Christ the King –morning
Sunday 24th November 2019
Christ the King – morning
Jeremiah 23. 1-6
Luke 23. 33-43
Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs
We have one more week of the kingdom season – which is why the church is dressed in red – before the beginning of Advent when the hangings and vestments will all be purple. Advent is a time of watching and waiting, but the Kingdom season is full of remembering. And today – the last Sunday in the church year, we remember that Christ is our King – and a King over all time and eternity. We remind ourselves, before we begin the Christian story again – looking forward to God coming to earth as a human baby, and the splendours of the Epiphany season, we remember Christ as sovereign Lord in all things – who was, and is, and is to come.
Old Testament Prophets like Jeremiah had a rather jaundiced view of the kings and leaders of their day – and we might see some modern parallels! Instead of shepherding the people effectively. Feeding and nurturing them, these so-called shepherds were more concerned with feeding themselves and were driving people away from the true faith – the faith of Moses and the Patriarchs.
But all is not lost. Through Jeremiah God declares that he will intervene and lead the flock himself. And a new King will arise – one who will exercise wisdom and justice and righteousness. Jeremiah sees this as a new and mighty King David – harking back to a hero-figure in history.
But God never does do things quite how we would expect!
He does indeed intervene directly into the history of his chosen people, Israel. A special child is born in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. One who does indeed personify all the biblical royal qualities of wisdom, justice and righteousness – and he will end up being executed like a common criminal! A strange sort of King who has only a rough wooden cross for a throne and thorns for a crown!
But Jesus is a king in an entirely new way and new mould. One who is interested and values the lowest and the least in society, who spends quality time with the outcasts, who has no fancy palaces in which to stay, who follows his faith, but who sits very light to all the rituals and rules that govern Temple worship. This is a king who saves his people by sacrificing himself – radical kingship indeed.
And not everyone can handle seeing a king of this kind. He is too unpredictable.
Take for example, the two criminals executed with him. One can only mock him and is full of anger and cynicism. We meet that a lot in our world too don’t we? “If there’s a God, why is there all this suffering: why doesn’t he stop it?!”
The other criminal, faced with the same suffering Christ, is overcome with the sense of his own guilt and asks for forgiveness and a place in Jesus’ realm. “Jesus remember me…. “ Re-member – put me back together again, make me whole, make me one with you!. In Christ all things hold together as Paul reminded us.
As the body of Christ in this place, we have to be prepared for both these reactions as people come to seek for Jesus – and to work with them. There is a time for helping people to express their anger against God and their doubt; There is also a time to introduce them to some of the beauty and mystery that is God and his infinite and unconditional love.
If we are a community that lives under the kingship of Christ, then we too need to demonstrate those regal qualities of wisdom, justice and righteousness – whether we are rich or poor, Prince of the realm or ordinary Joe Soaps.
Wisdom: that realizes that while faith may be simple, it is seldom black and white, that people are complex and that God is full of surprises and calls us to grow and to change.
Justice: that all may be equal in the sight of God, irrespective of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, wealth or poverty. We are to be a just community that champions the oppressed and fights for the least.
Righteousness: a community of integrity and truth; whose behaviour is transparent and filled with the Holy Spirit, those who long for God to make peace and reconcile all things.
Wisdom, justice and righteousness; and if we can embrace these, then we will also be prepared to sacrifice ourselves so that others may be saved by Christ. To go out of our way to welcome others into his family – even when they may not look or speak or act quite like us. To go the extra mile for those in need.
During the next few weeks we may have various visitors and guests into our fellowship and it really matters that we continue to work at our welcome to one and all. Outsider and stranger and family member alike. All come seeking something of the meaning of Christ – all come wanting to see Jesus. Will they be disappointed when what they find, is us?
So let’s keep encouraging others and each other to seek for God. Let’s demonstrate that this is a community that believes Christ is King deeply and takes his kingship seriously, and let’s go out of our way in the coming season to help people say: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”.