Sermons from Rev Julie Wagstaff

2015

Sunday 22nd November

Christ the King (John 18.33-37)

Lord, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service.  Amen

 The Feast of Christ the King – not Christ the Good Shepherd, not Christ the Lamb of God, not the Messiah, Saviour, Redeemer, Son of God – but Christ the King.

 John’s describes this king in the book of Revelation -

His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.

 – a sight which made the disciple, - the one whom Jesus loved remember, fall at his feet as though dead...... such was the impact of his appearance......Jesus, who John had known so well.

 And our reading from Daniel tells us ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.  And what is more, ‘His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed’.  He was, and is and always will be.

 And, if we still have any doubts, in chapter 11 of the Revelation we are told:

 ‘Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”   Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah”’

 Not exactly gentle Jesus meek and mild is it, this awesome, all powerful King.

 

But then we come to our Gospel reading.........and if you had happened to arrive late and come in to hear this reading, you could have been forgiven for thinking you’d lost a couple of months somewhere and walked into a service in Holy Week.

 

Jesus is standing before Pilate, being interrogated by the one who would ultimately send him to his death.....what’s that got to do with Christ the King?

 

It has everything to do with it. 

 

We know that the world’s idea of kingship – the power to dominate and subjugate people – to rule over them, to have them be subservient – is the opposite of God’s purpose and intention for his creation.  We do know that.

 

But do we really understand what it means?  We live in a world where it is easy to recognize Pilate’s power.  Sadly it is all too recognizable.  Two millennia later, with Christianity the world’s biggest religion, claiming over 2 billion followers and yet the nature of God’s kingdom is still not recognized as being the only true way.

 

Jesus told Pilate ‘I am king because I was born for the purpose; I came into the world to bear witness to the truth’. 

 

Pilate asked him ‘what is truth.........?’ but he didn’t wait around for an answer.

 

Well God is Truth, all truth, truth throughout the universe. God is Reality.   Revelation calls it ‘the Alpha and Omega, who was and is and is to come’.  So, if the actual reality of the world, from its creation to its end, is like Jesus, then, as Jane Williams puts it, this strange human obsession with power is an aberration.

 It is by bearing witness to the truth – to God - that Jesus deals the death blow to the power of hell. 

 George MacDonald describes the one principle of hell as being:

 ‘I am my own’. My own glory is, and ought to be, my chief care; my right is – what I desire.  The less I acknowledge debt or obligation to another; the more I close my eyes to the fact that I did not make myself.

 But Jesus, the king, utterly refutes these principles.

 It is as if he said to Pilate: - 'I ought to know what I’m talking about, because I have been, from all eternity, the son of him from whom you are created.  I know all that he thinks and all that he is; and I tell you this - that my perfect freedom rests on the fact that I have no other will than his.

 ........ for his will is right. He is righteousness itself. His very being is love ......... and he insists that his children be as he is himself - creatures of love, of fairness, of devotion to him and to their fellows.

 The truth is God; the witness to the truth is Jesus.  All well-being lies in a true relation to God.

 The question Pilate and all human beings should be asking is 'How am I to be a true person?’  The Lord is a king because his life, the life of his thoughts, of his imagination, of his will, of every smallest action, is true - true first to God in that he is altogether his, true to himself in that he forgets himself altogether, and true to his fellows in that he endured anything they did to him, always declaring himself to be the son and messenger and likeness of God.  They will kill him, but the truth remains - just as he says!

 Jesus’ challenge to Pilate’s type of power is too slow for many people.  They want to use worldly power to force victory for God – but this type of power has no ability to create, to redeem, to rectify – it simple destroys, spoils, perverts. 

 If Jesus is the truth, then any other way is falsehood, and will fail - as history can attest to – the terrible, terrible things that have been committed in his name – actually against fellow Christians – burning people alive, disembowelling them because they each claimed that their way was the true way.  But, in fact, the truth wasn’t in them they weren’t following the kingship of the Jesus they claimed to follow but the kingship of Pilate, worldly kingship.   

 If it were only all in the past!

Christians today might not be burning each other at the stake but many are still being vicious to one another arguing and insisting that they are right, that their way is the only way and in doing so, not only hurting each other but creating great stumbling stones and putting up barriers that prevent others recognising God.  Recognising the God who is love because in his place they portray a God made in their own image.

 God is the only true way because God is truth.  Jesus is witness to that truth and we must follow his way.  The way that led to the cross, rather than vengeance, the cross rather than triumphing over his accusers.  It is ultimately the only way to enjoy his victory.

 If Christ the King is to reign in our lives then we must – as George Macdonald said – be as he is himself.  We must be people of truth, of love who are mindful of others and careless of ourselves.  The Lord's is a kingdom in which nobody seeks to be above another.

   We won’t always be kept from suffering or facing awful times but we can be confident that no awful times, no matter how bad, can ultimately triumph over God’s truth, God’s reality, God’s power to save us and give us new life.

 Christ is King!  He sits alongside the Father and has been given dominion over all creation.  At the final resurrection he will be judge of all........

 How blessed we are that he is the Good Shepherd, our Saviour, our Redeemer – that he is Truth.