Sermon for Christ the King Sunday

21 11 2015

christ-the-king

Someone once said:

It is easy to see a Kingdom marked by a flag; by a border; by force of arms. It is easy to discern who has power in the kingdoms of this world.

It is not easy to see the realm of God. There are no borders, flags, armies or powers. There is only The Realm of God bounded by you and me and God.

Monarchies today are usually tightly constrained institutions –absolute monarchical control is more and more a thing of the past; as is also, it may seem, obedience, self-control and self-discipline: concepts hated by many in our day and age. Few of us like to obey, and we certainly don’t like the idea of anyone having authority over us.

Today is the last Sunday of the old church year….we have one last chance to look back on all that we’ve done and achieved, to celebrate and then, as we enter Advent, to watch, wait and hope for what is to come – looking forward, with Christ, to ever more clear signs of his Kingdom, which is both here – within you and me if we wish to acknowledge it – and yet still to come in its fulness and completeness.

Our reading today from Revelation was written in Greek. The Greek word for revelation is apocalypse, which means ‘unveiling’. So today is all about unveiling who Jesus really is, and unveiling who we really are. Jesus says, I am the Alpha and the Omega. Literally the beginning and the end, the be all and end all, our A-Z, as it were. Is he that to you?

As we come to the end of another Church Year, hopefully having grown just a little, we look back on what has been celebrated: remembering how God became a human being in Jesus, born as a vulnerable little baby, how he grew in holiness, how he called an unlikely band of people to share his work with him, how he taught and challenged (mostly the religiously pious people of his day) and of how he opened up faith to those who did not ‘belong’. And to top it all off, out of his great love for people, people saw only the negative, despite his love, and pinned him to a cross – a most humiliating and disgusting way to die. And we together have celebrated that that hate and destruction did not have the last word. We have listened to Jesus’ teaching through the year and now everything is complete before we begin a new cycle in the Church year.

The real issue behind the church’s teaching today on this Christ the King Sunday is: ‘Do I want someone other than myself to be Lord of my life?

It will of course depend on what sort of image you have of Christ. If he was just a nice man, then his presence in your life may well seem to come to nothing, for you may expect nothing more. If he, as St Thomas declared, is your Lord and your God, he calls you today to enthrone him in your heart and be changed.

If God is a vengeful God, who meets out punishment and pain to those who deserve it, your image of Christ today will be different again.

So who is Christ for you? Who was the Jesus of history; who is the Christ of faith today, for you and me?

What we worship, we become. We worship a God of love and humility, the suffering servant, the God who emptied himself and became like a servant. His values were those of inclusiveness, and true self-emptying service. If this is the God we worship, these are values our daily life will embody.

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to the kingdom of which he is sovereign 176 times. It’s a message he doesn’t want us to miss. This kingdom is not defined by armies, flags, and borders. It is defined by a quality of living – living that allows other people to live and become whole people in God too.

Note, by contrast, Jesus uses the word ‘church’ only twice. The word for church, ekklesia, simply means gathering. Kingdom, however, is more to do with the glory and reign of God – which is, in fact, not always easy to see in the church, where so many other things can crowd the kingdom out.

So when we pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven’ we must question ourselves. We must ask ourselves, is Christ King of my life? And if he is, how will I work with Christ to enable his Kingdom to be made real, right here, right now, in these final days of 2015?

I’d like to share a short story with you about a young boy who wanted to meet God. He thought it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his backpack with Jaffa cakes, several cans of juice and set off to meet God.

After a while he saw an elderly lady sitting on a park bench watching pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his backpack. He was about to take a drink of juice when he noticed that the lady looked hungry. So he offered her a Jaffa cake. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so wonderful that he wanted to see it again. So he offered her some juice as well. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling without saying a word. As it began to grow dark, the boy realized how tired he was and decided to go home. He got up to leave but before he had gone no more than a few steps, he turned around and ran back to the old lady, giving her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy arrived home his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked, “What has made you so happy today?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” Before his mother could respond he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile in the whole world!”

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face. He asked, “Mother, what has made you so happy today?” She replied, “I shared a picnic in the park with God.” And before her son could reply, she added, “You know, he is much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around, all have the potential to reveal something of the Kingly rule of Christ. Jesus came with the power of loving service, he came without a jewelled crown or elaborate robes, to turn our lives around, so as we come to the end of a year in which there is much to celebrate and much to weep for, we must resolve to hold fast more than ever to the principles which He has shown us….

May Christ our King rule in your hearts, and not only that, may others know that he rules in your hearts too, by the love you show, the compassion with which you speak, and the humility with which you respond. People will have no doubt then who is on the throne of your heart. May your love for the Christ of faith be a seal upon your hearts and a crown upon your heads.

O God, help us to work for your kingdom:
help us to pray that we might align our will with yours.
Help us become a people of faithful prayer and humble service,
not to our wills, but to your will.
Come and live in our hearts by faith
– and transform us in all we think and say and do,
and reign in our hearts in Jesus Christ our true King.
Amen.

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