the one where Jesus remembers...
November 21, 2016, 12:00 AM

Sermon from Nov. 20, 2016 - Christ the King Sunday

Text: Luke 23: 33-43

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ, will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer, amen!

Well, we’ve come to the end of another church year. Next week we dive head first into Advent as we prepare our hearts and minds for the journey to come. The journey that reminds us of the expectant hope that is in God made incarnate – of God made flesh in Jesus Christ.

But, before we walk that path to expectant hope, we sit at the crest of one church year to the next and read this story. We read the story that is the penultimate story that makes the birth of Jesus important. We read and hear these words from Luke, as Jesus is nailed to a tree – a cross of wood – between two criminals.

Jesus is surrounded by those who mock, scorn, ridicule, and cast heavy doses of sarcastic comments against him. We hear those around Jesus hurl insults at him saying, “If he is who he says he is, surely he can save himself!” or, “If you are the Christ – save yourself and us!”

Before all these sayings, Jesus prays to God, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This is the story that ends our church year as we move forward into the next.

It has always made me wonder how strong and full of faith someone must be to forgive another in the midst of being in utter pain at the hands of those being forgiven. Think about that for a moment. Jesus is nailed to the cross and hoisted up above those gathering around him. Those throwing jabs, insults, and more upon him and he says, “forgive them.” Imagine how hard that would be to say to those causing harm and hardship directly to you in the midst of them actually doing it. As each fleeting breath escapes his body, Jesus has to push himself up to utter these words. That’s incredible. That’s powerful.

This sort of strength comes not just from Jesus as well. It also comes to us from the other criminal on the cross next to him. The first criminal is one that I think many of us would probably act like. Given the situation and the last breaths we would be savoring, I think most of us would try to lift ourselves up to say, “If you are who say you are – save yourself and us!”

To me, it is exceptional that the other criminal on the cross uses his apparent last breaths to speak up for Jesus. And it isn’t just a few words, but deep and powerful thoughts.

That’s some faith. Faith that begins here in this story. Here in this story where we find Jesus on the cross praying for those around him and a criminal whose only request is, “Remember me…”

This is our king. This is Christ the King Sunday. A day that others would think would be full of pomp and circumstance. Crazy ribbons, blaring trumpets, impassioned speeches of grandeur, and so much more. When I think of the arrival of ‘kings’ I remember my favorite Disney movie, Aladdin where pretending to be royalty Aladdin comes marching into the town of Agrabah on the back of an elephant surrounded by troupes of dancers, trumpeters, acrobats, herds of animals, balloons, festivities, and more. That is the celebration of a king that we hope for.

Yet, here – on Christ the King Sunday we don’t get that. Our king, the world’s king, the King of Kings, is shown on a cross, nailed, and in the process of dying. Ridiculed and insulted. And yet, he prays for those around him and the important and powerful response he gives to the one who says, “Remember me…”

I think that that is incredibly powerful. To know that even at the end of his earthly life – before he is to be the first fruits of the resurrection, Jesus is in prayer and is listening to someone in need. Not in prayer for himself, not in prayer that the pain might go away, not even in prayer that those causing him harm and pain might ‘meet their doom’ (you know we’ve prayed that one from time to time). No, Jesus is in prayer – praying for those who wish to do him harm. Here is Jesus living into what he has asked his disciples to do, namely to forgive those who sin against them and pray for those who persecute them. Wow.

Jesus again is leading by example.

This week as I and other pastors gathered to talk about and prepare for this Sunday, one of my colleagues mentioned that you know who a king is by what they do. It’s why we have the phrase, “It’s good to be the king.” We know who a king is by what he does (and gets to do).

And, it is with that in mind that I think of what it means for us to have Christ as our king. What does Christ do that tells us what and who a king is.

I love the exchange between Jesus and the criminals to his left and right. I love it because of Jesus’ response to the one who asks, “Jesus, remember me.”

Jesus’ answer can be summed up in two simple yet powerful words.

I will.

I will remember you. You will be remembered. I will always remember you.

I think that is incredibly important to hear during this day. For today we have many who say that Jesus will ‘remember’ you only if you believe in him (in a particular way) – that you say it out loud. This other criminal doesn’t say, “I believe in you.” Or “I know you.” He simply states, “remember me.”

On this Christ the King Sunday we remember a king who is different from all other kings, we celebrate the King of Kings who cares about those around him. We have faith in the King who prays for those – even those who speak ill of him and cause harm and pain against him and against those who believe in him. We have a king who remembers.

The one on the cross who dies to show the world the victory of God over sin and death so that the created ones of God might be victors over it too turns to those around him and says, “I will remember you. I do remember you. You are mine.”

So, even when we’re in the midst of our own perils and deaths. Living through our own pains and hardships, when we cry out in prayer to God and say, “Remember me Lord… remember me.” God responds to us and says, “I do remember you. Know that now. Know that I remember you.”

Know that God remembers us all, and in that remembrance, we have faith in what God has done for each of us – for the entire world – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where in that remembrance, Jesus has pulled us all with him so we too are gifted that new life that comes in Christ our King.

A part of all our calls as servants of Christ is that we are sent to proclaim that remembrance. We are sent into the world to care for those in need. Coming alongside those around us to offer care, support, and prayer. Where in the midst of all of that service when people say, “thank-you” and then ask, “why?” we can say with utter confidence – Because God cares and Christ remembers.

Where we – especially at this time of year on the cusp of Advent – turn to those around us and offer care and service because it is what Christ calls us to do. Where we continue to gather from our abundance to help those in need – whether it is filling a shoe box, purchasing a gift for someone we don’t know, or giving an animal to a family and community in need in the world. We do this, not just because it is ‘good’ to do this (because it is). We do this, not because it ‘makes us feel good’ (and it does). But, we do this because we proclaim that Christ remembers us all, and we get to live out that remembrance.

We remember that as we celebrate Christ the King – we celebrate a King who prays and who remembers. We celebrate and have faith in a king who just doesn’t pray and remember for just those who act or believe in a certain way. Where Jesus remembers all of us. In that remembrance, we go out and proclaim that message to those around us.

Christ the King Sunday – the day we celebrate the King the world doesn’t deserve, but desperately needs. Christ prays and remembers. To each of us. For each of us. All of us. You. Me. Even the ones who speak so harshly against him and others. Christ prays, Christ remembers.

It’s good to have that King. Amen!

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