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Christ the King Sunday

Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, November 22, 2015

Faithful Subjects of the King of Kings

Text: Revelation 1:1-8

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Today is the last Sunday of the Church year. We call this “Christ the King Sunday,” for today we celebrate the reign of Christ. Christ is the ruler over a kingdom that is a vast as the universe, which He created and declared to be good. We Christians are the people who have recognized and submitted to His kingship. We are the loyal subjects of His reign.

It is interesting to me that we Americans speak so easily about being subjects in a kingdom. We live in a democracy. We have never had a king or anything approximating a king. Yet every school child can tell you what a king is. A king is a person with absolute power and authority who rules over a particular people.

• The king’s job is to care for, direct, defend and provide for his people.

• His hope is to unify and mobilize his people for his vision of what the kingdom should be.

• His expectation is that his subjects will honor him and do his bidding.

Why do we know so much about kings? Partly, it is because there is so much monarchy in the folklore of our culture. We are a melting pot of people who came from many nations, and many of them had kings. The fairy tales we hear as we are growing up include stories of kings and kingdoms and subjects. But for us Christians there is another reason we know about kings. We hear about them throughout the Bible. Think about it:

• Pharaoh, the king of Egypt who refused to let God’s people go.

• All the nations who made war against the Hebrew people had kings –

the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebruites.

• The Hebrew people themselves asked for a king in the book of Samuel. You remember that God was displeased, because He was their king. But He gave them Saul.

• David, the greatest of the Hebrew kings, a man after God’s own heart.

• Solomon, David’s son, the wisest and most fabulously wealthy man in the world.

• Ahab, the wickedest of all the Hebrew kings.

• Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who took God’s people into exile.

• Xerxes, whose Jewish wife, Esther, persuaded him to spare God’s people.

• Darius, who threw Daniel in the lions’ den.

• Cyrus of Persia, who set the Hebrews free to return to Jerusalem.

• Herod the Great, the jealous king who tried to kill the baby Jesus.

• His son, Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist.

• His grandson, Herod Agrippa, who killed James and arrested Peter.

This is quite an array of kings we read about in the Bible. Some were good kings, and some were bad kings. Some knew God and some did not. Some kings served God, and some opposed God.

It was in about the 6th Century BC that the prophets began to foretell the coming of a different kind of a king. Jeremiah spoke of Him. (Jeremiah 33:15-18) Isaiah spoke of Him. (Isaiah 9:7) Daniel spoke of Him. (Daniel 2:44) Jeremiah called Him a righteous branch that would sprout from David’s line. Always, He was described as a king who would sit on the throne over God’s people forever. And He would bring them victory and redemption and vindication.

When finally that prophesied king came, He surely was a different kind of King.

• He didn’t suffer from the human sins and foibles of the kings of the earth.

• He was not arrogant or proud.

• He was born in a stable.

• He had no army.

• He had no silver or gold.

• His first subjects were sheep and cattle and shepherds and wise men from the east.

• When He grew to manhood, His followers were a bunch of nobodies.

• And He came into the Holy City riding on a donkey.

• He went like a lamb to the slaughter.

• He wore a crown of thorns.

• As He stood before Pilate at His trial, Pilate asked Him, “Are you a king?” And He answered “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

His kingdom is not of this world, because it transcends and comprehends the world. He is king over the kings of the earth, says the Book of Revelation. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He has all the power in the universe, and yet He is compassionate and merciful. His Kingdom is so vast we cannot find the end of it. And yet He knows every hair on the head of every one of His subjects. He knows our thoughts before we speak. He has a plan for the perfection of His kingdom, and nothing can stand in His way. He is the high and holy one who sits upon the throne of heaven, and all things are in subjection under Him. That is why today, at the very end of our liturgical year, we celebrate Christ the King—because in the midst of all the travails and tribulations of human history, God is in control. And all of history is headed for the glorious conclusion that God has ordained.

As we look around us at all the kingdoms of this world – monarchies, republics, democracies, military dictatorships, Muslim caliphates – we are uneasy.

• Islamic jihad sowing terror around the world;

• The apocalyptic stream of refugees from terror-torn countries

• The crazy despot in North Korea with a nuclear weapon

• The Holy Land torn by age-old hatred

• Iran, committed to destroying Israel

• A renewed belligerence in Russia,

• Boko Haran,

• the Mexican drug cartel

• a resurgence of racial tension in our own country

It seems as if the fallen nature of the kings of this earth has brought the world to a very perilous situation. All the philosophies and political systems and false religions that have tried for a better vision of the world have come to nothing.

Jesus talked about the end times, and said there would be wars and rumors of war, and nations rising against nation. And so it is. He foretold earthquakes and pestilence and famine, and we are seeing all that, too. Are you frightened about all that? Are you frightened by what the Islamic Jihadists are doing? If you are, then remember that Jesus rules over all the kings of the earth. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) And His Word describes how His Kingdom is when all is said and done:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. [Isaiah 11:6-7]

The Bible also says this about His Kingdom:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [Isaiah 2:4]

The Bible also says this about His Kingdom:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,..[Isaiah 61:1]

The Bible also says this about His Kingdom:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:28]

The Bible also says this about His Kingdom:

... the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. [Romans 8:21]

And the Bible says this about His Kingdom:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." [Revelation 21:1-4]

Today, the year ends, and we start again next Sunday moving toward the birth of the Savior on Christmas. The world goes on for us faithful subjects of Christ the King. The world goes on until the Lord comes again. It is these last things that we think of on this last Sunday of the church year. We think of the judgment day. We think of the consummation of human history. And if we had to put our trust in the kings of the earth, we would be in bleak despair. But we know better. For we put our trust in the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one who rules over the kings of the earth.

In a moment, we will baptize Trevor Ghiselin. I will ask him a few questions. I will ask him, “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?” And Trevor will respond, “I do.” This is where Trevor will make it known that he has accepted the free gift of grace that God has offered him in Jesus—the forgiveness of his sins, the new life of a believer, and the promise of eternal life.

Then I will ask him if he puts his whole trust in Christ’s grace and love. And his answer is “I do.” That means he is going to turn over his hopes and expectations to

• the only one who loves perfectly,

• the only one who can deliver on all His promises,

• the only one who holds the future in His hands.

And then I will ask Trevor if he promises to follow and obey Jesus as his lord. Trevor’s answer will be, “I do.” This is the moment when he says to himself, and to us gathered around him here, and to all the world, that Jesus is his king, and he intends to be Jesus’ loyal subject.

Let’s be honest. Those are not easy promises to keep. It isn’t hard to accept God’s free gift. But all of us have times when we do not obey Jesus as Lord—that we are not a loyal subject. We also have times when we find it difficult to put all our trust in His grace and love. Life sometimes deals us bitter losses and crushing defeats. Sometimes the future looks grim, and we can’t see a way forward. At such times it is tempting to ask, “Where is God? Why did God let this happen to me?” And it is tempting to forget that He holds the future and that He makes a way where there is no way. It is tempting at such times to put our trust elsewhere—in get-rich schemes, or alcohol, or painkilling drugs or sexual intimacy.

But our baptismal promise is to put our whole trust in Jesus’ grace and love. And when we keep that promise, He will show the way. For His promise is never to leave us or forsake us.

Trevor will face all these same challenges. That is why I will ask you this question: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in his life in Christ?” And I hope you will respond with a robust, “We will.” The acoustics are wonderful in this room. If you say it like you mean it, your promise will ring loud and true.

And then, after we renew our own baptismal covenant, we will pray for Trevor. We will ask God to give him everything he needs to live as Christ’s faithful subject in the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the weapon of God’s kingdom, and we pray continually for one another and for God’s will to be done, and God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

We are baptizing Trevor into the Body of Christ, that family that transcends space and time. It stretches from the Northern Neck to Nepal and back again around the other side of the earth. It stretches from the days of the first Disciples to this morning in 2015, to the Second Coming and the judgment day and on into eternity. This is the kingdom of our God and of our Christ, the one who was and who is and who is to come. In Him we put our trust, because,

• Nothing can contradict His vision.

• Nothing can thwart His plan.

• And nothing in all creation can separate us from His love.

We await His coming with eager expectation. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom—to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

© 2015 The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar

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