“Christ Is King, and I’m Thankful For You”
Pentecost, Proper 29A (Christ The King Sunday)
November 26, 2017
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100;
Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46.
Today is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Therefore there is much in the service about “giving thanks”. We have much to be thankful for – even with the problems we have. I also offer a special thanks to God for leading us in giving our faith-pledges regarding how we will return to God our Time, Talent and Treasure in resourcing God’s ministry next year through Holy Cross. Thank you if you brought your commitment sheets with you today.
Today is also the last Sunday of the Church Year, “Christ The King” Sunday. The lessons are always those that speak to the Kingly aspect of who and what Jesus is. For example, the Gospel lesson today is the one dealing with Jesus return to earth in all His glory and his judging of everyone as worthy of entering heaven or not. He separates people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, the sheep on his right hand, the goats on his left. The key lesson is that Jesus considers how we treat each other as indicative of how we would treat him. The implication is clear. If we treated everyone like they were Jesus, we would be ‘loving our neighbor as Christ loves us’. In the Prayers of the People, we will pray these words: “Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.”
This story in Matthew 25, speaks to Christians precisely because it makes us face our lack of desire or inability to treat others as we would treat Jesus – if we knew it was Jesus. After all, we love Jesus and want him to receive our best. And, even if we don’t really love him we would treat him good because he holds the power of heaven or hell over us, and we certainly love ourselves enough to want to end up in heaven, right?
Now, of course if we don’t believe Jesus is really the Judge of the world, King of the universe, then this judgment story is exactly that – a story. It has some application in our lives trying to get us to treat others better, but it cannot change our lives because we don’t believe Jesus will really be judging us.
Today is a Sunday for clearly stating that
Jesus Is King!
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As Paul states it in today’s letter to the Ephesians: 20 God put his power to work in Christ when he raised [Him] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
So, how we think about Jesus matters and how we treat each other matters, and how we treat people we encounter in our journey through life matters. There is someone keeping record of how we treat others and one day we are going to have to give an account for the actions in our lives. The Bible is clear on this and it is a foundational belief of the Christian faith.
In our Opening Prayer I read: “Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords:…” Our Psalm told us, “Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” Paul, writing to us through his letter to the Ephesians tells us that God raised Jesus from the dead and “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (:20). “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (:22).
In the Nicene Creed we say this about Jesus: He is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father… he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
In many ways and words we affirm today this central tenet of our faith – that Jesus is the Sovereign over our lives. He is the One we bow to and worship, and in whose name we serve.
It Is, All About Jesus!
Before I met the resurrected Jesus, I would sit in church services and hear all this adoration about Him and wonder why so many people had drunk the cool-aid? Why was Jesus being worshipped? Why hadn’t that fanaticism died out way before two millennium had passed? It doesn’t make rational sense for humans to worship another human without being made to do it – like the Romans worshipped different Emperors, or the Japanese worshipped their emperor during WWII, or the different kings and queens of European history being treated as sovereigns – having the power of life and death over their subjects? Then it happened. I really opened my heart to the possibility that Jesus was exactly who people had been saying he is. It was a moment of existential crisis in my life. I took the biggest risk I had ever taken up to that time, and that included some risky behavior like jumping out of airplanes and going off to war. I invited Jesus to come into my life – forgive me of my sin, set me right with God the Father, and fill me with his Holy Spirit. And, you know what? It happened. Jesus came into my life and in an instant, I knew. I knew that the Bible speaks truth. I knew that Jesus is alive, that He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and that He is my Savior and my only legitimate shot at going to heaven when I die. In a flash my life changed forever.
It’s not that I became instantly perfect. I had so far to go that I’m still making the trip, but I became a believer in Jesus Christ and I found something worth living and dying for. As flawed as I am – and as you might be as a human, so too is the church.
We Are A Flawed Institution.
If the salvation of human souls depends on any human institution being perfect then we are all in trouble. That is why God sent a savior – a real human being, who happened to be God’s Son, in fact God in flesh. And, that God can, and does, work through an institution filled with imperfect people says more about God’s ability than our inability. The Church is a great institution, not because we are great, but because God is great. Jesus shows us the true nature of God, the heart of God, and puts a face on the invisible God.
So, while I worship God through Jesus Christ, I am thankful for you – my brothers and sisters in Christ. You put up with my flaws, loving me as I am knowing what I can become through God’s healing and love; and I put up with your flaws, loving you and knowing what you can become through God’s healing and love. Together, we represent Jesus Christ, the hope of the world.
I’m proud of you. I’m thankful for you. I’m excited about what God is doing, and what God will do through this little engine that “thinks it can”. This is a year of transition for me and the church. 2018, will be different than was 2017. But, I am also very excited about what God is going to do with us and through us next year. I think next year is going to be the beginning of one of the most exciting chapters in the history of Holy Cross; and you are the resource that God is going to work through. It is your time, your talent, and your treasure that God is going to unleash to make a profound difference in the lives of many people.
God is Doing a New Thing.
It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I see you reaching out, as though it were the most natural thing in all the world to do, reaching out to others in acts of love and service. That might seem natural to some of you, but it is not natural. It is supernatural, and it is happening because the life of Jesus Christ is growing big in our souls.
He is our King, our Savior, our Lord, our God. I am proud to serve Him and proud to be part of your lives and to have worked alongside you in God’s field – tilling, seeding, fertilizing, weeding, watering, praying, and even harvesting – harvesting souls who will become God’s people and the sheep of his pasture (Ps 100:2).
God is Good, all the time. All the Time, God is Good!