Monday, November 26, 2007

Christ the King

Peter's sermon from Sunday, 11/25/2007

Today is the last Sunday of the current church year. It is also known as the Feast of Christ the King. The concept of king is difficult for us. But the idea of power is not strange to us. We know about power. All of us have power, some more, some less, and all of us have to deal with power. We know that power can be used for good or ill.

Some years ago I went to see Monsters, Inc. Monsters Incorporated depends for its energy on capturing the screams of children to power their electricity. The corporate motto is, "We scare because we care." And Sully is the best monster of them all until he meets "Boo" a little girl who is not scared and who Sully comes to care for deeply. But then a transformation happens, Sully discovers that there is even more energy in Boo’s laughter than in her screams. His whole world is turned upside down. He had lived in a world whose premise was that power is preserved by fear. But he learned that there was another world waiting for him, a world that was based on love and joy and not fear.

To me this is a wonderful image of what is happening this last Sunday of the church year. We are being invited to glimpse into the world of a profoundly different kind of king, a king who invites us into a kingdom, not based on fear, but one that is based on love and joy.

The first reading (Jeremiah) looks to the time when God will restore the Davidic kingship, a time when kings will truly shepherd the people and not exploit them. This king will rule with justice, defend the afflicted and save the children of the poor.

Today we leave Luke’s witness to Jesus. (Next week we will begin to travel through Matthew’s) All through this past year we have been living into the rich texture of Luke’s portrait of Jesus:

  • It began with the story of shepherds coming to visit the baby Jesus. You may recall that shepherds were not viewed as very savory people—they were not welcome into villages, they had a reputation for being thieves and not very clean. But Luke’s Gospel has this underlying theme that those on the edges are being brought by God into a new community.
  • In Luke Jesus begins his ministry by taking up the theme of Isaiah, bringing good news to poor, release to the captives. Now here in this powerful scene Jesus utters one final word of welcome and acceptance to the thief on the cross—today you will be with me in paradise.
  • In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is the promised Davidic King spoken about by Jeremiah. (a mighty savior, born of the house of David. 1:69) But Jesus has turned the idea of kingship on its head. Jesus rules from a cross: unlike the kings around him he prays for forgiveness for his enemies, he resists every effort to provoke him into anger and rage. This king bears an unjust punishment so that we might be forgiven.
Paul captures the power of this rule from the cross in the concluding words to the epistle, through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross. (Col 1:20) If we are to live under the kingship of Christ we are to live as those empowered to reconcile. Like Sully we have a find a new kind of power, one that is not based on fear, but one that is based on hope.

Christ the King has set a new environment for us to become full human beings. By dying he has created an environment of reconciliation. This is what we practice here. We give to each other the peace of God. We join Christ to become God’s reconciling people. How do we be sustain ourselves as a reconciling community in a world driven by fear?

Desmond Tutu tells the story of a light bulb that shone brightly and proudly. "[It] began to strut about arrogantly, quite unmindful of how…it could shine so brilliantly, thinking that it was all due to its own merit and skill." One day the light bulb is taken out of he socket and placed on the table. "Try as hard as it could, the light bulb could bring forth no light and brilliance….It had never known that its light came from the power station and that it had been connected to the dynamo by little wires and flexes that lay hidden and unseen and totally unsung."

We practice the reign of Christ by staying connected to Christ and to each other. We do this by creating room for prayer and worship in our lives, by being open to the presence of Christ in every dimension of our lives, by working for justice and reconciliation in our lives and in the world around us. We live the reconciling love of God by being open to the Christ in all persons no matter what their race, their gender, their political persuasion.

Today we have a particular way of expressing our oneness with Christ by caring for those who are marginalized by poverty, lack of education, AIDS, or famine. We can become a part of the ONE campaign. You can do this by filling in the cards in your bulletin and placing them in the Offertory Plate. The office will send in your commitment card so that you may stay informed and become part of the ONE community as advocates of the poor. Begin where you are. I know of one person here who is sending mosquito nets to Africa to protect people from malaria. There are also white wrist-bands for you to wear as a reminder that you are a part of the One community.

Also, you have received a bulletin insert that focuses on a particular group of people at the margins: those who suffer from HIV/AIDS. Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. There are now over 40 million people infected with this disease. While AIDS is not longer a headline story in our media, we who are advocates for those who are at the edges, can still tell the story and seek justice for those at risk. Keep reminding our politicians of our commitment to the MDG’s –if we honor our commitment it will prevent 10 million children from becoming AIDS orphans. As a citizen in this most wealthy of nations you can become a citizen advocate for righteousness.

What this Sunday proclaims is that God is about the business of reconciling. We get to choose whether we are on the side of Christ the King who reconciles from the cross or whether we will be on the side of the forces of fear.

Sure we are currently divided and we differ on substantive issues, but I believe that the God who comes to us in Jesus is the God who is seeking our healing and our wholeness.

So then on this feast of Christ the King let each of us become the instruments of the Peace of God by extending ourselves as those who offer to the world Christ’s reconciling love. Amen.

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