11-22-15--Christ the King B

Readings for Christ the King B

Today is a kind of church New Year’s Eve—the last Sunday of the Season After Pentecost, the last Sunday before we begin a new church year with the Season of Advent.  You notice I’m not wearing green as I have for most of the Sundays of this long green season stretching all the way back to May—but white, the festive church color.  Because as most Eve’s do, this church New Year’s Eve somewhere along the way turned into a party—a party called the Feast of Christ the King.

Now Christ the King may seem like a kind of antiquated concept—after all, we find royalty quaint, and even fascinating, as celebrities—but they don’t actually have any power anymore, right?  What’s interesting is that Christ the King is a relatively new feast day—it was established by Pope Pius the 6th in the democratic era of the 20th century, in 1925.  In the aftermath of World War I, then called the Great War and thought to be the “war to end all wars,” Pius was troubled that rivalry among nations seemed to be growing even worse than it was before, and that the “armed peace “ in which they were living was scarcely better than war.  He believed that true peace would only come when individuals were ruled in their minds, hearts, and lives by the Prince of peace.

We live in a world today where the violence of war has transcended the battlefield.  Whether from random gunmen or terrorist attacks on people simply going about their lives, or from drones reining down death on villagers, the effects of war are felt now heavily by those who are not fighting. 

Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world; that if it were, his followers would use the tool of this world—violence—to get and keep power.  But Jesus’ kingdom is a different kind of kingdom.  I have to tell you—that surprised a lot of people!  When Jesus was arrested, Peter was ready to lead the defensive—he pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  His followers expected him to march triumphantly into Jerusalem and overthrow the Roman oppressors—this was the role of the Messiah, the anointed King of the Line of David—to fulfill God’s promise to David and rule over Israel forever.  Some people believe that’s why Judas betrayed him—because he was so let down when he realized that Jesus was not going to conquer Rome.

Have you ever been that let down—that disappointed, maybe even by God?  You had a dream, a lofty vision, like David’s vision of the Messiah—“One who rules over people justly…. is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”  And it just turns out so differently.  It turns out to be the one who you thought would fulfill that vision, in shackles, beaten and bleeding, on trial before the governor.  Sometimes, our greatest hopes turn into our greatest trials and disappointments.

Does that mean God is not at work?  Does that mean it’s over?  I recently told a friend, “You know, it’s possible that God may have different plans (for St. Luke’s) than I have.  And it’s possible—just possible—that God’s plans might even be better.”  Or as the character Sonny in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel says, “We have a saying here.  Everything will be alright in the end.  And if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.”  Or as Muriel tells Evelyn, “Most things don’t turn out how you plan.  But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”

God is at work, my friends.  God is at work in our hearts and minds, in our lives, in our families, in our church, in our schools, in our communities, in our nation, and in our world.  God is at work, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace still reigns.  God is doing better things than we can ask for or imagine.  But there are other forces fighting mightily for control.   And God’s work, this Jesus movement, is a somewhat undercover operation.

What is at stake this morning is the very first step in that chain reaction of change—35 minds and hearts here this morning.  Will we allow ourselves to be filled and controlled by our disappointment, our anger, our fear?  Or will we be ruled instead by the Prince of Peace, the Truth, faith and hope, Jesus’ graceful way of love.  Facing what we face, each of us must make that decision for ourselves.  We have a choice, this morning, and every morning, indeed every hour of every day.  To choose fear, or faith.  To choose hope, or despair.  To choose forgiveness and freedom, or bitterness and anger.  To choose violence, physical, or violence of the mind and heart, or to choose peace.

We have the choice.  But the thing is, the end, though not yet here, is already written.  As Martin Luther King Jr., our contemporary prophet, said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Violence cannot drive out violence, only love can do that.”  Our disappointment, our anger, our fear are real—and even justified.  But what we do with them will make all the difference. 

Beloved, there is more than one priest here today.  We are all priests—all called to mediate the reconciling love of God to the world.  We are a kingdom of priests serving our God, working in this undercover operation to help God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  As John writes in Revelation, “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  And Amen.

 

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C. 2015 The Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga 

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