Christ the King Sunday

2021-11-21 – Year B – Christ the King Sunday – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Daniel 7:9-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:1-8; John 18:33-37

Lord Jesus show us a fresh what it means to hold you as Lord of our life. Show us a fresh what it means to bend the knee of our heart to your kingship, Goodness, and mercy. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

We are at the end of Ordinary time in the church calendar. It is meant to be a season of growth and learning of the Lord. It is meant to reflect large seasons in our lives when things are going fine and we are easily learning and growing. That is why our liturgical color is green in that season. You can think of growing grass or flourishing trees and of long seasons when you are cruising along in your life just living. One of the great gifts we have in being a part of an Anglican church is the gift of liturgical seasons which are meant to reflect our lives as Christians in the world. Each season is meant to take us deeper with Christ and to give us an awareness that our lives will have ups and downs. Our lives will have moments of profound suffering, profound grief, profound joy, or just the ordinariness of everyday life. The liturgical life is supposed to help us reflect on our own lives and see which season of life we are living, and see how God might be shaping us. Each of us goes through seasons when we feel crunched, under pressure, bored, or sad. The Lord desires for each of us to ponder in our hearts what He might be doing and how He wants us to grow in us more fully. 

Christ the King Sunday is the turning point from ordinary time to a series of liturgical seasons that change every fours weeks or so giving way to the dramatic storytelling of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection in this world. Christ the King Sunday is the Sunday before Advent 1. Advent is the season in which we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus as a helpless baby and not just run around crazy getting ready for Christmas. The colors on the altar will change from green to purple indicating a season of sorrow, repentance, and turning away from that which draws us away from God. The proclamation we are to make today in preparation for the beginning of Advent is that Jesus is King and Lord of all. 

The Gospel passage today brings us to the Gospel of John when Pontius Pilate was questioning Jesus after the Jews had grown weary of his teaching and miracle working. The Jews wanted the Roman government to put Jesus down and to silence His ministry that seemed to be challenging their own faith and drawing people away. They did not have a means to bring an end to the miraculous healings and teachings of Jesus. Pilate was to do the work of killing Jesus for the ruling Jewish leaders. 

When Pilate calls Jesus to himself he begins the proper way of questioning someone for wrongdoing. The Roman centurions were trained to ask in a series of three questions whether or not the person had violated that which they were brought forward for. The Roman officials were to establish whether or not there was any good reason or really any reason to bring conviction on the person brought forward. The understanding is that the person is likely guilty and any tiny reason that points in this direction seals the deal in conviction. Pilate would not have understood any of the Jewish reasons for wanting to put Jesus down. Pilate did not necessarily understand what a Messiah was or the prophetic callings in the Old Testament that point to the Prince of Peace or the Holy One. Pilate would not have cared about this obscure group of people and their ways and justifications for eliminating someone. Pilate had one goal and that was to figure out if the Roman government had any reason to squash out any opposition to it’s growing empire. The word king or kingship meant one thing to Pilate and one thing to Jesus. The word king to Pilate meant someone trying to overthrow or establish a family line to continue succession of power over a given region, and always with an understanding of expansion and the conquering of more land and people. Kingship meant the acquisition of  as much stuff as possible at the expense of as many people as was needed. Human life was only for expansion of our kingdom and rule. Humans were worth very little and snuffing out life was considered the normal way of doing business. Pilate would have understood a king as a threat and something to be extinguished. His role or power in that area was to maintain Roman rule and power. 

So Pilate asks Jesus if He is the king of the Jews? This was a rather ridiculous question as everyone knew Jesus did not have an army or group of armed people following him. Pilate would have been properly informed about Jesus and who He was and what was known about him. The Romans would have done their own investigation and asking around. Jesus had a small band of rather poor men following Him and praying for others and not involved with violence. At times when His followers appeared to use force Jesus was publically seen correcting them and teaching them to put away their sword and to be people of peace. Pilate had a closed Roman official mindset that sought to find some justification for this person’s apparent guilt provided by the Jewish leaders. 

Jesus responds to Pilate by asking a question instead of giving an answer. Jesus always longs to take us beyond our own limited thinking. Jesus longs to take us deeper behind our own questions, answers, perceived ideas, and limited willingness to see Him as He is. I have preached about this before but one of the signs that hangs in our kitchen door with all of our schedules for the day and rules of the family is a chart with an angry face in the middle and other faces coming out from it. This chart is supposed to help us identify why we are feeling angry. The words around the angry face are shame, sadness, fear, frustration, guilt, disappointment, worry, embarrassment, jealousy, hurt, and anxiety. These words are reasons why we feel anger and they go behind the most dominant emotion of anger. As a Christian we are called to reflect on our emotions and hearts and not to live as highly reactional human beings.

 With the intensity of these past two years we are still living in a time of intense emotional turmoil. According to current research these two years have brought up profound suffering and trauma in the hearts and minds of many people in the world. It’s as if all the trauma we have ever experienced in our lives is becoming unearthed in us. Many are turning to alcohol, suicide,witch craft, and astrology in unprecedented numbers. People are hungry for answers about their futures and numbers of people seeking out teachers in “spiritual matters”. I think we have an opportunity of a lifetime to offer up the goodness and mercy of the Lord in people’s lives. With as much death, suffering, and pain there has been in the world in these past few years many of us in the world are raw from our past lives and need a healing touch from Jesus. I promise you that if you encounter Jesus you will not be the same. If you encounter the healing love and mercy of Jesus you will be calmer, kinder, and less reactionary. If we call ourselves Christians we are not supposed to explode in anger, seek injustice for others, or rant and rave. We are not to frighten our children or control our spouse with a seething anger. We are not to live as reactionary powder kegs ready to explode at any time. I guarantee that if you give yourself to Jesus then He is going to address your need for help in explosive emotions. Every single person on the earth needs Jesus and those who allow Him to heal their broken hearts can find freedom like no one else. If you are raising children then you have been invited into a season of anger management, some choose to grow and most either run away from interactions with their children or just give into the anger and justify it as acceptable. Jesus longs to get into the midst of your real life with you. Not the one you want everyone to see but rather the one that is real and true in which you with all your goodness, ugliness, and brokenness are seen by Him. Marriage and any other close intimate relationship is meant to be a training ground for speaking gently and kindly when you want to be harsh, for holding back your judgement, for letting go of your wrath, and for encouraging others in a life giving way. The Christian life has to be one of longing for Jesus to make you new. He will not just hoist himself upon you but rather wait for you to want change.  

I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and I love neurological studies of development and how we can grow and change in our minds. I love some but not all self help books. I love books that teach you how to gain mastery over your emotions. And yet I have never read anything that is as powerful or all encompassing as receiving healing prayer. It is really through sharing our stories with safe prayer ministers and receiving prayer that we can gain incredible freedom from broken thought patterns and all encompassing anxiety. It is through healing prayer that we can break free from depression, fear, anger, and the need for approval. There is nothing in your life that Jesus can not walk into. When He hung on the cross He drew all suffering, evil, and pain unto himself. He is not afraid to enter yours with you.   

Today in the Gospel passage Pilate was not necessarily seeking out Jesus, however Jesus goes to the heart of what we are really seeking and what is really going on. To follow Jesus means that we allow Him to take us behind our questions and answers and to see the heart of the matter. It is alright to have questions for Jesus, it is alright to cry and weep or yell and scream at Jesus. You can come to Him with your deepest longings, confusion, or heartache. He is willing and able and longing to meet you. 

Despite Pilate appearing to have all the power in this situation and to really not care whether Jesus lives or dies Jesus has such compassion for him. Jesus comes after the man who will decide to end his life. Jesus asks him whether or not he says this or whether other’s say it about him. Pilate points to the Jews who are his own people and say that they have said it is so. Jesus is inviting Pilate to think for himself and inviting the man behind the office to come and seek for himself. Jesus is seeking to reach his heart through Pilate’s mind. Pilate is probably quite used to people coming before him and begging for their life especially after they have been flogged and beaten. Yet Jesus is not doing this, Jesus is conversing with Pilate on his own terms. Pilate wants to know what Jesus has done. Pilate needs to ascertain if Jesus has done anything worth death since that is what the Jewish rulers are seeking. 

Jesus does not answer Pilate’s question of what he has done but rather where he has come from. Jesus informs Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world because if it were so then his followers would be fighting and bearing arms. Pilate only knows swords and clubs as a means for kingdom language. The Roman empire was built on slaughter, conquering, pillaging of people, and fear tactics that keep everyone in line. Humans are a means for conquest and not something of value. Which is the profound opposite of the kingdom of God. All human life despite color, social status, health, or function in the world is of precious worth and value to God and Jesus. The sanctity of all human life is the heartbeat of the Christian message. Despite all the messages that we receive of death or unwantedness Jesus loves each and everyone of you. If you were conceived then God formed you and knew you in the depths of your mother’s womb despite the circumstances of your life. You were wanted and you are here on this earth to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Pilate then says still not listening and not hearing or truly seeing Jesus, asks again, “So you are a king?” Jesus responds to him, “You say that I am a king.” Jesus uses Pilate’s words to answer in order to try and show the difference between their definitions of a kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom is all of heaven and earth since He was present in the creation of the world. Jesus’ kingdom comes in the midst of a fallen and broken world, we see it in the healing of his people. We feel the thin veil of heaven and earth at the altar at eucharist and can experience His kingdom. When we gain mastery over our words, thoughts, and actions we feel His kingdom come in our lives. When we speak kindly, respond calmly, and seek to live out godly lives growing in peace and humility then we see His kingdom come.

Jesus said that for this purpose He was born and for this purpose He has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. For everyone who is of the truth listens to His voice. We live in a world where if you want to know what truth is you must seek it out with your whole heart. You must give yourself, your time, and your attention to studying God’s word and finding the truth. With the invention of the internet we have so many ways now to acquire information whether it is true, false, or right or wrong is hard to know. If you give yourself to the study of God’s word it will be easier for you to discern whatever it is truth or whether it will draw you from the wisdom and mercy of God. To become a disciple is not easy but rather it will cost you time, attention, but it will be so worth the time and effort. Every time I give myself to the reading of the Scriptures, Christian books based on scripture, and praying I feel more peace and direction in my life. God wants that for you. 

Jesus says that those who know the truth will know His voice. To be a follower of Jesus we have to find and make time to linger with Him. To reside in his presence and to listen for His voice requires time from us. Sometimes life can feel so fast and so furious with no space or margin. When I was putting myself through college I worked four jobs and volunteered in my church. As I traveled from one end of the city to the next for my jobs I realized I could stop at my church during the week and sit in the nave and spend time with the Lord. The staff at my large urban church unlocked the doors and let me, a quiet poor college student, sit in the nave and pray. As I came week after week I found myself developing a deep and robust prayer life with the Lord. I found myself hearing the Lord more than I ever had before. He became real, loving, caring, and interested in my life. The staff members became my friends and began pouring into my life teaching me about Jesus and teaching me how to live a life more fully for Him. 

No matter what season of life you are in there is always time you can give to the Lord. Maybe you can set aside time on your phone or 45 minutes of television watching time in the evening, or 15 minutes in the morning. When you first start trying to listen to the Lord do not be surprised if you are twitchy and unable to focus. Do not be surprised if you have a million thoughts running through your head. One practical tip can be to keep a piece of paper handy to jot down the thoughts or to do things that pop in your head so you can focus on the Lord. But I promise that as you practice quiet listening it will become easier and you will be more able to sustain longer and longer amounts of time listening to the Lord. Just don’t give up quickly because it seems too hard to sit still and listen for the Lord. To hear the truth and to hear the voice of the Lord takes time investment. Both setting time aside studying His Word and listening for His voice will allow you to hear Him and to respond to His voice. 

Jesus’ mission was to integrate truth into life. That is the reason the text here defines people who are of truth as those who hear the voice of Jesus. Hearing or obeying Jesus is not the same as affirming correct ideas. The Pharisees and legalists in Jesus’ day were very precise in their theological formulations, but God was very remote for them. They schemed for His crucifixion in their correctness because they missed hearing the voice of God. That can still happen today, we can think we know all the right things but our hearts are not soft to the Lord. If we are not willing to be changed by Jesus then believing a whole set of rules will not necessarily help us in our everyday life.  What Jesus did in this story was confront Pilate with himself and with the genuine nature of truth. Jesus went after Pilate’s heart by engaging his mind and ability to think. Pilate’s heart however was closed off and truth was irrelevant to his life because he was making it what he wanted. 

Jesus longs for us to open our hearts to Him and to be given willing ears to hear His voice and to follow His commands. It is my genuine and heartfelt desire that each one of you would hear the Lord’s voice and encounter Him as your Lord and Savior. So as you go about this Thanksgiving week may you find time to worship the Lord. May you find time to linger in the Lord’s Word and listen quietly for His voice. May you be given a passion for the Truth that Jesus speaks of today. And may you strive after the things of the Lord. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen.

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