Sermon on Christ the King
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by Nancy Ann McLaughlin 

Year C RCL

November 21, 2010
St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Medford, NJ

Old Testament lesson: Jeremiah 23:1-6

Response: Luke 1:68-79 OR Psalm 46

Epistle: Colossians 1:11-20

Gospel reading: Luke 23:33-34

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Please be seated.

I.        In this Gospel passage Jesus is on the cross dying and it says he forgave the people and then it says: “There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’” (Lk 23:33ff)

 Officially killed by the Romans who felt they were the ones in charge & all opposition was to be crushed.  But actually killed by people who did not like the type of kingdom Jesus stood for.  A kingdom that embraces forgiveness.

II.                Jesus did have royal blood, one of his ancestors had been King David.  And the Jewish people were waiting for a Messiah – an anointed king to restore the Kingdom of Israel.  They wanted Jesus to fit that model to be a king like David.

But God’s chosen people did not always have kings -- it is important to realize that in fact God was opposed to having kings (1 Sam 8).

III.             Before human kings God was the king – and there were to be no others.

And God realized that by demanding a human king the people were rejecting God altogether at that point. 

You see in the Ancient Near East there had been family tribes – but banding together for strength against the elements and protection from enemies.  There would be a leader or great lord over a whole region.  If a new tribe entered the area, the lord could initiate an agreement or covenant to incorporate them into the community.  This covenant would spell out the duties of the new people and what they could expect of their lord – it was a covenant relationship.

This is the image the early Israelites had of God – as a great generous lord who owned the whole of earth. Everything was the Lord’s – the people owed everything they had to the Lord.  If they were to reject the Lord and wander off on their own, or joined a different band, they had cut themselves off from the Lord’s protection.

True and faithful subjects had been invited by the lord into a partnership and worked for the good of the whole kingdom.  They were loyal and willing to stand in battle with their lord whom they loved. When they were in trouble they could call upon the lord to save them.

IV.             Jesus came as a king, as the son of God the Father who had been recognized as the true king long ago. Jesus’ focus was restoring the trusting and loyal relationship with God and God’s kingdom. – Not the kingdom of Israel exactly – but the kingdom of Yahweh – the Kingdom of God.

[DIALOG? – or present this information]

What was Jesus’ concept of Kingdom? How did he encourage the people to relate to each other?  What type of kingdom was Jesus proclaiming to be at hand?  [Thoughts? Ideas?]

  • Jesus taught about love – love God + neighbor, and forgiveness
  • Jesus healed people, a re-creation of health and wholeness which brought people back into the kingdom community
  • Jesus sent disciples also out to do these things to enlarge the kingdom

(Right! You get the idea. Recap) And:

  • Jesus established new covenant, a new kingdom where God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Jesus himself stood up and fought those who tried to limit God’s relationship with the people
    • He debated with opposing forces
    • And although it appeared he was losing the battle he called upon the father for reinforcement
      • And the Resurrection shows who has the ultimate power and glory
    • Jesus then engaged the Holy Spirit to assist the early Community
        • For strength and support during persecution
        • To help them spread this Good News of God’s kingdom of love and forgiveness throughout the world

V.                And today we still use these symbols of King and Kingdom.

What we have here looks very much like a throne room:

    • Lectern where pronouncements are proclaimed – the words of the Lord.
    • Plates to collect the contributions, tithes or royalties   
    • A chair in the center like a throne.  (Fr. Don is a fellow traveler – still sometimes his role is to sit in for Jesus)
    • Attendants and servants.  Regal attire.
    • The Altar – The covenantal agreement was ratified by a sacrifice and then the people shared a life-giving meal -- both symbols - death and life - celebrate the new union or relationship being formed.
    • Banners to help people see their comrades in the thick of things
    • And there are others…

    • But over all of this is the cross.  Jesus crucified as King trying to lead us back to a solid relationship with a loving and merciful God and each other.  Reestablishing God’s kingdom on earth.  Jesus was teaching us to be in partnership with God - sent out two by two - empowered by the Holy Spirit.

VI.  And so here we are before the cross.  How can we today acknowledge and commit ourselves to Jesus Christ as King?  A king who stands for, and is embodied in, love.

  • Initially this commitment is recognized in baptism through the baptismal covenant.  An agreement to partner with God in doing the work of the kingdom.  An agreement to believe, to study, to fellowship, to pray, to repentance, to proclaim, to be an example, to seek and serve, to love neighbor as self, to strive for justice and peace, and to respect everyone’s dignity. Things we can only do with God’s help.

Today we can show this commitment again through a specific symbolic gesture of belief, trust and loyalty in a short ancient ritual I will show you.  I invite you to use it here with me today to renew your committed to Jesus as King.

Open your BCP to page 302 – this is part of the baptism ritual.  Look half way down the page and you will find the renunciations and dedication.  We will take the time to reject all of those things that pull us away from following Jesus or from partnering with God.  In early church times evil was attributed to spiritual forces, so you see some of that language.  But focus now on what draws you away from God.  What distracts you from union and doing what is right?  Is it a wicked temper? Is it wasting time?  Is it a negative attitude?  What do you need to reject in order to concentrate more fully on following God’s call to you?  In the ancient church these negative things were considered darkness and evil – and were symbolized by the west – where the sun set and darkness followed.  To the east came the sunrise.  So in the early church, the baptism ritual itself often took place in the very early morning. Starting in darkness the people would face west and hold up their hands to reject those things of the darkness.  And then as the sun was rising they would turn to the east and pledge themselves to following Jesus.  You can see this turning in the fourth question. “Do you turn to Jesus Christ…?”

So for the first part, as I ask the questions and you respond, we will face toward the back with our hands raised “stop” against those things that we have identified as negative. God will be at our back, backing us up, covering us.  No matter what you are going through Jesus understands and will be standing with you in battle.  Then, as we begin the fourth question I will invite you to turn around to face the cross and commit yourself to Jesus.  When you do this consider -- Where do you stand?  With whom do you stand?  What is your posture before the king – you might wish to stand proud and tall, presenting yourself for duty OR you might wish to reach out in a gesture of “What can I do to help?”

Let us begin.  Please rise (if you are able) and follow along in your book (page 302).

Now face to the back and raise your hands against those things that keep you from God …. Answer loud and clear.

Question    Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

Answer      I renounce them.

Question    Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

Answer      I renounce them.

Question    Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

Answer      I renounce them.

Now turn and face the cross. Present yourself to the king.

Question     Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?

Answer      I do.

Question    Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

Answer      I do.

Question    Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

Answer      I do.

“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:11-14).  Amen.

You may be seated.
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