because we, like all those who lived under kings in the past, are subject to Him. Unlike the monarchies of the past and those in the present, the allegiance we pledge is not to an imperfect, corruptible sinner made in the image of God. But to the very Word of God himself, the author of creation, who willingly took on the flesh of humanity, by way of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We pledge total and unwavering commitment to the king of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is, without a doubt, the greatest hero the world has ever known. Jesus is also, for those who have not yet been taught about him and to encounter the breadth of His love, a confusing type of hero.
I remember all my childhood heroes. I remember them very well, because to this day, thanks to the marvel that is streaming services and the internet, I get to watch those heroes with my children. Who was your hero growing up? John Wayne, Superman, The Lone Ranger, James Bond? My heroes were, in ascending to descending order of importance: He-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and probably various N.Y. Mets and N.Y. Giants players, who I was too naïve and innocent to realize, were, in Charles Barkley’s words “nobody’s role model.”
I want all of us today, to pretend we have never heard of Jesus. I want to do a thought experiment. Close your eyes and picture a collage of heroes. Picture hundreds of them, let their images sit in front of your mind’s eye, how do they look? Clean cut, well dressed, powerful, colorful, larger than life? Are they in a uniform, or are they well dressed? Are they a politician or a sports star? Picture all these hundreds of images of heroes and heroines, the type of people we wish we could be, the brave, the bold, the courageous. Now picture yourself touching those images, like a pile of photographs on a table. As you brush various images aside, you pick up an image that doesn’t match the rest. The image of a mostly naked man hanging on two beams of wood, bleeding and dying.
As you examine this image, you ask, who is he, why is he pictured with all these heroes? You entirely forget all those other images you were just recently infatuated with; you now have something entirely different to think about. You ask, who is this man, what did he do? You are told he was crucified, which at the time was the most brutal punishment, there was, and it was reserved for only the most horrid of criminals. You ask, then why is he with all these heroes, what did he do? Then you are told the crucified man in the picture you are looking at, is the savior of the world. Indeed, he is the greatest hero who has ever lived. You’re stunned, confused, you ask how can this be? You are now told, this crucified man, is the most loving person who has ever lived. You ask the question, all this information has begged; why was he treated like this?
This man who is love came into the world out of love, became a humble servant for love’s sake, lived only to love humanity, and to help us all. Yet he was betrayed by one of his closest friends, abandoned by almost all the rest of his companions. When the authorities offered to release him, the people cheered for a notorious criminal to be released. They cried out to crucify Jesus to crucify love himself. What effect does this have on you?
For some, the reaction may be anger and a need for revenge. For some, perhaps paralyzing sorrow or fear. For some coldness, or a total loss of faith. For some confusion or frustration. I’m sure all those who spent time with Jesus as his disciples felt those feelings. But when the Holy Spirit descended upon them all, after the great hero, the great king of our story was raised from the dead and appeared to them and reinterpreted this story so they could understand, their reaction was this: That they too may suffer in some way as Jesus suffered. That they too may be sanctified by giving of self, to model the behavior of Christ, and to love God through total obedience and to love neighbor as self.
This is our King Jesus Christ, the king of love, the author of our salvation.
King of glory, king of peace,
I will love Thee;
and that love may never cease,
I will move Thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
Thou hast heard me;
Thou didst note my working breast,
Thou hast spared me.
Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing Thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring Thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
Thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
Thou didst hear me.
Sev’n whole days, not one in sev’n,
I will praise Thee;
in my heart, though not in heav’n,
I can raise Thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll Thee:
e ‘en eternity’s too short
to extol Thee.
Jesus is king!
Sermon preached by the Rev. Christian M. Wood
Church of the Redeemer
Christ the King Sunday
24 November 2019