Christ the King Sunday

King rock

Hello! It's Christ the King Sunday!

Here's a link to today's gospel lesson (if you read the sermie, be sure to read the gospel lesson first): Matthew 25: 31-46

And below is the sermon I preached today.

At first, the gospel lesson freaked me out.
But then it really grew on me.
That seems to happen every week......

If you want to skip the sermon, I'll give you the summary:

Jesus is a very groovy kind of king.

Title: Our King
Date: 11/20/11

Today we celebrate a day called Christ the King Sunday. Once a year, we rejoice in this special day. But in order to really get excited and ready to celebrate, we have to understand what “Christ the King” Sunday is all about. It’s kind of like when you go to a birthday party, or some other kind of celebration. It’s a lot more fun if you know what the party is all about! So today, to really celebrate Christ the King Sunday, we need to unpack what it means that Jesus is our King!

It’s a little tricky to understand what Jesus’ kingship is all about, because most of us have never met or known any other king. Most of the contact any of us have had with royalty is in the movies, on tv, and on stage. And these kings are totally different from Jesus. King Triton from Little Mermaid and Simba from the Lion King. There’s also the king from The King and I, the play being performed right now in Stewartville..

The mental image most of us have of a king is a person with a lot of power. Kings - cartoon and otherwise - usually have people who serve them and do the more difficult work. Kings are wealthy and strong.

A part of what makes Christ the King Sunday so fantastic is that we get to celebrate how Jesus completely redefined the role of King. Jesus was different from any other king who has ever lived, and that’s what we celebrate today!

Think back to some of your favorite stories about Jesus from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What are the qualities of Jesus you most love? I love how he reaches out to people who are hurting and gives them hope. Maybe you like how wise he is - and how he is a great teacher. Maybe you like how he sits with outcasts. Perhaps your favorites stories in the Bible are the miracle stories like when Jesus fed 5000 people or raised Lazarus from he dead. None of these qualities are necessarily what we ascribe to stereotypical kings. But Jesus is a new kind of king - a king who placed compassion, justice, and understanding as some of his most important priorities. Jesus was also a king who died an awful death - and then was raised again. He’s a king who promises forgiveness and eternal life. For all these reasons, we rejoice in celebrating Christ the King Sunday. And we have a special gospel lesson that helps us celebrate this day.

Our gospel lesson for Christ the King Sunday is from the end of the Gospel of Matthew - in chapter 25 of 28 chapters. In the lesson, Jesus is speaking directly to his disciples. In the next chapter, Jesus has the last supper with the disciples, Jesus is arrested, and Peter betrays him 3 times. So today’s lesson happens RIGHT before all that. In this lesson, Jesus is not speaking a scary message of judgment to a giant crowd. Jesus is, instead, speaking to his most devoted followers and trying to help them understand what is MOST important to him. He wants the disciples to have a deeper understanding of what kind of king he truly is; because he knows that THESE ARE THE VERY PEOPLE who would be responsible for carrying on the faith.

When we unpack this gospel lesson and take it all apart, one truth becomes clear: #1: Jesus really, really, really cares how we treat one another. He desires that we‘ll be like the sheep of the story - providing food, and clothing, and time and visits.

It’s an interesting portrait of the kingdom of God that is painted in this gospel lesson. The sheep are there, and as Jesus greets them, the first thing he does upon their arrival in heaven is not to quiz them. He doesn’t ask if they’ve correctly memorized the 10 commandments. He doesn’t check to see their worship attendance. In this gospel lesson, Jesus doesn’t ask the sheep if they believe all the right creeds or know all the right hymns. Instead, Jesus is concerned with how the sheep and the goats LIVED. And it’s not about doing all the right acts at every possible second. It isn’t about keeping a tally of all our good deeds so we can get to heaven and say “See Jesus: I’m a sheep! Put me on your right side.” No way!

The truth is, we’re all sometimes like sheep in the lesson, serving and helping and being loving. But also, we’re all sometimes like the goats, missing out on opportunities to care for others and the world God made. We’re sheep-goats. We are imperfect human sheep-goats. And that’s just reality.

Jesus doesn’t want us to spend our lives obsessively doing good IN ORDER THAT we go to heaven. Instead, Jesus wants us to share the joy of being part of his kingdom in our normal lives! The sheep in the story aren’t doing out of this world, gigantic service projects at every minute. They are just being intentional about being loving and grace-filled in their normal interactions.

Jesus is a king who wants us to value EVERYONE in the same way we value him. He reminds us in this gospel lesson that when we enter into a human interaction, we might as well just assume that person is Jesus. And we should choose our attitudes and actions accordingly. I’ll
be the first to admit. I have a LONG WAY to go in this department. I get super annoyed in long lines. I get annoyed in long meetings. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. I sometimes act like a real goat; and perhaps sometimes you do, too.

The thing is, Jesus isn’t a king who commands us to be perfect. Jesus already died and was raised; we don’t have to be perfect, our sins are forgiven. Instead, Jesus is a king who invites. He invites us to be active members of his kingdom! We are not called to be on the sidelines. We called to be participants. He invites us to look at human beings through fresh eyes. When we look at another human being, Jesus asks us to look at that person as if THEY WERE TRULY the risen Christ.

Christ - our eternal King - is here, as close to you as the person sitting beside you in the pew. On this Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate the joy and gift of being part of Jesus’ kingdom. We celebrate the amazing way Christ reaches out to everyone. And we celebrate the call Jesus gives us all to continue living our lives in a way that all people have the opportunity to experience the great love of our King!

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