Three Kings

2020-11-22 – Year A – Christ the King – The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas
Ezekiel 34:11-20; Psalm 95; Matthew 25:31-46

Versailles and the Kings of France

  • Louis XIV, who became King of France in 1643, took his father’s hunting lodge and turned it into the palace of Versailles, a great symbol of the opulence of the last years of the French Monarchy.
  • Louis moved his residence and his whole court to this location, 10 miles away from Paris, to insulate himself from the poverty, disease, and danger of commoners.
    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Confessions, mentioned an unidentified “great princess” from this time period who, “when told that the peasants had no bread, replied: “Then let them eat brioches.”
  • He had elaborate gardens with pressurized fountains that demonstrated the king’s power over the forces of nature.
  • Louis fancied himself to be the “Sun King.” And like the sun, his court revolved around him. He had elaborate rituals for his waking, eating, and going to bed which were attended by large numbers of people from his court.
    • Though a Catholic, and thus under God, his way of life suggested that he wanted to be like God, worshipped and obeyed by all around him.
  • He passed his passion for opulence down to his two successors Louis XV, and Louis XVI who was beheaded as the last king of France during the French Revolution.

Good King Wenceslaus

  • Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (c. 911-935)
  • Best known for the St. Stephen’s day (AKA boxing day) carol “Good King Wenceslas” in which he sees a poor man gathering firewood and braves fierce snow and cold with his servant to bring a feast to the poor man’s house.
  • He became Duke at 13 years of age with his grandmother and then his pagan mother ruling in his place as regents.
  • When he was 18 there was an uprising among the Christian nobles and his mother was exiled. Wenceslaus became a supporter of the Christian faith and was quite pious.
  • He was assassinated in 935 by his rival brother and nobles from his brother’s court.
  • He was immediately recognized as a martyr and saint and is still seen as the patron saint of the Czech state. Posthumously made King by Holy Roman Emperor Otto.
    • His Christian faith seems to have been genuine. He wanted to be like God, but not in the same way as Louis XIV. He didn’t seek the worship of the people, instead he wanted to follow the example of Christ.
  • “rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched” (Cosmas of Prague, 1119 AD)
  • “Therefore, Christian men, be sure Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing.”

The King of Kings

  • Even the best and most revered of Kings in this world are fallible and sinful. The memory of their failings often fades over time even as the memory of their virtue grows.
  • Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Psalm 95:3-5.
  • Like Wenceslaus, Jesus cared deeply for those who were poor, weak, or vulnerable.
    • He chose a humble birth to common parents.
    • His early years were spent as a refugee living in a foreign land.
    • He chose fishermen and outcasts as his band of disciples.
    • He healed those who were sick, even touching the unclean.
    • He cared for you in your spiritual sickness and poverty – 2 Corinthians 8:9 – though he was rich, for your sake he became poor.
      • He created all things and lived in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit with Angels to serve him day and night. He left this for you!
  • Jesus instructed his followers to do the same. Parable of the Sheep and Goats.
    • Matthew 25:31 – The Son of Man sits on his throne, surrounded by angels, and dividing the people into two groups.
      • Sheep and goats in Jesus’ day could look quite similar from a distance. They often grazed together, but they had different agricultural purposes and the sheep’s wool was more valuable.
    • This is Judgment Day, and the people here are judged for the way they have cared (or not cared) for others, especially those who are vulnerable.
      • The King’s commendation of the sheep – Matthew 25:35-36
      • Not works righteousness – “The sheep are people whose works demonstrate that they have responded properly to Christ’s messengers and therefore to his message, however humble the situation or actions of those involved.”
      • Like Wenceslaus, these sheep have followed in the example of the King of Kings and have internalized his behavior so it is a natural response.
        • The sheep weren’t trying to earn anything, they were surprised to be rewarded. They were simply following the example of the King.
        • Mother Theresa “What is my thought? I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, ‘This is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him.’ I serve because I love Jesus.”
  • Philippians 2:5–8 – Follow in the example of Jesus
  • What an amazing King we serve! One who came “not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
  • Matthew 25:40 “…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

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