the one with the unexpected king...
November 23, 2015, 9:00 AM

Sermon from November 22, 2015

Text: John 18: 33-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Father 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!

When you think of a king – what sort of qualities pop into your mind? Wealthy beyond measure? Authority over an entire area – city, country, empire? Fine clothes? Lavishly served by others? An ability to pretty much do and say whatever they want without recourse or fear?

In many ways, when we think of a king or of royalty – as we look towards the family of Prince William and Duchess Kate today or even those who aren’t royalty, but might as well be in how they are treated and viewed – we genuinely think that we are viewing people and families that are successful right? Whether they were born into it or earned it doesn’t matter.

They’ve got money. They’ve got power. They’ve got ‘it’ that other people want. They’ve got success. And it is evident in the way that they live their life and how people treat them. Kings and royalty command a room with the aura of their ‘success’ and ‘power.’

When we think of kings and royalty, we think of power and prestige. Wealth and success.

So, we come to this day, this Christ the King Sunday, and we do see that – but, not from the person we’d expect to see it from. We get all that power and prestige, that wealth and success from Pilate who we hear from today. We don’t really see that from Jesus.

Jesus isn’t in a position of wealth. He isn’t in a place of power. He definitely doesn’t appear to be successful.

He is dragged and led into the presence of someone with worldly power. He’s given his opportunity to speak to ‘save’ his life or end his suffering, but he doesn’t take it. He is given a position to show his kingship in the way that the world expects, yet he shows it in a different way entirely.

Christ the King Sunday is a day of celebration and we hear from a text that seems a bit out of place. You’d think we’d get a text of Jesus’ ascension, or the transfiguration, or at least a text that shows Jesus in power in some way.

But, we don’t. We get the penultimate story before Jesus is led to the cross and dies.

That’s not how the world typically views a king. Kings normally are not dragged off to be executed in such a horrible and public way.

Yet, that’s what we get from our king.

When you celebrate a king, you think of coronation. A crown of power, a label of respect, the essence of success is laid upon them in a very beautiful service and ritual. As Mel Brooks says in History of the World Part I – “It’s good to be the king!”

Yet, Jesus isn’t seeking that kind of coronation. The crown he will wear, is a crown of suffering and death. For all those looking upon him that day – and still for many in this modern time – see him as a failure. He died. His ‘kingdom’ however loosely cobbled together it appeared to be, was snuffed out in the most visible and embarrassing way possible.

Yet, we celebrate Christ our King this day.

It’s all kind of confusing isn’t it? It seems kind of contradictory that we would support this day with such a festival.

I mean, imagine you’re living during this time of Jesus’ death – how you’d be laughed at because you followed Jesus the ‘king’ of the Jews. That king who was cut down in his life and nailed to a cross? That’s the guy who is your king? How foolish can you be? What’s wrong with you?

I imagine that that’s what many of Jesus’ followers heard during this time and what many of those early worshippers of God in Christ Jesus our Lord heard from in the years that followed the birth of this movement of God.

And, we’re gathered again today to celebrate our king. A king that many would say is a failure because he didn’t succeed.

There’s still death. There’s still hate. There’s still fear. We don’t have to search too hard to find those things in our world today.

Last Sunday and next Sunday we have and will celebrate baptisms, where we witness those being marked and remember our own mark of Christ that is written upon us.

That mark isn’t of success or wealth or prestige. It is the sign of the cross.

And we don’t view the cross in a masochistic way – inviting and deriving pleasure from the suffering in our life.

No, we know and remember that we are marked with the Cross of Christ. That we seek to follow the voice of the truth in our life. The voice that calls to us, leads us, and pushes us to see the kingdom at work in the midst of our world.

Where we remember that yes, Christ is nailed to a cross and that he does die and is laid in the tomb. But, we know and have faith that that isn’t the final word. We know that that isn’t where Jesus ends up. We know he will rise.

We celebrate Christ the King Sunday by hearing this story – the story of him talking and conversing with Pilate – for all intents and purposes the Roman ‘king’ of Jerusalem. He’s the dude with all the power.

Where in this story – our ‘failed’ king of Christ is put on the same level as the ‘successful’ king that is Pilate. They talk, and Jesus leads that conversation to the truth – the truth that is his word and his life. The truth that Jesus is the word and is the life.

For we know that Jesus is not a ‘failure.’ At least not in the eyes of God. For the victory that Jesus receives and gifts to each of us in the new life of our baptisms, is the gift of new life. The gift of a renewed and resurrected life in those waters of baptism.

We hear this story – the conversation before the victory – on the last day of our church year. We hear this story and know that next week after we hear Pilate ask, “What is truth?” We enter into the season where we get to say, “Just wait and we’ll show you.”

We end this church year on a question – of what is truth.

This is a question that many of us seek to find an answer to. There are many who think the truth is in the military, or in political debate and action, in the latest technological marvel, in the intellect of our peers. And none of those things are truly bad.

It’s good to have a means to protect yourself, it is good to be able to talk and converse in political realms, having technological marvels does make life a bit easier at times, and being witness to the intellect of peers can be exciting – but, none of those are the truth. In fact, most of those aren’t even led by the voice that proclaims to the truth.

For we know who calls to us towards the truth. We know that voice that calls us by name. That voice full of care, and grace, and love, and power. That voice that leads us to see the kingdom around us. That voice that directs us to see God at work in our lives and the life of the world. That voice that is always at work – proclaiming, serving, being with all of creation.

As we approach the coming season of Advent – that time that we are in expectant hope of the in-breaking of God into our world and into our lives in the birth of God’s son – we still listen to that voice that proclaims the truth. And as we listen we see our lives being led by our king – our Christ.

And we won’t always know what that looks like, but we know that our Christ the King is the one who serves those in need, who proclaims love and grace, who is present among us and in the midst of our lives. That our king – because of the cross and victory over sin and death – does that for everyone in all of creation. From the least to the greatest. And when we’re being led by that kind of King, than that’s probably the kind of life we end up living.

How that is made known in our lives is different for everyone, but the voice still calls out to us, still leads us, still pushes us, to see the truth that is in the world. The truth that isn’t of military power, of political rhetoric, of technological or intellectual feats.

Yet, the truth that boldly walks to the cross for the sake of the world and is victorious over sin and death. Who in his victory frees us from the chains of fear and trepidation that the rest of those ‘voices’ would rather us listen to.

On this Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate and coronate the one that the world wouldn’t expect. But we celebrate the truth. And as we end this year in the church, we look forward for the ability to wait and to make space for the truth – for the voice of Christ – who calls to us and leads us out of grace and peace and love. Amen.

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