Sunday, November 25, 2018. Rev. Annamarie Groenenboom, preaching.
Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:1-12; John 18:33-38a
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Today is a very special day in the church year. It’s Christ the King Sunday! I can see from all of your faces that you are just as excited as I am for this popular church holiday.
Christ the King marks the final Sunday of the Liturgical year. It’s one of our newer holidays and was first celebrated in 1925 due to growing secularism and growing indifference to religion. It also marks the final Sunday in the church year prompting several church denominations in Europe to call today “The Sunday of Doom.” Of course, today is the day that all churches should talk about the Second Coming of Christ.
I like this holiday because it prepares us for what’s happening next week. Advent the preparation for the arrival of a Newborn King. Whether you believe this Sunday should remind people of the reign of Jesus Christ or Christ’s Second coming, it definitely gives everyone something to think about.
Today, we read a short section from the Gospel of John. The first time that Jesus encounters the Roman official Pilate. Pilate had just come in from hearing the charges the people brought against Jesus. They say he is a king and they want him killed for it. So, doing his due diligence, Pilate places Jesus on trial. His first question: are you a king?
Jesus doesn’t answer the question very clearly. Instead of answering a typical, “guilty or not guilty,” Jesus responds with his own question: Do you think this or have others told you about me? It goes on from there as Pilate tries to figure out, who this Jesus guy really truly is. But when it comes down to it, Jesus says that his kingdom “is not of this world.” It is no threat to Pilate or Rome. Instead, it’s a Kingdom of Truth.
Knowing that it was Christ the King Sunday I showed up to Youth Fellowship last week and the Wednesday Bible Study and they were more than willing to study this passage with me. I started out with some simple word association.
I asked, “what is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘King’?”. I got all kinds of great responses like England, Royal Weddings, Victoria, Crown, George, and monarchy. As well as Anti-American, violence, and someone who makes the rules.
What I noticed even in my own response, was that none of us said “Jesus.” When we think of Kings, our minds don’t automatically jump to Jesus. We don’t have a focus on Jesus as king because we may choose to identify Jesus with some other title like Shepherd, Teacher, or Son.
We also tend to have a focus on individualism and individual rights. In the United States, we value freedom. We don’t want a king ruling over us. It’s easy to think of a king as being “Anti-American.” The United States set up a Democratic system where are leaders are chosen by the people. In our minds, when we think of kings we think of domination, aggrandizement, and willingness to use violence and worldly means in order to stay in power. We don’t associate Jesus with any of these things. So, today, we ask the same question as Pilate, “Jesus, are you a King?”
Jesus is not like our worldly kings. He is not like the rulers in the Bible or the kings in our world today. Jesus reign and power are so much greater than we could ever imagine. He is the king of all creation. Over heaven and earth. Jesus kingdom doesn’t just span a lifetime, his reign is forever.
But, Jesus is also a different type of King. Jesus is the exact opposite of the kings that we tend to think of. The exact opposite of what we would expect of a King. Instead of dominating others, Jesus welcomes others. Instead of aggrandizement, Jesus is humble. Instead of using violence, Jesus is a shepherd king. He is a king that genuinely cares and loves his people. Who shows mercy and will lay down his life for his people. Jesus is the king that God promised God’s people in the Old Testament like in our Psalm today. Jesus reigns over heaven and earth, but continues to be our humble shepherd.
What’s interesting about Jesus Kingship is the way that he describes it in our Gospel lesson today. Jesus tells Pilate that he is the King of Truth. He has a Kingdom of Truth and all those who hear Jesus will know the truth. Jesus is the ultimate truth that we put our hope in. He is the true King that will reign over all creation forever.
Pilate is someone who is invested in finding the truth. The Emperor of Rome had placed Pilate in Jerusalem and given him the title of Governor. So, you could say that he was a pretty powerful guy. He was responsible for finding the truth in situations. He was also someone who sought to put his hope in the power of a true king. But, Pilate chooses to put his faith in The Emperor and in Rome. He does not see that the ultimate Truth is standing right in front of him. Jesus is the ultimate Truth, but instead of hearing Jesus call to him, Pilate asks, “what is the truth.” He misses the point. He misses Jesus.
But we are not like Pilate. Through this whole church year, we have heard Jesus beckoning us to hear his voice and be a part of his true kingdom. As followers of Jesus, we are blessed to know the truth. We are blessed to be the citizens of the Kingdom of Truth. But what exactly does being a citizen of this Kingdom mean for us?
It means that we strive to be like our King, Jesus Christ. We try to show love in the world when there is so much hate. We try to show mercy, when we could act out of anger or condemnation. We try to act as a community that is under one King instead of a group of individuals that comes together once a week. We try to be obedient to the Truth which guides and orders our lives. Knowing that we will often fail but that Jesus and our community will be there to pick us back up.
We know and have hope in our True King. Being a citizen means spreading that truth and hope to others. We welcome others into the Kingdom of Truth knowing that this Kingdom isn’t some exclusive club, but knowing that the grace and peace God gives us through Jesus Christ is for all of us. With humility and love, we welcome those who are similar and different from us into our community. We love God and we love our neighbors.
What’s great is that we as a community at Lewinsville are already participating as citizens in the kingdom of truth. One example of this was the Lewinsville Thanksgiving Dinner. This past Thursday, many of you gathered at the Lewinsville Retirement Residence for some delicious food, fellowship, and serving. At least 200 meals were served to people from the church and broader community and there were over 50 volunteers some from the church, some from LRR, and some from the community around us.
Many of us embraced this opportunity to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Truth by demonstrating the Truth through service: serving drinks, serving food, greeting people as they walked in, organizing the dinner, or playing music. And many of you embraced the truth by engaging in fellowship with people from the community and each other. It was definitely an event where many of you were able to work alongside and have fellowship with people that aren’t already apart of this community. A time where we could be hospitable, welcoming, and loving.
As we continue worshiping today, and as we leave to go back to our everyday life, we must remember that we are part of a Kingdom of Truth that’s led by our King of Truth, Jesus Christ. We have the blessing to know the answer to Pilate’s questions. Yes, Jesus is a King. He is our everlasting King. Yes, Jesus is the Truth and we have heard him call our names. Let’s embrace the welcome that Jesus has given us into his Kingdom of Truth. And join Jesus in continuing to welcome others. Thanks be to God. Amen.