Christ the King

Track 2: Salvation From the Cross

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

There is so much we could say on Christ the King Sunday about our Lord Jesus  Reading a portion of the Passion narrative found in the Gospel of Luke could seem inappropriate for a triumphal king.  But this short passage tells us so much of what his kingship is about. Reading from Luke:

One of the criminals who were hanged there, kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   (Luke 23:39-43)

A criminal was saved by Jesus while hanging on the cross and facing excruciating pain. There was no altar call. There was no sinner’s prayer. No baptism. No confirmation. No public testimony by the converted. So much seems to be missing in the statement: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus was and is always about salvation. From the Gospel of Luke:

For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.   ()

And from John’s Gospel:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   John 3:16)

The criminal on the cross with Jesus had a change of heart. He was moved by the suffering of Jesus.  He knew that Jesus was innocent of any crime. Not only that, he realized that Jesus was not only king of the Jews, but that he had a heavenly kingdom.

Do we preach and teach for a heart change today? Or out church programs, even our church doctrines getting in the way? There is nothing wrong with church programs and activities, but they cannot substitute for the Gospel message. The Apostle Paul tells wrote to the Church in Corinth:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel—and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.   (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)

Do we preach the cross, or is this message too offensive today? The “shepherds of the sheep” were sadly, missing the mark in the days of Jeremiah. He prophesied:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 23:1-4)

The sheep were fearful. They were confused. Why so? Are our sheep confused today? Do they know who Jesus is? Yes, he is Christ the King, but what does that mean to us? The Apostle Paul wrote this about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.   (Colossians 1:15-20)

These are the credentials needed to be the head of the body of Christ. Do any of us qualify? If Jesus is the head of our church, then we should be preaching and teaching Jesus. Jesus is the head. We are not. Is he sitting on the throne as Christ the King? If not, then we are on the throne.

The enemy moves in when Christ is not given authority. Ministers become fearful. Shepherding is a challenging task which cannot be done by human wisdom and strength. False teachings and doctrines, if not checked, will gradually supplant the true Gospel. Without Christ, there are sad attempts to hold the church together. The “prosperity gospel” comes to mind.

This message is not just for the ordained ministry. All of us should be ministers of the Gospel in some way, depending on our spiritual gifts and callings. Jesus is the servant King. That is how he exercised his great authority. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it, not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.   (1 Peter 5:1-4)

The shepherds of Jeremiah’s day needed correction that could only come from God. Perhaps we need his correction today. Are we fearful? Are we confused about the Gospel. Are we experiencing persecution for our beliefs. Peter wrote:

Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name.For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:16-17)

Let us return to the simplicity of the Gospel. Let us return to the power of the cross. Let our church doctrine incorporate the truth that salvation is by a change of the heart. Only in this way can we truly celebrate Christ the King in our churches.

Do we know this King? Is the the ruler of our hearts? If not, let us stop to realize what Jesus has done for us, as did the criminal on the cross. Then we are free to worship him with all our hearts.

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Christ the King

Track 1: The Lord Is Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-71
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate “Christ the King” Sunday. Jesus is King of King, and Lord of Lords. But his earthly ministry had very humble beginnings. That was necessary. The Hebrew people were not ready for his message.

John the Baptist needed to be the forerunner of Christ, to prepare them to hear the message of the Gospel, and the coming New Covenant. Zechariah prophesied over the infant John:

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.   (Luke 1: 76-79)

John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Although we are reading about him in the New Testament, the New Covenant had not been established at this point. (That would take the cross).

Jeremiah prophesied that this New Covenant was coming:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”   (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

What was new about this covenant? God would do what humankind was unable to do, fulfill the righteous requirements of the old one. Jesus, the King of Kings, was also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of this world. Again, Zechariah prophesied

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.   (Luke 1: 68-75)

Do we worship Jesus as King? He is not our King; he is not our Lord, he is not our Savior, unless we honor him as the Lamb. The Apostle wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

Has Jesus rescued us from the powers of darkness. He has if we have acknowledged our sin and laid it before the cross. We have no righteousness, except by faith in the saving act of Jesus. As prophesied through Jeremiah: The LORD is our righteousness.

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Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28

Track 1: The Peaceable Kingdom

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

On this earth, foolish people pursue a utopia. History has proven that i9 cannot be achieved, certainly by human effort. But something better is comig.

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;

the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;

for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;

no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.

No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;

for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.   (Isaiah 65:0-17-20)

On this earth, we long for lasting peace. But it will not come by human effort. Only the Prince of Peace can bring this about. Again, Isaiah prophesied:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent– its food shall be dust!

They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.   (Isaiah 65:25)

How is all of this to be achieved? Isaiah gives us the answer:

Surely, it is God who saves me;
I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,
and he will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing
from the springs of salvation.

And on that day you shall say,
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;

Make his deeds known among the peoples;
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.   (Isaiah 12:2-6)

Do we trust in God for our future? Or are we holding on to the past? Many of God’s chosen people were holding on to a physical temple. It had beauty and was used by God for a season. We read in today’s appointed Gospel:

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”   (Luke 21:5-6)

They held onto their temple but missed the body of Christ. What are we holding onto today? God is building a future for us. He is our future. Our path to him and all that he will provide is through the Lord Jesus Christ. All other paths ultimately lead to destruction and death. Jesus said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”   (John 14:6)

 

Track 2: From Rocks to the Rock

Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

His disciples grew up with the temple. It was their most sacred treasure. Imagine what they felt like when they heard Jesus speak about its destruction:

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.   (Luke 21:5-8)

Jesus warned about imposters. We have seen some of them. They promise so much and deliver so little.

Jesus goes on to say:

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.   (Luke 21:9-11)

We live in uncertain times. We are seeing the beginning of birth pangs, We may be looking for something to which we may hold. Jesus is that something. If we chose him, this could be our future:

“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (Luke 21:12-19)

We are in a time when we are required to take a stand, Sooner or later our beliefs will be challenged. What will be our stand? On whom will we stand? Will we stand upon The Rock that is solid and unshakeable, when everything around us is shaking? In his sermon on the mount Jesus said:

Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”   (Matthew 7:24-27)

Yes, there will be persecution of Christians. That is becoming very clear. Jesus said:

it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”   (Matthew 10:26-29)

 

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Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27

Track 1: Splender Greater than the First

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Psalm 145:1-5, 18-22
or Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

A reading from today’s Old Testament passage:

In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage,  Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.   (Haggai 2:1-5)

The remnant of Judah was returning from exile. They were facing a monumental task, one that they could not accomplish alone. They were tasked to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Because of the great obstacles they were experiencing against the work, they began to rationalize and decided that it wasn’t time to rebuild after all. They thought: “If it’s so hard, evidently, God doesn’t want us to do it – at least not anytime soon.”

What God asked them to do they could not do alone. But God reminded them that he was with them:

My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.   (Haggai 2:6-9)

What a great promise: The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former. Today we have no temple except the Church, the body of Christ. When Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign to prove his authority over the tenpel, Jesus replied:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:19=22)

Today, we do not have a temple to destroy. We are the temple of God. We are the body of Christ, the Church. Does the promise God made to the returning exiles apply to us? We read in Ephesians:

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind, so that she may be holy and without blemish.   (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Just as Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem at the close of his earthly ministry, he promises to cleanse his Church. The Early Church in Jerusalem was not without blemish. We remember Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who lied to the Holy Spirit. They both died for their sin. That is something we do not wish to happen, nor does God. But, as the Chruch, we have a monumental task ahead. The Church needs to be purified. Only then can it be the temple without blemish, and outshine the Early Church.

How does this happen? We cannot do this alone. Only God can make this happen. But we must submit ourselves to him. We have a role to play as did the returning remnant of Judah. This is not the time to be complacent or lose heart. Let us look to our Lord. Jesus promises to be with us. Are we with him today? Is he the head of our church? Is he the cornerstone? Let us look away from pleasing the secular culture and seek the praises of God.

 

Track 2: Resurrection of the Dead

Job 19:23-27a
Psalm 17:1-9
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

As he experienced his terrible suffering, Job found his faith wavering. He asked a question that many of us may have asked at one time or another:

If mortals die, will they live again?
All the days of my service I would wait
until my release should come.   (Job 14:14)

The Sadducees posed a trick question to Jesus because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead:

Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”   (Luke 20:34-38)

Have we ever had this doubt of the Sadducees? If so, we are in good company. The great man, Job, had this doubt. The Apostle Paul addressed this doubt:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died[c] in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.   (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

The belief in the resurrection is vitally important to the Christian faith. Paul goes on;

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human, for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in its own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

If we believe in Jesus, we believe in the resurrection Jesus said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”   (John 11:25-26)

Jesus is our resurrection. We need to move away from the secular world. As we identify with him our faith increases. Sometimes suffering is needed to help us look entirely to Jesus. As he endured great suffering, Job’s faith grew. In a moment he had a revelation:

“O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!

O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;

and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,

whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”   (Job 19:23-27)

The Apostle Paul reminded the Church in Thessalonica:

We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.   (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)

We have been chosen as the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection. Will we join Job and boldly proclaim that resurrection. The world is waiting to hear the good news.

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