The following is a sermon I preached on Christ the King Sunday in 2004. The gospel text for that Sunday is the one that will be used this coming Sunday.
“Fit for a King”
November 21, 2004 (Christ the King Sunday)
Community of Grace Christian Church
St. Paul, MN
Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the Church Year which begins with the first Sunday in Advent, which is next Sunday. It is on this Sunday that we are reminded of Jesus as our King, our Ruler, our Lord.
I consider it a stroke of coincedence that this past week saw the opening of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The building is stretches out towards the Arkansas River reminiscing the former president’s phrase of being a “bridge to the 21st century.” The library is like most presidential libraries in that it is a history of the person and the times. There is a replica of the Oval Office, one of the presidential limos and other memorablia from his time as our president. There is also an exhibit of le affair Monica.
Presidential libraries are fascinating because they tell the story of people who ended up as one of the most powerful persons in the world. They basically tell the story of their ascent to power. You will see pictures of them meeting with other heads of state and how the handled various events that happened under their watch. For someone like myself, who loves politics and history, I would find this interesting.
Even though we Americans don’t have kings, our presidents are pretty powerful people. We know how a leader is supposed to act. So, today’s gospel text is sort of interesting because it shows not powerful person, but one who seems at least to be powerless. How can we call Christ a King when he is being crucified like a common criminal between two real thieves?
I started to think about what would happen if there were a Jesus Christ Messianic Library? What would it have in it that would reveal something about this person we call Christ the King?
Well, let’s imagine that we are taking a trip to this library. The building is shaped like cross. As we enter, the first exhibit is one of a common stable with animals milling about. The exhibit’s title is “Birth of a King.” It explains that Jesus was born to a young teenage girl. It also explains that Jesus was born in a stable because all the hotel rooms in Bethlehem were booked. The exhibit also includes replicas of shepherds kneeling in front of the baby. We are told by one of the museum guides that shepherds were considered ritually unclean because they dealt with sheep and yet the angels appeared to them and told them of the glorious news.
We keep walking. The next exhibit has Mary and Joseph as if they were on the run. Mary is carrying a baby that seems about two years old. We read that Mary and Joseph had to leave their home in order to protect the baby Jesus from King Herod. Herod was the king appointed by Rome to rule over the Jewish people and he had heard of this “new king.” Afraid that he would lose power, Herod ordered the killing of all male babies under the age of two. Mary and Joseph were warned about this impending plot by an angel and fled to Egypt. The young child was already considered a threat to those who worshipped power.
We then keep walking and encounter an exhibit called the “Calling of the Tax Collector.” It’s a video exhibit and it has an interview with a tax collector called Zaccheus. He explains that tax collectors were not liked by the people because they were agents of Rome and therefore collaborators. Tax collectors also tended to take a little more from people than the required tax in order to line their own pockets. He says that one day he heard that Jesus was coming to his town. He wanted to see this guy. Problem was that he a short guy. The people of the town knew this and made sure that he couldn’t see Jesus coming down the street. Zaccheus then said that he climbed a tree to get a bird’s eye view. He saw Jesus coming down the street and then was shocked when Jesus told him to come down since he was going have lunch with him today. He did and then explained that he gave away his riches in order to repay those he ripped off. He explained that his life had been changed.
We keep walking and look at other scenes from Jesus’ life. None of them are really glamourous, but stories with common people. The encounter with a Samaritan woman. Or the one where a woman with blood disorder was healed only by touching his garment.
Towards the end of our visit we enter a grand room. In the center is a replica or three crosses. This room explains the crucifixion of Jesus. It talks about his arrest by the religious leaders and how they influenced the Romans to put Jesus to death. There are also talk of his being toutured. We see his crown of thorns. We see the garments that the Roman soliders gambled for. We also see the sign on the cross that says, “King of the Jews.” It was meant to be a cruel joke.
There is more to be seen of this library, but we will get to that later. However, at the end of our visit there is a plaque that reads:
“You are now leaving the Jesus Christ Messianic Library. Jesus is not like all other rulers. He didn’t assume power. He met with the forgotten of society. He offered forgiveness to people who did things that were considered unforgivable. He crossed the boundaries of class and gender. In the eyes of the powerful, he was forgettable. In the eyes of those who have faith in this man, he made all the difference in the world.”
The King that we worship is one that was born to poor parents in a backwater of a great empire. He was born a helpless baby. He then lived a life as a poor itinerant rabbi and was killed by the authorities because he was a bother to them. And yet, this supposedly forgettable person has changed everything. The writer of Colossians says that Christ we have forgiveness us sins and we are redeemed in Christ. He goes on to say that he is the image of the invisible God, the one that is powerful than any earthly ruler.
As Christians we worship a person that was and is the Servant King. He lived to serve others, to love and to forgive. This is our King. This is the one that we follow. This is the one whose life we are to imitate.
That’s what this day is all about: remember the One who had power and gave it up for the betterment of all.
Image: Jesus Carrying the Cross, Speaking to a Woman. Stained-glass composition by J. Le Breton (glass studio of Gaudin, Paris), 1933.This is a conflation of John 19:17 and Luke 23:27-29, the Veronica legend.