Sermons from St Faith's   

Christ the King

Archdeacon Pete Spiers, Sunday, 20th November, 2016

For the last 18 months or so, our evening news seems to have been dominated by who is going to the next President of the US, the 'so-called' most powerful man on earth. Something we can still say now that Hillary was not elected.  Whatever you think about the outcome of that election, another sermon in itself,  today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday and its an opportunity to explore what that means for us.

The image of King is not always helpful. At worst, we think of tyrannical rulers, cruel emperors and absolute despots. At best, we think of constitutional monarchies where genteel royal figures are more symbolic than powerful such as our own. Yes it is the Queen who issues our currency, appoints our Prime Ministers and our Bishops and signs our laws but we all know that whilst she could refuse to do all these things, she wouldn’t really. She must have signed things which she didn’t really agree with but that’s her job isn’t it, not to intervene?

So when they were putting together the lectionary for today, what gospel reading best illustrates the image of Jesus as King?  How about a crucifixion scene.  Like the one behind the high alter here: someone stripped and suffocating, wracked with unimagineable pain, someone mocked and insulted by those standing round, someone hanging between 2 criminals, derided by one and honoured by another. We ought to be feeling uncomfortable.

Jesus’ main message was about the kingdom of God and all along he’d tried to make clear that the kingdom is not what you expect: it’s a mustard seed, a treasure hidden in a field, yeast that disappears in the dough. He has not behaved as you would expect a King to behave: touching lepers, eating with those despised by polite society, treating women and children as his equals. He has not be afraid to upset the religious leaders and politicians and those in authority.

This scene reminds us of his testing in the wilderness where Satan tempted him.  ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread’.  ‘If you worship me, all the kingdoms of this world will all be yours.’  Standing on the highest point of the Temple: ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here’.

Now people sneered at him: 'He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God'.  The soldiers too: 'If you are the King of the Jews save yourself’.   Jesus had already asked his Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing.   He could have ended the pain and suffering for himself. The irony is that he could have save himself but because we needed to be saved as well as loved, he stayed exactly where he was.

The kingdom of God is most concerned with the lost, the last and the least. So when the criminal said: 'Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom’, he recognised his solidarity with him in his suffering.  The criminal recognised Jesus as being someone who saw his suffering, who was willing to stand in that suffering with him, who spoke up against his suffering.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard claims that we all have our little kingdoms in life.  ‘A kingdom’, Willard says, ‘is any area of life where my will and my desires determine what happens and what does not happen.  In our homes, at our places of work, we all have little spheres of influence, little patches of this earth where we make a kingdom for ourselves, where we try to arrange things so that what we say, what we think, what we believe determines the shape of life’.  But the kingdom of God is where God’s desires, God’s will and God’s intentions rule.  The kingdom is real and it is real now.  

The kingdom is present wherever people pray the way Jesus taught us to pray.

The kingdom is present wherever people live out the fruit of the Spirit.

The kingdom is present wherever people baptise children or adults or receive bread and wine simply because Jesus told us that this is the way we are to act in remembrance of him.

The kingdom is present wherever a believer somewhere refuses to go along with something she knows is wrong and that going along with it would not be what Jesus wanted. 

The kingdom is present whenever and wherever someone refuses to cut corners on his taxes, someone listens to a grieving neigbour and offers a word of reassurance, whenever and wherever someone helps a refugee or asylum seeker.

The kingdom is present because the effective will of Jesus is being done.

May each of us today think what it means in our life to bend the knee to a king who exchanged his crown for a cross.

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