Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Are you a king?"

Notes for a sermon on the Feast of Christ the King 2006 (John 18 33-37)

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a
king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the
truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (18:37b)

The end of the story is the beginning of the story.

The Gospel of John is full of irony. Even as they mock Jesus, the soldiers truly
crown him. At the moment of his defeat, came his victory. He is the real king of
the only real kingdom, the reign of God, of justice and peace.

Pilate asked, "Are you a king?"
Jesus answered, "I came to bear witness to the truth."
Pilate responded, "What is truth?"

The truth is that you see before you, the king of the only real kingdom, the
first man of that kingdom.

Accepting freely death on the cross, the death of a common criminal - or one
more troublesome enemy of Rome - Jesus bore witness to the truth of God's
kingdom - whose foundation is goodness and justice and truth. This is the
kingdom of Shalom, God's peace.

Jesus Christ is:
1. the faithful witness,
2. the first-born of the dead, and
3. the ruler of the kings of earth.

(Revelation 1.5a)

The end of the story is the beginning of the story -

As we come to the end of the Christian year, and anticipate Advent, we celebrate
the feast-day of Christ the King. We see him as the one seated at the right hand
of the Father, to whom will be given - is given - all glory and dominion and
power, in a scene beyond dreams.

But how did he get there? How did it begin?

It begins with a child: helpless, poor, and defenseless. God sent his Son to the
world as a Baby. And in this Innocent already was the King. So tender, meek, and
mild, yet such a threat to the powers that be, that Herod the Great tried to
stop God's kingdom from breaking in on him, that he had the male children under
two years old killed - the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

A Baby - God came to us first not on clouds of glory, but simply, humbly, and
humanly; in something so ordinary and yet extraordinary as a Child in a manger.

He comes to us, every Sunday, in ordinary things - bread and wine, oil and

On Thanksgiving we gave thanks for the bread and wine,
Remembering at the same time,
That other bread and other wine,
That at other times,
Becomes other than bread and
Other than wine,
And yet still remains - to all appearances -
Bread and wine.

And so he sustains us through
Ordinary things in
Ordinary times,
That our lives may become
Through the common everyday witness
Of our lives
to the Truth.

The end of the story is just the beginning of the story.

In Jesus' free acceptance of death lay his victory,
And the seed sown then
Became his vindication,
as the first-born of the Resurrection.

Because he accepted the ultimate consequence of life spent bearing witness to the Truth,
He ushered in the Kingdom of God that he thereby proclaimed:

The only real kingdom, the reign of God, in justice, mercy and peace,
That he took part in from the beginning of life
- that Baby again -
And when he passed over into the larger life of God,
He took a step that he was prepared to take,
- in fear and trembling, perhaps sick to death -
in the knowledge that what awaited him
he had already experienced
in his own person:

the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, November 26, 2006 St Timothy's, Gridley, Calif. JRL+

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