26 Nov A Different Kind of King
With all the hustle and bustle of peppermint mocha laced shopping sprees, or tryptophan induced binge sessions of football. And each year thrown into the mix is Christ the King Sunday.
The Feast of Christ the King was first observed in 1925 at the decree of Pope Pius XI. The Pope was worried believers were being lured away from the church by increasing secularism in the world. If you can imagine that! The more things change… the more they stay the same. But one thing that hasn’t changed is since that time the church has celebrated the last Sunday in our church year. A new church year begins next week with the Season of Advent, But this last Sunday is celebrated as Christ the King.
And maybe it seems a little out of place, a little too “Good Friday-ish” to be hearing about Jesus standing before Pilate, when Feliz Navidad is playing on the radio. Mary hasn’t even told Joseph she’s pregnant yet and Jesus is being condemned. But everything we’ve heard this past year has led up to this point and this revelation. From a baby in a manger to Son on a cross. Through all the teaching and preaching of 26 weeks in the season of Pentecost. To arrive at the Truth.
What is Truth?
This year in stories about Jesus we have heard a lot about TRUTH. That the Word became flesh and lived among us, a Fathers only Son full of grace and TRUTH. That the law indeed was given through Moses, but grace and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ. That there was a man sent by God, named John, who testified to the TRUTH. And that through Jesus you will know the TRUTH and the TRUTH will make you free. Jesus taught us I am way and the TRUTH and the life. And promised the disciples to send the Holy Spirit, which He describes as the Spirit of Truth.
And today He confirms that for this reason he came into the world, to testify to the TRUTH. And Pilate is looking for the TRUTH. He wants to know if Jesus is a King that might in some way threaten his Kingdom. He could care less if he is the Messiah, he says “I’m not a Jew am I.” This is a political charge against Jesus, And for Pilate the TRUTH was whatever would keep the peace and keep him in control.. And today the TRUTH is a pastor can’t mention the word TRUTH from the pulpit without being accused of being political. Despite the fact TRUTH is mentioned 27 times by Jesus in the gospels alone. But the more things change the more things stay the same… For people in charge of modern Kingdoms, what we would define as a Kingdom. The TRUTH is whatever is needed to keep them in control and in power.
And therein lies the rub. Jesus knows and explains that his Kingdom is not of this world. Earlier this year he burst onto the scene in the first chapter of Mark saying, The Kingdom of God has come near! The Kingdom is compared to a man who scattered seed on different types of soil. It was liked to a tiny mustard seed that grows into a massive tree. We are told the Kingdom belongs to little children…To the poor…And that it’s better to enter into it with one eye if the other is causing you to sin.
Truth and The Kingdom
When Jesus sends the disciples out 2 by 2 he tells them, cure the sick who are there and tell them the Kingdom of God has come near. We’re told that nobody can enter the Kingdom without first being born of water and Spirit. And he explained to the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed. He says the truth is that the Kingdom of God is among you and that Kingdom is not of this world.
Call me crazy but it almost feels like throughout his ministry and his life, Jesus is trying to tell us something about the TRUTH of the KINGDOM. And he truly is a King like none we have ever seen. One who hangs out with the least and the lonely, Who came to serve as opposed to being served, Who had no place to lay his head. A King who was born in a barn and rolls into town on the back of a donkey.
And throughout the New Testament we see that His Kingdom is not about defining TRUTH, But actually IS the TRUTH. One author asked “What if we began to think of His Kingdom not as content but of character?” For example, a Kingdom not ruled by a King but by a Commitment. A Kingdom that is not a thing, but a person. And I think that’s the point. That’s what Pilate misses and the Kingdoms of this world can’t understand. That the Kingdom of God was never a physical place but a spiritual position, Never a book of laws but a way of being, The embodiment of life lived with LOVE and MERCY and GRACE…
A Kingdom without Borders
We are programmed from childhood to think of Kingdoms as physical places with borders, with Kings and Queens and Armies, as opposed to an earnest commitment to the causes of peace and justice and righteousness and love and freedom for all people. And we all know what happens when you question the authority of a traditional Kingdom. You end up hanging on a cross, or strangled in a consulate. Again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s risky business to challenge a Kingdom.
So, many times we remain silent, we play it safe and pretend it’s none of our business. Besides if it’s not impacting our place in the kingdom why should we care? And that is a very hard thing, and a difficult proposition to put our finger on, As to why we think this way. But we all do in some aspect of our lives, I’d be lying if I tried to stand here and tried to tell you I haven’t. But Kingdoms are very adept at staying in power. One author summarized that, “The kingdoms of this world bank on sowing suspicion and authorizing autonomy. The kingdoms of this world depend on individualism and everyone for themselves alone. The kingdoms of this worlds insist that hierarchy will establish successful rule and that a ladder mentality, that keeps people in their proper places, is the mark of achieving and accomplishing leadership.
But that’s not what the Kingdom of God is about. That’s not what the TRUTH is about. And as the children of God we are called to bring the Kingdom near in this time and place, with the Spirit of Truth by our side. We can’t stand by and wait for Jesus to do our bidding for us, that’s not our call. Each week we gather and are sent out into the world to be the Kingdom. To choose PEOPLE over POWER, To choose COMMUNITY over CULTURE, RELATIONSHIPS over RULERS and LOVE over LAW. Which is not an easy task. And it takes a commitment each and every day. Daily dying and rising with Christ to be Kingdom People in the world. People who understand that the only borders in the Kingdom are the ones we put up by the limits of our faith in Christ and love for one another.
Led by the Spirit
But when we open up to have the Spirit of Truth be our guide in testifying to the truth, we are offered up a chance to see the Kingdom breaking through in magnificent ways. I saw that in our Thanksgiving meal this year, In the efforts of nearly 150 volunteers, who have made service their Thanksgiving tradition. I saw it in the conversations happening around the tables. People of all colors and classes and creeds and ages sharing a meal together, it looked like the Kingdom of God.
I’ve seen the Kingdom breaking through in the faith of a family who came together to celebrate a life that was, and give thanks for the times they had even though it all ended too soon. I’ve seen it on a cold Sunday morning down on the capital square in the commitment of our marathon runners. I’ve seen it in the trust of our Feed My Starving Children team who have prayerfully committed to doubling the size of our mobile pack this year. A true leap of faith.
The Kingdom of God is here and is happening all around us if we open our lives to the truth, Jesus said the Kingdom of God is among you, That we are the Kingdom… That you are the Kingdom… Sent out today to testify to the TRUTH that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son So that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.