Friday, December 08, 2006

Sermon for Christ the King by Father Lee Nelson...

“His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.”

These words from the Book of the Prophet Daniel, I speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

“It’s good to be king, if just for a while
To be there in velvet, yeah, to give 'em a smile
It's good to get high, and never come down
It's good to be king of your own little town

Yeah, the world would swing if I were king
Can I help it if I still dream time to time

It's good to be king and have your own way
Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day.“

Not that I cite the rock star Tom Petty as an authority, but he does point out the dreams of many of us.

Men often tend to think about what life would be like if they could do anything, think anything, say anything.

“If I were president of the company…”

We often talk about our homes as our castles, and our wives as our queens. If only we were a bit more chivalrous.

I must admit to having said on a number of occasions – if I were the bishop. A friend of mine likes to say it another way “when I’m the bishop.”

Women might think about it a different way, perhaps about being princess for a day, girls looking forward to their wedding day, and women looking back on that glorious day, before the kids and the mortgage and all the rest.

We all want to believe exactly what Tom Petty tells us:

“It’s good to be king and have you own way – Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day.”

But, none of us are kings, none of us are queens. In fact, it is doubtful that very many of us have lived under their rule. And, my guess is that if you asked them, they would say they almost never, ever, get their own way, let alone getting a feeling of peace at the end of the day.

The problem is that being a king has very little to do with total power and authority, it has very little to do with having one’s own way.

Most Kings, in fact, never really wanted to be king anyway – they’re kings – not because they wanted to be, but because they are. Throughout history, kings have become kings, not because of ambition, but because they were born into it, or because the people demanded that they be put on the throne.

So, we can say so far that a king is a king by right, usually of birth.

But, what is a king?

The English word for king simply means what we’ve said before – one who is descended from noble birth.

The Latin word, however – “REX”, comes from the word regere, which means “to keep straight, to guide, to lead, and to rule.”

It is not enough to merely be king, a king should be kingly, and in this, it is the king’s authority and prerogative to keep the kingdom and its subjects on the straight and narrow, to guide them, to lead them and to rule over them.

Kings who are not kingly wind up being tyrants and oppressors of the people.

Good kings know how to truly lead. Very rarely will you find a good king in history who does not lead his armies into battle himself. He leads, he does not push. He leads by example – his example of courage, of wisdom, of moderation, and of justice.

The corrupt king forces his armies where he will not go himself, the good King leads his people to where he already is.

The corrupt king is an oppressor – he crushes the people for his own gain – he does not care for them and their well-being – he does not love the.

The good King rules over his people, not as an oppressor, but as a benefactor – one who wills and works for their good. He denies himself.

So, as catchy as Tom Petty’s lyrics are – the king does not have his own way and peace at the same time. It is rather through self-denial that the king can have peace in his kingdom.

“To him was given dominion and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.”

The words of the prophet Daniel describe a vision he has of the end of days. In this vision, he sees the Court of Heaven, the Ancient One seated on his throne. The beast is killed, and all evil is put to an end. Then, Daniel sees “one like a human being, coming with the clouds of heaven.” This man is presented to the Ancient One, and to him is given everlasting kingship and dominion.

Who is this man?

Daniel did not know of the Messiah, he merely expected Him.

He is rather the one who has the Divine and human birthright – one who is both Son of David, and Son of God. He is the one who in one person is both perfect God and perfect man.

Thus, it is no coincidence that the Gospel writers Luke and Matthew take such great pains to establish the genealogy of Jesus Christ, whom they believe is the King of David’s line, as well as being whom they claim he is for the rest of their Gospels, the Son of God. Matthew proves that Jesus of Nazareth is, by divine right, the King of all Israel.

But, that is the easy thing to prove, isn’t it?

As we have already said, genealogy – while it may make a man a king – it does not make him a good king, let alone kingly.

What Matthew spends the rest of the Gospel doing is showing that Jesus Christ is that very thing. This is done by Jesus proclaiming, not himself as king, but the “kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great price.”

In this kingdom, the first are last, and the last first. It belongs to little children.

The kingdom is described through parable after parable, in which Jesus describes how that kingdom will be, and how it is.

In so doing, he describes his own kingship.

On this Feast of Christ the King, let us focus on how Christ is the King.

We have said that the King is to keep the kingdom on the straight and narrow. This is the part of kingship which deals with order, discipline, and justice.

The King establishes the law. And Jesus Christ, the divine law giver, establishes the divine law, writing it on the hearts of men. The important commandments you know: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heard , and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

He who acknowledges Christ as King pays homage to him by keeping His law, he is obedient. No good citizen observes only the laws that are convenient, or the ones he likes, he keeps all of them. This means that the subject of Christ the King cannot claim loyalty as a subject by being obedient in one regard and disobedient in another.

He cannot love God while committing adultery. He cannot love his neighbor while not observing the Sabbath.

Christ the King establishes order through His giving of the law, we see this in the Sermon on the Mount – new commandment after new commandment, Jesus expounding the commandments with authority to do so.

Christ the King also disciplines. The word “discipline” comes from the Latin for “student” – discipulus. The word essentially means keeping the students the students and the teacher the teacher. Have you ever been humbled or taught a lesson? You have been disciplined. Take heart, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says that this means that God loves you! Discipline, from the perspective of Christ the King, is for your good, to keep you in his care.

The next part of keeping the Kingdom on the straight and narrow is the establishment of justice. Isaiah writes that the Messiah “will not fail or be discouraged until he has established justice in the earth.” The biblical conception of justice has little to do with righting wrongs or legal justice. It has everything to do with charity. What Isaiah means is that the Messiah will care for the poor, for the oppressed, for the widow, and for the orphan. For those of us who are rich, that should leave us at least in some wise, fearful of the Kingdom of Christ. Christ the King does not show favor to the rich – he shows no partiality – but He will care for the least, the lost, and the lowly. This is what good kings do!

Next, a king is a leader.

We have said that leadership is not all involved in pushing – making someone go where you are not. It is rather consumed with bringing others to be where you are. Was not this the patter of Jesus in his earthly life? Did he not give invitation to his disciples to walk with him, to be with him, to live in his way?

Jesus Christ is a King who calls. He does not call anyone to be where he is not. He says, “when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.” If you struggle with knowing where you are called to be, know this, Christ the King is a leader – He calls his people to be where He is.

But, it is more than that. Jesus Christ takes upon himself full humanity – He is tempted, he has hunger, he struggles, he prays, he suffers, he dies, is resurrected, and ascends to the right hand of the Father. In life and in death, we can know that He has been where we are, and He has triumphed!

He calls us to take on His character, given to us in grace, and to triumph with Him.

The most important part of kingship is this, the king does not say: “It’s good to be king, and have your own way, get a feeling of peace at the end of the day.”

No, the king gives of himself.

He empties himself.

He does not have his own way. On the night before he dies, he says to the Father, “not my will, but thine.” And it is the will of the Father that He be handed over to the hands of sinners. He does not have his way.

They crown him, not with gold, but with a twisted ring of thorns. He does not have his way.

They wrap him in a purple robe, and he doesn’t say with Tom Petty, “It’s good to be king, if just for a while
To be there in velvet, yeah, to give 'em a smile” The robe clings to his bloodied back, absorbs His precious blood.

His throne is not a throne of dignity, it is a throne of shame. His throne is the cross, and above it is written “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” or in Latin, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, from which we get the initials I-N-R-I.

There He dies, on his throne of shame, crowned with thorns, emptying himself for the good of the people.

Yet, “his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.”

He will reign into eternity, Christ the King.

Come, let us adore him.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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