Saturday, November 20, 2010

What king is this?

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 23:33-43; Colossians 1:11-20

Today is the last Sunday of the church year; we call it Christ the King, or the Reign of Christ. I like the term Reign of Christ because it more easily implies that the Kingdom of God is not a place but the ruling and reigning of God over all that exists.

The Sunday of the Reign of Christ gives us an opportunity to review the whole year, and the many ways in which we speak and think about Jesus. Singing hymns from each of the seasons of the year is another way to remember all that Jesus means to us. We’ll sing an Advent hymn, a Christmas hymn, a Lent hymn, and an Easter Hymn. The choir will sing a Pentecost piece; unfortunately, we’ll miss Epiphany. Each song we sing today will help us reflect on part of Jesus’ life and what it means for us.

At Christmas time, one of the favorite hymns is “What child is this?” When we sing it, we sing of Jesus in many ways, from birth and lying in Mary’s lap, to being honored by angel, peasant, shepherd, and king, to hanging on the cross, to being recognized as the Word (capital W Word) of God – so Emmanuel, God-with-us.

The sermon, this morning will be a take-off on the song “What child is this” and we’ll look more in depth at Jesus by asking, “What king is this?” in each reading for the day.

In Jeremiah, we ask “What king is this” who comes as a shepherd to gather the scattered flock back together? The flock had been scattered, even driven away, by evil leaders. A new king is promised, who will govern with righteousness and justice, and all Israel will live in safety. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd, and that’s one of our favorite images of him.

In the Gospel reading, we have several images. What king is this who hangs on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns? What king is this, who goes meekly to his death, without a dozen defense lawyers trying to plea bargain the sentence from death to five years in prison? What king is this who is honored, not with gold, frankincense and myrrh, but with spitting, beating and mocking? What king is this who, though dying, offers salvation to the criminal hanging on the cross next to him? What king is this who offers this grace to the one who came to believe in him only moments before his death? What king is this, who forgives those who have accused, arrested, tried, convicted, and executed him?

In the letter to the Colossians, the author helps his readers understand just who this King Jesus is in their lives. The passage is from an early Christian hymn. It also seems to me to be a sort of creed, because it explains or defines who Jesus is.

What king is this, who died so that all may have life in him? What king is this who shares his divine inheritance with us, an inheritance passed on from God the Father? What king is this who has conquered the darkness of evil and brought light into our lives? What king is this who created all things, including the powers of earthly rulers? What king is this who forgives us our sins?

What king is this who died, and was raised again to prove that God is more powerful than death? What king is this who is the visible image of the invisible God? What is this king who is God with human skin on? What king is this who is Emmanuel, God with us? What king is this who brings peace through his death and resurrection?

What king is this who lives today in the hearts of those who believe in him? What king is this who invites us to share the good news of his love and forgiveness with others? What king is this who helps us endure life today, through the gift of the Holy Spirit? What king is this who teaches us to serve, not for our own gain but to help those who are in need of what we have to offer?

As you take time this week with family and friends, as you take time to give thanks to God for all God’s blessings, remember the many ways in which Jesus reigns over your lives and our world. Ask yourself, “What king is this in my life?”

What king is this Jesus? He came as a child, and we love to celebrate his birth.

In his lifetime, he healed many. We to ask him for healing and wholeness, in our lives and in our world, but don’t always believe he hears and responds.

He challenged the status quo and the powerful of his time and place. We cheer with the under-dogs, forgetting that sometimes we are the supporters of status quo and powerful.

When powerful people hated him for what he said and did, they put him to death. We resist even thinking about that, but we must never forget.

But his death wasn’t the final word. He also was raised to life again, to give us hope that we all will be raised with you to a better world. That’s really something to celebrate!