Sunday, 25 November 2012

In Honour of King Jesus: an Homily for The Reign of Christ Sunday with reference to 2 Sam 23:1-7, Rev 1:4b–8 and Jn 18:33–37

It’s the Last Sunday after Pentecost: the Reign of Christ, also known as the Feast of Christ the King. This week brings Year B to a close in the Sunday lectionary, a year in which, once again, we’ve been through the salvation story of the life of Jesus; his his Advent, birth, life and teaching, healings and miracles, death and resurrection, and on through Pentecost and the long green season where we learned and were challenged on how best to love, enjoy, follow and serve him—all in the key of Mark’s gospel along with some of John’s rich harmonies and counterpoint.

Next Sunday, Advent Sunday, New Year’s Day in the Church’s year, a new one begins—year C in the Sunday lectionary and year one in the daily office lectionary. And it’ll be deja vu all over again, only in the key of Luke.

Fittingly, as we began the year, we also end it. With Jesus. “You crowned the year with your bounty,” as wrote David to the LORD in Psalm 65:11—lovely words from “Israel’s singer of songs” as David describes himself in our Old Testament lesson—I like the ESV’s rendering: “the sweet Psalmist of Israel.” Our year is crowned with the bounty that is Jesus. But now it’s Jesus crowned as King.

The gospel extends to us an invitation. I see it in the first verse, verse 33, where Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” to which, in verse 34, Jesus replies, as he so often does, with another question, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?”

We are all being invited to decide what our answer is to Pilate’s question. We can make believing that Jesus is King—of the Jews, but also of much more—our own idea; not in the sense of it being something we’ve thought up out of our own imaginations, or something second hand that we’ve heard about from others; but in the sense of it being our own knowing and our own believing and trusting. Jesus, are you the King of the Jews? Are you really King of kings? Do you reign? Are you my King? Am I your loyal and obedient subject?

Listen to what Jesus says, v36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus says he has a kingdom. Kings have kingdoms.

Pilate: v37 “You are a king, then!”

Jesus: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Jesus himself says he is a King, born into the world to testify, bear witness, to the truth.

To which, in the next verse, v38 (not in our reading) Pilate responds famously, “What is truth?” The greatest avoiding-the-issue question of all time because if there is no truth, then nobody would need to be born into the world to testify to it and die for it, let alone a king, and if the reality of truth is removed, how can you be a king who’s job it is to bear witness to it, and if you’re not a king why should I listen to your voice or obey what you say?

But if the truth really is in Jesus (Eph 4:21), then part of that truth is that he is King Jesus.

John is clear about it in Revelation when he calls him “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev 17:14).

Look at the Revelation passage. Here’s how John describes the kind of King Jesus is in this morning’s New Testament lesson:

V5: Jesus is

“the faithful witness.” Witness to what? The truth, just as Jesus said to Pilate in the gospel.

“the firstborn of the dead,” risen from the dead.

“the ruler of kings on earth,” King of kings. If only they knew it.

Jesus “loves us.” That can be hard to believe when life is dark and hard. We don’t often feel it. But the love with which King Jesus loves us is not a feeling. It is more. Feelings wax and wane. Jesus-love, agape, for-God-so-loved-the-world love is intelligent, purposeful and requires nothing in return. It is steadfast and unconditional. It sustains us, we’re alive because of it, rather than it just making us feel good.

Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” The only thing pure and strong enough to set us free as sinners and sinned against, to cancel out the sins of the whole world is the blood of King Jesus.

V6 Jesus has “made us a kingdom,” over which he reigns as Christ and King. This church and all Christian churches are part of that kingdom, we are like embassy’s and ambassadors representing His kingdom where we live.

Jesus makes us “priests to his God and Father”—a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We are all ordained as his priests and ministers by virtue of our baptism. You share in most of what I was ordained to do when, by the grace of God, I became a priest in His Church. Royal priests who serve King Jesus, love and serve those around them, nourish others with the riches of God's grace in their own lives, strengthen others, are diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, pattern their lives and those of their families in accordance with the teachings of King Jesus and persevere in prayer both public and private, both for themselves and others. That's how royal priests like you and me behave. (See BAS 646-647)

Listen to what “the sweet psalmist of Israel” says about the kind of King Jesus is in our Old Testament lesson. V4: “he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.” King Jesus is light and brightness, clouds and rain. Things grow and are good when he is allowed to reign.

How can we but bow and offer allegiance to such a King? How can we ever allow ourselves to be half-hearted in our devotion to such a King? How can we not make worshipping and serving him our life’s best effort?

(Prayer of Allegiance)

Back to Revelation: v6 To Jesus “be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

Stay tuned. More on that over the next four weeks.