November 24, 2013: Christ the King Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we celebrate Your Kingly reign of peace, blessing, justice, and salvation. Although the world is at war, we have peace with God because of You. Although inequity and greed dominate the social order, all of us are blest with intangibles that no earthly ruler can diminish. Although human courts are very faulty, in the end You will punish all evildoers according to their deeds. And although we’re all on the pathway to death, You have given Your life to save our souls and to resurrect our bodies. What a King You are! How blest are we to have You in charge of our lives! Continue to exercise Your power and authority to preserve, protect, and comfort Your subjects in need. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE KING!

TEXT: Luke 23: 35-43

Dear Beloved By Christ, Our King!

If you could have any form of government, what would you choose? Dictatorships get things done because everything rolls up to one person. But power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.—Little people get stomped on. Socialist states reduce everyone down to the lowest common denominator.—Individual freedom and innovation are stifled in favor of the collective masses. Socialism thinks it’s evolutionary, but actually it’s devolutionary. Democracy? It’s messy, slow to change, and the uninformed and lazy have the same say as the informed and hard-working voters. This breeds social discord and injustice. The point is: no system of human governance is perfect.

If I were to hypothetically pick the type of government I would like to see, it would be a benevolent King. I know. It sounds like a throw-back to ancient times. And we certainly have numerous examples of bad kings and abusive rulers who were dunderheads. But imagine a King, a ruler with absolute power, who was wise, just, kind, and hard-working. If such a man wielded absolute power the guilty criminal would never go free, the lazy would never be rewarded, the poor would always be taken care of in a realistic way, the economy would have a stable, level playing field. It would be a semi-paradise on earth. But alas, it will never be since humans govern and humans are sinful and far from all-knowing, or wise.

I

Christ the King Sunday is a fairly modern invention on the church calendar. It has sprung up over the past 40 to 50 years which is nothing compared to 2000 years of New Testament history. But, it’s a good invention and a great way to end the Church year! Because through it we’re reminded that every year ends on a high note. Amid all the frustrations caused by human beings and their political follies, Christ is still in charge of all things and He still reigns over the entire world for the benefit of His Christian subjects. Yes, there is a “court of last appeal” and His name is: Jesus Christ.

This lesson from St. Luke is very familiar to all. We have Christ being crucified on the cross. We see the ruling class sneering at Him and His message: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” We see the military arm of human power, the soldiers, also mocking Jesus, offering Him bitter vinegar and saying: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Even one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus gets into the act and insults and taunts Him. What we see in this portrait is human injustice, human hatred, and human abuse of power in action, don’t we? We see all that is wrong with the world and all that is dysfunctional in man’s attempts at self-governance. And perhaps most of all we see human hatred and rebellion over anything to do with God Almighty and bowing to His will by honoring Him. And yet, there remained that notice above Jesus’ head inscribed at Pilate’s direction: “This is the King of the Jews.” It was meant to be sarcastic, but it stumbled into the real Truth, didn’t it?

II

Remember when Christ tells Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.”? Pontus Pilate could not fathom that answer one little bit. And he governed accordingly, passing the death sentence upon Jesus. Over the centuries, certain nations have dabbled in supposedly “Christian Governance.” Europe espoused the “Divine Right of Kings.” Parts of Switzerland had the clergy rule the nation for a time. Most countries with nominal Christian populations have interjected God into their form of government when it suited them to do so. But in the end, human sin got the better of such pious impulses every time. And that’s because people miss the point of Christ’s Kingship. He’s the King of Hearts and Souls. He’s the King Who doesn’t reign through terror or the sword or gun. He reigns through love. His Kingdom is beyond human sight, sound, or mental comprehension. His Kingdom runs on grace, His gift of undeserved love, and forgiveness which changes hearts and saves souls. He doesn’t care about winning mass elections, but changing hearts one at a time and winning them for eternal life. In other words, human governments are concerned with the here and now, but Christ is concerned with the hereafter. That’s because the eternal realm is where the real “action” is!

One criminal actually got that message. He repented of his sins and came to faith while hanging on the cross next to Jesus. Notice his pointed rebuke of his sarcastic comrade: “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'” The answer he received back is legendary: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

III

My friends, we have a King named Jesus Christ. He is totally kind, totally loving, totally honest, totally just, and best of all: totally forgiving. We see that right here in our lesson in His promise of paradise to a guilty man. I submit to you that this kind of a King is infinitely better than anything humans could ever dream up. Most of us will live on earth for 80 odd years. Even if we had perfect government during that time, then what? Then comes death. Then comes a final accounting before the perfect Judge Who reads every aspect of our hearts. Then comes a guilty sentence and an eternal life of justice—getting what our deeds deserve. Isn’t it better to have a King Who is all about preparing us here for the eternal life hereafter? Isn’t it better to have a King Who sets limits to evil right now, but more importantly frees us from its clutches forever in eternity? Isn’t it better to have a King Who laid His life on the line and gave it up in order to save His subjects? Isn’t it better to have a King Who then rose from that death in our place? Isn’t it better to live with such faith-filled hope and confidence during our tenure on planet earth than to live our 80 years dreading the future?

In all human history, every time human leadership changes, that nation’s people hope for the best. Sadly, over time they are always disappointed. Such human hope and change has always crashed and burned without exception. But under the reign of: Christ the King, as the Bible says: “Hope does not disappoint.” The criminal on the cross learned that ageless truth before he died, and now you have, too. Amen