-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King

A nice devotional from Rev. Earl Feddersen for Christ the King Sunday:

It is a bit ironic that, as I prepare this editorial for a Sunday that has a theme about last things, I am also preparing the memorial service for my father-in-law. One of the themes for the Sunday of the fulfillment reminds us that, in all things, Jesus is Lord. Some churches still celebrate the day as Christ the King Sunday.

In one of the old M.A.S.H. shows on television, Colonel Potter was trying to comfort or "cool down" an angry Hawkeye, who had just lost a young patient. He said, "Rule number one in war is that young men die. Rule number two is doctors can't change rule number one." Today my wife's family is fully aware that rule number one in life is that people die and doctors can't change that either. On the other hand, this Sunday we remember that Christ rules everything and, because of His death and resurrection rule number one has been dramatically changed!

Celebrating Christ's Kingship is not some ritual, performed annually, but an ongoing act of faith. It recognizes and proclaims the One who is in charge. Since we, Republican and Democrat and Libertarian and Independent types, all like to think we are in charge, this is risky business.

Some people ridicule royalty today. We may not be as cold and calculating as paparazzi or yellow journalists, but we know how to mock and jest and joke. It is more than merely humbling to see, in the Gospel of John, the same behavior among those who participated in Jesus' trial, where He was accused of nothing less than being a king. The soldiers gave Him a scepter -- the same stick with which they beat Him, a purple robe -- the royal colors, and a crown -- prickly and painful. Isn't the king funny -- a big joke?

At the same time, as you read the story, you begin to sense that things are not as they seem. Pilate thinks that he is in control, and Jesus is on trial, but it looks more and more as if the opposite is really true. While Pilate insists he has power, it is the bedraggled and beaten Jew before him Who demonstrates a personal presence and power. Before Herod, the contrast was between a puppet king and a real King. Before Pilate, the contrast is between a power king and genuine Royalty.

When Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world, He was not implying that His kingdom was in some other time or place; He was saying that His kingdom was not involved in the ways and wars of Caesar or any other temporary world power. The Revelation of John has it succinctly when it says that Christ is "the Ruler of the kings of the earth." He is above those who rule by force or coercion, whose authority is as tentative as the next coup or revolution.

But the ultimate question this Sunday still remains, and it is very personal. Jesus is King, of that there is no doubt, but is He our King? Who is in charge for us? Do we shout with the crowd, "We have no king but Caesar"? Do we shiver like cowards with Peter and pretend we don't even know Him? Or do we bow with the nations and people of every language, who were envisioned by Daniel, and worship Him? Do we shout with the whole company of heaven, as envisioned by John, "And He shall reign forever and ever! Hallelujah!"

Shortly after ascending to the throne of England, Queen Victoria attended a splendid performance of that great oratorio by Handel, The Messiah. She had been told in no uncertain terms that members of royalty do not rise with all the others when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung. It was simply not proper.

But when the singers lifted their voices to shout, "Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth," she could hardly remain in her seat. She did not wish to violate the traditions of kings and queens, but when the chorus came to that last grand climax, proclaiming Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, repeating the phrase with increasing crescendos, the queen of all England rose and bowed her head before the King of all, including all kings and queens.

A kingdom of love may not seem like much in a warring and truculent world, but it is still with us, and Caesar's is not. Christ is still King, whether or not Victoria is queen. (Please rise.)

There is a King Whose rule truly is determined by Divine right. Christ is King without regard to a popular vote. He rules if we choose to go deer hunting this Sunday, or play golf, or give homage to the god of the pillow. Nothing we will or will not do this Sunday morning will have any bearing on whether or not He reigns forever and ever. But we cannot avoid the confrontation which ultimately asks whether or not He rules in our lives, is our King, and we, His willing servants.

John's vision of the King Who is Ruler of the kings of the earth inspires him to a song of doxology and praise: "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father -- to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." Those words empower us far beyond the decrees and coercion and force and power of any other king or ruler.

Thank God that the Ruler Whose dominion stretches beyond the earth and over all the galaxies and wonders of all the universe, is the same King Who stood before Pilate and lived the truth of God's love. The One Who is our Judge is the same One Who gave His life as a ransom for us. The One Who calls us to serve Him and live under Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness is the same One Who came not to be served but to serve. The One Who demands obedience from us is the same One Who gave up everything to forgive our disobedience by obeying His Father unto death, even death on a cross.

We close the Church Year, not just standing in awe of, but ready to serve the King Whose power and authority go far beyond not only the resources but even the imagination of any other king. In one short week we will be even more awed and inspired by the knowledge that this same King is the frail and dependent Child Who comes to bring peace on earth, His grace to all women and men.

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