December 14, 2019

Sermon: Reign of Christ Sunday — What kind of King is this?

The Crucified King. Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano, Rome

Sermon: Reign of Christ Sunday
What kind of King is this? (Luke 22:33-43)

The Lord be with you.

On the church calendar, it is the last Sunday of the year, the Sunday on which we celebrate the Reign of Christ — his Kingship, his rulership over all of our lives, over all the world, over all creation.

What kind of ruler is Jesus? What is his throne like? How does he exercise his rule and dominion over all things?

Luke’s Gospel for today shatters all the images that we normally have in our minds about kingship and rulers and thrones.

“…they crucified Jesus,” the Gospel says.

The story begins with the king dying. Not a promising start.

And the death he dies is no ordinary death. He is being put to death by others, by the Empire that claims to rule the world, the Empire that sees this man as a threat.

Crucifixion is reserved for convicted traitors. This type of death is a warning that no one should test the power of the current regime. It is horrific and violent. It is a public display of humiliation, designed to terrorize others into obedience. It is a frightening display of the power of the Empire to crush the life out of anyone who opposes it.

This king is dying the death of the damned.

What kind of king is this?

“…they crucified him between two criminals,” the Gospel says.

This is his throne.

You won’t find it in a palace. You won’t find it luxuriously appointed. You won’t find it surrounded and attended by the wealthy and influential people of the day. It’s a cross, and it is located right out in public, on a hill, in plain sight, at the place the Empire chose to make a public spectacle of those who dare to oppose them.

This place, this ruler’s throne, is out there, right in the midst of the criminals, the outcasts, the powerless, the condemned.

What kind of ruler, what kind of throne, is this?

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” the Gospel says.

This ruler does not call for armies to rescue him, nor does he threaten revenge or retribution.

He prays.

He prays for his enemies. He prays for those who are doing this to him. He prays that God will forgive them. He even gives them the benefit of the doubt. He prays that God will overlook their inability to grasp what they are doing.

He prays this, and all the while the soldiers cruelly mock him. He prays this while they rob him of his few possessions.

He prays this while people watch and do nothing to help him. He prays this while, over and over again, heartless bullies insult him and ridicule him.

He keeps praying and praying. Forgive them. Forgive them.

What kind of king is this?

“…this man has done nothing wrong,” the Gospel says of this man, this ruler.

Not only is this king suffering this death, he is suffering as an innocent man. He did nothing wrong. He does not deserve this. He has been wrongly accused and convicted. He is now being wrongly executed.

His death is a perversion of justice. Nothing about this is right.

He knows it, and others around him know it. Yet he does not protest. He does not defend himself. He does not accuse his accusers. He refuses to return insult for insult.

What kind of ruler is this?

“Truly I tell you — today you will be with me in Paradise,” the Gospel says.

One person recognizes this king. One person, one guilty condemned person.

This one person knows what kind of king this man is. And he asks him for a place in his kingdom.

And the king says yes.

That is the kind of king he is. That is the kind of ruler we see here.

The kind who forgives. The kind that refuses to condemn. The kind that welcomes those who are justly condemned into his life and rule.

The kind who promises a paradise where the power of Empire that rules over others with an iron fist will be no longer.

Instead, the power of acceptance. Instead, the power of welcome. Instead, the power of forgiveness. The power to make all things new.

This is our king. This is his throne. This is the kingdom into which he invites us today.

May the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. Amen.

Comments

  1. We can only be known by love, we can only be changed by love, we can only be saved by love.

    God is love.

  2. What I find most interesting in this passage is the words of the thief: “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I think when I first heard that passage as a kid I assumed “come into your kingdom” meant “get to heaven,” i.e. “when you get to heaven, put in a good word for me.” But what the thief is actually saying is, “remember me when you return with all your kingly authority.” That is, he’s looking at Jesus helpless and vulnerable on the cross and somehow seeing that Jesus’ story will end in victory instead of defeat – and that’s what makes the thief’s faith so surprising.

  3. Anglican priest Malcolm Guite writes a sonnet about the ‘disconnect’ between the Church and a ‘hidden King, clothed in humility’:

    “Mathew 25: 31-46

    Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
    Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
    Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
    Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.
    He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
    And seek a welcome from the world he made,
    We see him only as a threat, a danger,
    He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.
    And if he should fall sick then we take care
    That he does not infect our private health,
    We lock him in the prisons of our fear
    Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
    But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
    The praises of our hidden Lord and King.”

  4. john of caddo says

    Elegant, beautiful thoughts one and all. A balm of Gilead, a bent reed not broken this day. Thank you each and Chaplain Mike for this sermon. Peace to you all…

  5. Hello out there in Australia, Susan Dumbrell,

    I just saw a video of a Koala bear being saved from the fires and was very moved by the story. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. This is so very sad.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/11/24/koala-ellenborough-lewis-clings-life-after-daring-rescue-goes-viral/4290224002/

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      Hundreds of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and other native fauna have died or been injured.
      The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is doing amazing work in treating injured koalas.The gofundme page for the hospital has raises $1,000,000.
      Ellenborough Lewis is making a steady recovery and is eating.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    In my church, that Sunday is called The Feast of Christ the King.

    It is also the Sunday where a few years ago Grinning Ed Young of that DFW Mega proclaimed his Seven-Day Sex Challenge. I cannot get over that synchronicity and contrast — Christ the King vs Seven Day Christian Sex Challenge. That says it all.