Tag Archives: shepherds

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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Christmas Day: Selection II

mangerThe Greatest Gift of All

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.

Homily for Adults

Christmas is an exciting time. Children have been anticipating the day all year. The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. In fact, they had not heard from a prophet for four-hundred years. Were they now ready to hear directly from God?

Can we imagine how excited the shepherds were when they heard a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 2:14)

The shepherd could not have fully understood all that the angels were saying, but they did not sit idly by:

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  (Luke 2:15-16)

The message to the shepherds is a universal message from God to all people. The angles trumpeted God’s greatest gift to all of us. How do we respond to it today? Do we unwrap it?

The Apostle Paul helps us unwrap God’s gift:

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   (Titus 3:4)

Part of unwrapping Christmas is understanding and receiving the gift of new birth in Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. This gift from God is for each one of us, but we must acknowledge it with thanksgiving. We cannot take it for granted. It is not meant to be set aside and explored lat forgotten.

If we have received God’s gift, then we, like the shepherds, will have cause for great celebration:

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.   (Luke 2:20)

Are we excited about the greatest gif of all enough to want to unwrap it, try it on, play with it? If we do we will be excited share it with others

 

Homily for Children

Gather the children together up near the altar. Give them a chance to settle down and feel comfortable.

Homilist: Do you enjoy getting gifts at Christmas?

   Kids: Yes!

Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?

   Kids: Of course!

Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?

   Kids: It has my name on it.

Homilist: Would you like to wait a little while before opened your gifts?

   Kids: No!

Homilist: What would you do with a gift when it has been opened?

   Kids: We would look at it and maybe play with it!

Homilist: What if you got the Greatest Gift of all time and your name was written to it? Would you not unwrap it?

    Kids: No way!

Homilist: Now remember that you have to send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift.

    Kids; Yeah, we know. But what about that gift you were talking about? What kind of gift is it?

Homilist: It is a gift from God.

   Kids: Wow! What is it?

Homilist: The birth of His Son Jesus who came to the earth for us.

    Kids: Oh! The baby Jesus.

Homilist: Why is His birth important?

    Kids: Because He came to save us?

Homilist: Yes. Do you think everyone who knows about this gift should unwrap it?

   Kids: If their name was on it.

Homilist: Everyone’s name is on this gift!

   Kids: What do you mean unwrap it?

Homilist: Take it out of the box and play with it.

   Kids: Jesus wants to play with us?

Homilist: Yes, and after we do we should send Him a thank-you note.

    Kids:  Can you send a note to heaven?

Homilist: He is listening to us and He is always with us. If we just say we are thankful He would hear us.

     Kids: Oh! When should we thank Him?

Homilist: Every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if someone didn’t open God’s gift?

     Kids: No way. They have to open it.

Homilist: I want to read a verse from scripture to you:

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.   (Ephesians 2:4-8)

Homilist: Do you see that grace is a gift of God?

   Kids: Yes. But do we really have to send God a thank-you note?

Homilist: Let me read you this scripture:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.   (Romans 10:9-10)

Homilist: God needs us to thank Him with our mouths.

   Kids: Can we do that now?

Homilist: Yes, and at each new day we need to thank him for the greatest gift of all.

Amen.

Obviously this homily is not a script to be memorized by the children. It will not do the homilist any good to memorize it either, because at some point our listeners are going to take off on a tangent. This advice from our Lord apples:

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”   (Luke 12:11-12)

What is desired is a dialogue with the children. They are a fearsome force to face, but with patience, listening carefully what the children may be saying, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge. We need to have courage and place ourselves fully in the hands of the Lord.

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