Tag Archives: heart

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christ the King, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Spirit Is the One that Testifies

We get our news from many sources today. Which one is telling the truth is another matter. We need a source that always tell the truth. I  can think of only one. The Apostle John rights in his First Epistle:

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.   (1 John 5:1-6)

John says the Holy Spirit is the truth. That should give us great comfort, The Spirit is always truthful. And it is the Spirit that testifies concerning Jesus. What incredibly important news the Spirit is tasked to tell, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To truly understand the Word of God and the Commandments of God, and especially the Gospel, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. This was true for the early apostles as well, as we shall see. Reading from the Book of Acts:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.   (Acts 10:44-48)

Peter had been taught directly by Jesus. He had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. He was the leader of the Early Church. Yet, Peter was missing an understanding of the Gospel. For him it was still a set of rules.

When the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, and his assembled gathering, something happened. They began speaking in tongues and extolling God. Peter was not prepared for this. The Holy Spirit had fallen on Gentiles. The Spirit let Peter know that the Gospel was for everyone.  The Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. It is the Spirit that testifies to the truth.

What was missing in Peter? Perhaps this question could apply to some of us. Could it be that we misunderstand the love of God. When Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment of God, he answered:

“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’   (Mark 12:29-30)

Do we know, by our entire being, that Jesus loves us? Head knowledge is not enough. We must also exercise our heart, soul, and even our strength to fully understand the love of God. God’s love knows no bounds. It is not tied up in a set of rules. Perhaps we need to drop some of our rules. The Spirit has been know to break some rules. Peter must have wondered, for a moment, if the Spirit had broken even God’s rules.

Jesus spoke to his disciples concerning the Spirit:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.   (John 16:13-14)

The Spirit testifies to the truth. And what is that truth? In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said:

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”   (John 15:9-17)

God’s love is the entire truth. If we love Jesus, then we must accept and love everyone as Jesus does. Only then can we testify to the Gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.   (Galatians 5:22-23)

Leave a comment

Filed under Revised Common Lectionary