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Christ the King, November 20, 2016

Sometimes I sit at my desk with a long list of things to do. When I am overwhelmed by my list, I know that I can say to myself, “First things first.” What is the most important thing for me to do? What is the most urgent thing for me to do? What do I have time to do that would move my agenda forward. Often I pray about it. Sometimes there is a clear answer, like “You need to write the sermon before you do anything else today.” Sometimes there is no clear answer, but a sense that whatever I do first, everything else will get done.

For us as Christians, it is unquestionable what is first. Jesus is first. Following Jesus is the most important thing in our lives. We need Jesus to show us how to live our lives, what we can do to love God and neighbor. We need Jesus to save us from the power of death. We need Jesus to shape our worldview, set our priorities and help us produce the good fruit that he wants from each of us.

On the Feast of Christ the King, we remember that Jesus is first, that he is king of our lives and king of the world. He is the Word made flesh, the one that all eyes turn to so that he may give us the food we need, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to live our lives according to his will. We live in this world but we belong to Christ’s kingdom. Sometimes, it is a temptation to follow the cultural norms. But our job is to follow Christ’s norms. Jesus is first – the one whose rule is all-encompassing. There is not one thing outside his rule in the whole created order and we are to do his will to the best of our abilities in order to gain our souls.

Jesus is King of the Universe. He is the cosmic Christ. He is the one who was there before there was anything. All things were made through him, says John, and without him not one thing was made, not only the physical things we can see, but our air, our spirits, and other things we cannot see. He also is the supreme ruler, having created all the powers that be on the earth.

The universe was made not only through Jesus but for Jesus. God made the universe through Jesus the Word for him to rule and to take care of. God the Word is the one who set into motion the way he wants to work the world. He has chosen to make it a kingdom of love and compassion and mercy. God and Jesus are intimately connected – Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the one we can see, the one we can sense God through. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. God is in Christ, which is why Christ is divine. Christ holds the universe together – keeps it working and moving and growing. Jesus is continually creating, continually redeeming and continually sanctifying, working to grow good fruit to be his hands and feet on earth.

Jesus is King of Glory. Not only is he first in creation, he is first of the new creation. He is the first born of the dead. In his death and resurrection, God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his Son. We are no longer ruled by the powers and dominion of this world or by Satan and his hosts, we are ruled by a king who loves us, redeems us and forgives our sins. We see life from a new perspective, a life with all the saints in the light. No more stumbling about; we see things clearly not as they are but as they were meant to be. No more darkness, because Christ in his glory is our light and our life. Our life direction is clear, our growth is encouraged and our fruit is good fruit produced for the glory of his name to praise and thank him for all he has done for us.

Because Jesus is King of Glory, we can rely on him to help us. It is his strength we need to get through tough times – even to get through a hard day. It is in him that we can hope to be patient and enduring when our faith is challenged, when we are persecuted and when we have to testify to the importance of Christ in our lives. It is in him we can be all we are called to be. Jesus Christ is first because he helped create the universe and first because he inaugurates the new creation, a new state of being that is open to us.

Jesus is King of Love. He made peace for us by his blood on the cross. Jesus, the cosmic Christ, the one before anything, consented to be human, to share our lives including our poverty and our suffering. Jesus did not save the world through strength. He saved it through vulnerability. He saved it for all time and for all people and things. Jesus, labeled a criminal by the authorities, was crucified with other criminals at Golgatha. He suffered and bled and died for us in a horrible way. But through it all he remained true to God’s will. Jesus’ preaching God’s message of hope and good news about the kingdom had brought him to this place and he continued to preach it by being willing to die. The authorities mocked him and taunted him to save himself. The soldiers mocked him and repeated the taunt. Finally one of the thieves too argued that if he was the Messiah, he should save himself and save the criminals too. Jesus was human and it was a great temptation to make his way easier, to come down off the cross, to show his power, but he loved us and God had showed him the way to keep loving us, which was to give his life to give us new life. The choice was clear. He couldn’t save himself if he wanted to save us.

As part of Jesus’ kingship of love, Jesus forgave the people who crucified him from the cross. He forgave his enemies, those who had been instruments of his death. Another lesson from the “King of the Jews”, the King of Love, about what the kingdom is like. The second thief spoke the truth about himself and his sin and asked Jesus to remember him when he became king. Jesus forgave him and promised him a place in paradise.

Jesus is king, not only as the cosmic Christ, the King of the Universe, who created, or the resurrected Christ, the King of Glory, reigning in his kingdom, he is the King of love on the cross – a vulnerable king, a suffering king, a bleeding king, a king like no one had ever seen before, because no one could love like this except God incarnate in Jesus.

Jesus is king. Jesus is first in all things. And we are called to put Jesus first in our lives. We are called to seek God’s will in all that we do. We are called to go forth and spread the gospel by testifying to Jesus’ kingship. We are called to go forth and spread the gospel by seeking and serving all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are called to be the devoted subjects of a king who drew nearer and nearer to us until at last he became a human being for our salvation. Over the next few weeks, we will celebrate his coming as a tiny, vulnerable baby, not an earthly ruler but a heavenly one. We will celebrate the fact that Jesus has promised that he will return to us, to take us to himself, so that we might be with him. We will celebrate the paradox of God – Jesus, the ruler of the heavens, the King of the Universe, willing to give up strength and power of a ruler for the vulnerability of a human being.

It is easy to put Jesus the King before all the things we don’t want, like and need, but it is hard to put him above what we consider all the necessities of life. But disciples put Jesus first over everything, and we are disciples. And with prayer and the grace of God, we will reorder our lives and put Jesus first. 

Amen

     - Rev. Ann Barker