Christ the King Sunday -- The Last Sunday after Pentecost (11/22/2009)

 King of kings and Lord of lords

Lessons:     Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14     Psalm 93 (2)     Revelation 1:4b-8     John 18:33-37     Semicontinuous Series         2 Samuel 23:1-7         Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] (9)   Prayer of the Day     Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" 35 Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." 37 Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."


St. John 18:33-37 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. 

What does it mean to call Christ our King? It seems that king is a hard metaphor for us to get our arms around these days. We've never had a king here in the United States. And the few kings that we know seem to be brutal dictators or politically insignificant figureheads. But on this Sunday we call Christ our king, and contemplate what it might mean to live in his kingdom.

The classic image of a king brings to mind one of power and might. The king rules over the entire kingdom, and all of its subjects. Those who consider themselves citizens of that kingdom dedicate themselves to serving their king. When he gives a command, all loyal subjects respond. Whether it is serving in the military, paying taxes, obeying laws, or observing customs... the ultimate desire is to serve the king.

Yet Jesus the king, doesn't rule with power and might. As Isaac Watts would remind us:

He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove, The glories of his righteousness, And wonders of his love.


Joy to the World, by Isaac Watts (1674-1784), Lutheran Book of Worship (C) 1978 by Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis), Hymn #39. 

Perhaps that is why Pilate seems so confused in this Sunday's Gospel lesson. "Are you the king? What have you done? So you are the king?" He doesn't look like a king: this man who has been dragged in by the crowds, bound hand and foot. He looks more like a common criminal.  Are you the king? What have you done? Pilate is confused because he is measuring Jesus against all the Caesars and Procurators and Pharaohs of history. 

Jesus, of course, will be a different kind of king. His rule won't be measured by cities conquered, or regions controlled, or servants commanded, or wealth amassed. His rule will be measured by the hearts he transforms, the needs he meets, the sins he forgives, the relationships he restors, the vision he shares...

This Sunday we commemorate Christ the King Sunday. As we do so, we find occasion to ask ourselves whether or not we truly want to live as his subjects. Is this the king we want to follow? One who leads us in directions that earthly rulers would never consider? One who is more interested in the hurts and pains of others than in amassing his own personal power? One who is willing to take up his cross and die, and who invites us to do the same?

This Sunday we commemorate Christ the King Sunday. May our celebration be genuine. May we honor him for the way in which his kingdom comes to be. And may we dedicate our lives to being his loyal subjects: desiring to live in selfless and loving ways, touching the world as he once did - as he continues to do today... through us. 

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. What did a first century king look like?
  2. What did it mean for Jesus to be a king?
  3. Why did Pilate seem to misunderstand that?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. How does Jesus seek to rule in our hearts?
  2. What does his "kingdom" look like today? Where does he have influence?
  3. How might we live as his followers? What would he have us do?