Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

This is my sermon from the Feast of Christ the King, November 26 2017 at Church of the Advent, Cincinnati. 

  •   Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, which you may or may not know, as it’s perhaps one of the lesser known feast days of the church year. It’s original name is one of the best & probably most grandiose I’ve ever seen: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It’s one of the more recently added feasts in terms of the long history of Christianity, being added in 1925 by the Roman Catholic Church & later adopted by the Episcopal Church & Anglican Communion along with a whole host of other churches & traditions.
  •  Christ the king started out in an era, in 1920’s Europe, just after the world was torn apart violently by conflicts among kings and political leaders in WWI, and amidst the rise of fascism in Italy, and what would later become Nazism in Germany, as a whole host of authoritarian regimes began increasingly cropping up around the world. Pope Pius, at that time, wanted to remind the people that it was Christ, not any dictator or political leader, not any general or military authority, not any powerful businessman or financial interest – but Christ alone, who is truly Lord of all.
  •     We always celebrate Christ the King on the last Sunday before the season of Advent begins, and since Advent is the beginning of the new church year, Christ the King is the last Sunday of the current church year, which is always at the end of November. Although Pope Pius could not have imagined it 92 years ago when the Christ the King celebration began, just so happens that for us here in the modern day USA, that places it squarely after Thanksgiving and significantly right between the feasts which our material culture has chosen to worship – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  •      See, I don’t mention that by accident. Even though even the human leaders who planned this feast couldn’t have known it – I really believe God knew what God was doing here. Think about it – While every store, company and corporation are in fever pitch trying to make you buy, buy, buy more and more, never having enough so that you will spend every dime that you have in order to gain some false sense of satisfaction, or worthiness, or power, Christ the King reminds us that none of that matters at all! Christ the King tells us that nothing we can do can buy us the power or glory we crave, because it all belongs to Christ anyway. Christ the King tells us that no matter how much physical wealth or money or political influence the enormous corporations and mega-donors may have, it all really belongs to Christ anyway – and for that matter –Christ alone is the one with all the power!
  •      If you’re like me, the Gospel for today was a very familiar one. The imagery is so complex and beautiful that we could spend the rest of our lives unpacking it, and yet it’s so simple that small children usually understand it better than us adults. I could preach endlessly on this text, and if you stay active in church long enough you will certainly hear lots of sermons on it, but there’s one thing here I want you to notice on this feast of Christ the King.
  •       Our Christ – Our Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of All, seated on the throne at the Right hand of the Father, doesn’t even play the same game as the earthly kings! Jesus doesn’t sit in some rich palace, or wear a heavy crown of gold and jewels. He doesn’t employ fleets of maids and servers to wait on him hand and foot, or crush the poor with his physical might. Our Christ is the one who IS the poor, who IS the Least of These, who IS the hungry and the imprisoned, and the sick, and the thirsty, and the naked!
  •      Christ the King is not some unreachably holy being up in the stars of heaven, but the hungry and the needy whom we serve each day at Open Door Ministries, or visit in the hospital, or bring coats to as the winter approaches.
  • One of my favorite Advent traditions is to see Handel’s Messiah performed sometime in December almost every year. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of Baroque music written by the great composer Handel in 1741, usually lasting about 2 to 3 hours and if you’ve never heard it performed live, you must. The piece quotes exclusively from Scripture, telling of Christ’s victory over death, his glory and his ultimate power over all creation. Part of what mystifies me every time is the beauty of the kingship language Handel borrows from Scripture in describing our Lord Christ. These are just 2 of the verses that stir my spirit every time I hear them:
  • Psalm 2:1-2 Why do the nations so furiously rage together: why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsels together against the Lord and His anointed.
  • Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, Lord of lords.
  • These next four weeks, we prepare to encounter the Lord Christ again in some powerful & life-changing ways we don’t always think about. We will meet him in the awe-inspiring and terrifying apocalyptic vision of the end of times projected in Revelation & in Mark’s Gospel. And we will meet Christ in the fiery warnings of John the Baptist, and in the pregnant joyful anxiety of Mary and Joseph. And of course we will again meet again in a manger in Bethlehem not just a beautiful newborn baby, but the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • As we embark these coming weeks on that sacred journey, Join me in remembering Christ not only as our brother and friend, redeemer and teacher, but as the King of all Creation. Remember him, not as the ally of the rich or the powerful, but as the poor, the sick and the destitute before your eyes. But above all, remember The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
  • AMEN

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