Where have you seen the King?
Where have you seen the King this week?
How did you recognize him? How did you expect to find him?
Did you see him in royal robes, riding on a chariot of clouds, heralded by angels?
Did you see him down and out, hungry, thirsty, naked or ill-clothed, sick, or in prison?
How did you greet him? Like any other person? Is that good or bad?
Did you greet him when you greeted the stranger, the lonely, the forgotten, the ill-favored?
Did you greet him when you greeted your mother, your brother, your sister, your least-favorite aunt or cousin?
Did you greet him at the bank or the bar? Was he the barista or the cashier?
How did you treat him?
We do not expect this Jesus. We do not expect the Messiah to appear to us like this. We expect something a little more… royal.
And yet we are told, in this vision of the Apocalypse, of the consummation of time, that this is what a king looks like – this is what the King looks like.
He looks like us.
He looks like us because in him God became one of us. The eternal Word took on human flesh and became a man.
He walked among us, he laughed and suffered, he spoke Greek or Aramaic or Hebrew, he listened to the wise old men by the village well. He helped his father in the shop. When he was young he drew water for the kitchen. He went on a journey. His cousin John baptized him – and then he went into the desert wilderness.
And then he gathered some friends together and he went on a longer journey, a harder journey. At first they seemed just to be wandering around Galilee and the country east of the Jordan, causing trouble for local officials and pig keepers, drinking at a wedding feast, telling some stories. And then it changed.
If you want to follow me, you must take up your cross. You must come with me to Jerusalem. To the great festival of Passover. But I myself will be the Lamb. I will be the offering. And sins will be forgiven.
The people will be released – they will be free to love God. Because they will know God has been willing to pay the price, to bring them home to him.
I will be treated like the least of God’s creatures. I will be hungry, and thirsty, and naked, and sick, and in prison. I will be tortured. I will be crucified.
It is the way of Glory.
Mockingly they will hail me, “King of the Jews.” And they will be right.
I will be their King and they will be my people.
I will be their shepherd and they will be the sheep of my hand, my own people.
I will gather them to me. And at the last day, I will bring them home.
Knowing now that you did - that as you treated the least of his children you were treating him the same - are you glad?
Will you be looking at people differently this week?
When Jesus comes, we say, when the Messiah comes, everything will be different.
He will change things. He will make them new.
Or: He will restore Israel. He will make all things well again.
That is what the Messiah is expected to do - that is what he is expected for - to set things right, to make them the way they should be, or were... or we wish they were.
We cannot have back what we used to have. We cannot have Eden before the Fall, Israel before the Exile, Jerusalem before the Temple came down.......
The Messiah - isn't he the One who would rebuild the Temple?
But Jesus did not do any of those things.
He did not come in power on clouds of glory, electrifying might blasting from his fingertips. He did not come and sweep Caesar aside. He did not cleanse the Temple as the Maccabees did; he -
He called for something more. He called for us to prepare our hearts - to make him room. He called for us to pray Messiah down - right into our own lives. He asked us to transform our lives, from the inside out. The domain of God begins -
The reign of God starts - not with a great military victory but with a change in the human heart. "Change your minds", Jesus said - change the way you think and act and move. Change your way of being in the world.
Then we can talk about the consequences.
What we do now - we cannot hide it - is our preparation for the victory of our God. How we act now - we cannot avoid it - is our proclamation of the reign of God.
We could dress up and show off like some of the people Jesus denounced. We could go through the motions. We could look pious, or righteous, or holy. But who cares? Too many could see through us.
What you cannot fake is this: to treat your neighbor as you would yourself - or God.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor, Jesus says, as if it were me.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength, and love God through your neighbor.
That will be the beginning of the kingdom of heaven, right there in your life and mine.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Notes for sermon given on the feast of Christ the King, St Alban's Church, Edmonds WA.
In addition to the Sources & Resources Year B (listed in a separate post) there are two unexpected influences on this sermon:
John Fisher, "Have you seen Jesus my Lord?" song (1970)
God-sighting testimonials - from Bill Talen (http://www.revbilly.com/)