If Jesus is LordLuke 23:33-43
Christ the King Sunday
Pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock, my Redeemer, my Lord. Amen.
This year especially, it seems the world has bypassed not only Advent but also Thanksgiving. Carols are already on the radio, sales flyers are in our mailboxes, my Facebook feed is full of photographs of small children posed with mall Santas already on duty, and I don’t know about your families, but in ours, relatives have requested my children’s Christmas lists, and in one case, the gifts have already arrived…and we’ve been instructed to open some of them! Bring on the holidays!!
But first…there is today.
Those among us who are unaccustomed to the liturgical calendar or who just have terrible memories probably listened to the Gospel today and thought, “What?? We’re getting ready for the birth of Christ, and this crazy lady is killing him!”
What an upside-down kind of celebration, right?
But I think today, as we head into the feasting, light, and joy of Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas, it is particularly important that we hold close the Passion of Christ, because if we stop to think about it, Christmas just doesn’t matter without this story. Without the crucifixion and resurrection, the coming of Jesus of Nazareth would be just the uneventful birth of an obscure infant whose name and existence would be lost to the passage of time.
Jesus has always been an upside-down kind of guy what with all that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” talk, and today we celebrate that he is an upside-down kind of king. We expect a king to be powerful, to be conquering, to be self-sufficient, and to be totally in control. To be a knight-in-shining-armour kind of savior. But in today’s Gospel lesson, we see someone completely different from the king we expect. Jesus is weak. He has been mocked, beaten, dying, and mostly silent. In fact, he only says two lines in the whole terrible scene. “Forgive them.” and “Today you will be with me.” Pitiful. Fragile. Pathetic. How can we look at this man and see a savior? How can we see a king?
“It is because of something the Jews introduced to the world, something that Jesus taught and lived out and died for, something that has become a part of our modern world; the idea that the true leader, the true king, is the one who serves, the one who suffers for the people.
The Jewish idea of a king was that the king ruled under God, not as a God, that the king was responsible to God as were the subjects. This idea was taken further by the prophets, in particular Isaiah, who saw the king, the messiah as the one who suffers on behalf of the people, as a suffering servant.”
This is the King we celebrate. This is the King we serve. This upside-down, not what-we-were-looking-for but exactly-what-we-need, kind of king. This is the King we worship. The one who looks at our imperfections and our ugliness and our hateful behavior and yet still says, “I love you. I even like you. Follow me and today you will be with me in Paradise. I’ll take your wretchedness and make you new and shiny and bright and beloved.”
This is the King we celebrate today.
Our celebration, Christ the King Sunday, “may well be the most counter-cultural festival on the entire church calendar.” Well, thanks be to God. I am grateful for a King who would seek me out. Who would find me in my lowest places. Who would understand how self-righteous and exclusionary and angry and just plain tired I can be. Who chooses to love and to claim me anyway.
So what does that mean for us as the turkey and tinsel, laughter and light creep closer? It means that we stop and really think about what it means to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. That Christ is King.
“Think for a moment about all that we allow to be Lord. And yet, the seminal confession of the church, “Jesus is Lord,” is also a renunciation of everything else that lays ultimate claim on our allegiance.
Think for a moment.
If Jesus is Lord, then self-righteousness is not.
If Jesus is Lord, then exclusion is not.
If Jesus is Lord, then violence and anger are not.
If Jesus is Lord, then the nation is not.
If Jesus is Lord, then my stuff is not.
If Jesus is Lord, then I certainly am not.
Think for a moment.
If Jesus is Lord, _________________________________