Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Sermon: "A Different Kind of King"

A couple of years ago on this day – Christ the King Sunday – the end of the church year – I had the children’s sermon.
I had some of the children come up, and I asked them to think about what they knew about kings.
What do kings look like?
What would a king have?
Kings rule, so they thought first of all, that kings must have a kind of a staff for ruling, called a scepter.
So we got out a scepter, and we had someone carry it.
Then they thought they had seen pictures of kings that were wearing beautiful, and plush robes.
So, of course, we had to get out a robe of our own, and have someone wear that as well.
Finally, we thought that kings should have crowns.
Luckily, we also had a crown available, and we had someone put that on, too.
Then we had a real king standing in front of us! All dressed up and ready to lead his people.
What a good way to begin Christ the King Sunday!

Except for two things: That king didn’t remind us very much of Jesus.
And of course, we had to admit, no one had seen anyone dressed up like that lately, with a robe, and a scepter and a crown.

The main problem with this day – “Christ the King” – is really that we don’t have that much experience with kings
– real kings, that is.
There are a few modern kings, we may know about them vaguely – except in the case of one (possible) king – Prince William, who has recently gotten engaged, I hear, and who will someday be King of England.
I think he will wear the robe and crown and scepter then, but only on special occasions.
So what does it mean for us to say that Jesus is a king, that he reigns in our lives, or in the world?
What difference does it make?
We could try being more modern by trying to say “Christ the President”
– but  as soon as I say it, you know that wouldn’t be right.

Of course, there was a time long ago when everyone had kings.
All the best countries had kings, which was why Israel – God’s people – wanted one too.
They wanted a king, just like all the other nations!
The wanted a king, because having a king meant that you were and Important Nation.
Kings provided security for the people.
Kings fought battles (although they were usually the ones giving the orders, not the ones fighting and dying).
Kings made decisions.
Kings made you important. Kings were powerful.

And then you have Jesus.
We say he is a King.
We believe that he reigns.
But if you really pay attention, you will see that he’s a different kind of king
– a different kind of king than the modern figureheads we know
– a different kind of king than the those in ancient times
He doesn’t wear a robe, or a crown, or have a scepter in the Bible stories – except when people are making fun of him.
He says impractical things like “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.”
He does provide a certain kind of security, but not the kind we usually think of, or prize.
He provides the security of knowing that our lives are in God’s hands, but not the security of knowing that we will win every battle.
And of course, if it’s a feeling of Being Important that you want, you might want to check out Jesus, down on his knees, washing his disciples feet.
Doing the dirty work.

So today – on this last Sunday of the church year – and on the Sunday when we are also going to have our annual meeting
We have the story of Jesus on the cross, between two thieves.
People are calling him a king, but they’re making fun of him.
Except for one person, and I think this is really remarkable.

There is one person who recognizes that Jesus is a king, a different kind of king and who wants to live in his kingdom.
It’s that second thief.
He says to Jesus, the king hanging on the cross,
“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
He says to Jesus, “When you are king, and where you reign – that’s where I want to be.”
I wonder why. Why does he say, “Jesus, remember me...”

I can’t help wondering if it’s because he heard Jesus’ other words from the cross, those other strange, unusual words Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus said these words to the soldiers who were crucifying him.
“Father forgive them, forgive them.... for they don’t know.”
To be forgiven, to forgive – is not so common in this world.
It’s more common to hold grudges, to keep score, to get even.
A friend of mine told me long ago, “I’ll forgive someone once, but after that... forget it.”

But what would a world (a kingdom) be like where forgiveness was abundant, where mercy ruled, where kings washed feet, where the hungry were fed, where captives were set free?
What would the world be like?
No wonder he said, “Jesus remember me,”

“Jesus, remember me.” Can this be our prayer too, on Christ the King Sunday? “Jesus remember us, because we have tried to manage the world and our lives and most of the time, we just made a bigger mess. But Jesus, remember us.
Remember us when we die, and remember us right now, in the middle of our messed up lives. Help us to see your kingdom, among us.
Help us to love our enemies, and our neighbors, and to be your people
Even – especially – in the middle of our annual meeting, because we want to be your people, your disciples.
Jesus, remember us, when you come into your kingdom.

One Sunday I told the children, “Jesus was a king.”
But then I asked them: did he have a crown?” “No!” They answered. “Did Jesus have a robe?” No! They answered.
Did Jesus have a scepter? “No!” they answered.

What did Jesus have? I asked.

“Love,” one child answered.

I was going to say a cross.

But I liked their answer, better.


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