|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|➤Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Pentecost 17, Year C – Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||October 6, 2019||Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||2 Timothy 1:1-14,Luke 17:5-10|
|Season of Creation 5, Year C||September 29, 2019||Season of Creation 5, Year B||Proverbs 8:22-31, Ephesians 1:3-10, Luke 24:13-35|
Last Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:November 24, 2019
Scripture: Luke 23:33-43
Liturgy Calendar: Last Pentecost, Christ the King
“Christ the King” – Stained glass -Wilbur Herbert Burnham (1943)
Last week’s Washington Post carried Emily Langer’s obituary of Branko Lustig, the producer of Steven Spielberg’s movie, Schindler’s List.
Langer writes that “Branko Lustig was just a boy, newly arrived at Auschwitz, when he witnessed a scene that would be seared into his memory. Seven prisoners at the Nazi death camp were to be hanged in a public execution, and the boy found himself in the front row before the gallows.”
“Moments before they were hanged, before the bench was kicked out from beneath them, they all said as one: ‘Remember how we died. Tell the story about us.’”
In today’s gospel we find ourselves on the front row at another death, before three crosses. Jesus hangs between two criminals, both of whom are saying their last words.
One says to Jesus, “Save yourself and us. Are you not the Messiah?”
The other criminal asks not to be saved, but to be remembered.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
This request on the part of the criminal is one of the most poignant requests in the entire Bible because it touches all of us in our most vulnerable, deepest longing.
All of us want to be remembered. All of us want our stories to be told. We do not want to ever be forgotten. We want our lives to have counted for something.
Whether we realize it or not, in everything we do in this life, we are hoping that someone will remember us and tell our story.
“Remember me” is our prayer.
But not only is this criminal’s request poignant, but his request to be remembered by Jesus is deeply profound.
The criminal’s request gives us insight into the very nature of Jesus, and our own relationships with Jesus, the One who has already known each one of us for ever and will remember us as long as eternity stretches.
The criminal knows that Jesus is a king and that Jesus has a kingdom. The criminal knows that his life is linked to Jesus, dying beside him—he hopes that Jesus will welcome him, a lowly criminal, into a fuller and more abundant life than the one that the criminal has known on this earth.
The criminal turns to Jesus for refuge and strength because he realizes that Jesus is a very present help in time of trouble and death and that Jesus is his stronghold, because Jesus is suffering there at his side.
The criminal also knows that Jesus is a person of mercy and compassion. He had heard Jesus pray as he was being crucified— “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
The criminal heard Jesus offer forgiveness and compassion to those participating in and witnessing his death rather than to be filled with bitter resentment toward them. He heard Jesus offer mercy rather than to call out to his Father for revenge. The criminal heard Jesus offer release through forgiveness to those caught up in ways that they didn’t even realize were keeping them in bondage. Jesus prayed that God would provide forgiveness even to those who were completely unaware of this outpouring of love.
The criminal heard Jesus say “Father, forgive them.” Then the criminal knew that God’s forgiveness, mercy and compassion could be extended even to him, dying an awful death on a cross for the crimes he had committed. The criminal knew that he could ask Jesus to remember him, because he knew that he would be forgiven too.
Not many weeks from now we will be out in the fields with the shepherds, and we will hear the angel say, “Do not be afraid,” and we will lay down our many fears, even if just for a moment.
We will hear the angels sing—”Peace on earth, good will to all who to whom God favors,” and we will remember, with rejoicing, that we and all of God’s creation are favored, because God made us good.
We will once more go with the shepherds to Bethlehem and see for ourselves this tiny vulnerable newborn and look on the face of God, and we will want to go tell the world all that has happened.
And hopefully, in all the flurry and rejoicing around this birth we will find the time to ponder all that has happened in our hearts, as Mary did.
But all of that joy around the birth of a baby now lying in a manger is not quite yet.
Today we stand in front of these crosses, and we are caught up in the chaos, despair, and horror at the things going on around us and in us as we look up at these dying men.
We’d rather celebrate a birth than to suffer through a death.
But it’s at the cross that we hear the criminal say, “Remember me.”
Remember this criminal, turning with expectation to Jesus in faith and trust, knowing that Jesus has already brought a kingdom not of this world to earth, a kingdom of forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and love, and that this kingdom is open right now to all who would turn to him.
Remember this criminal who knows that God has forgiven him and that through God’s forgiveness, the criminal has no need to be ashamed and hesitant, but instead, hopeful about asking for a place in God’s kingdom.
Remember this criminal, who knows that God is in charge, even in death; that God is his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, especially in suffering.
“Remember me,” the criminal said.
So as we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we will do well to remember—to remember, along with the criminal, that Jesus is a king, and that Jesus has a kingdom and that Jesus is coming in glory to bring God’s kingdom to earth.
To remember that God loves us and forgives us, because God is full of mercy and compassion and that we can turn to him.
To remember that no matter how awful things get, not even death can separate us from the love of God—because God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble because he is with us in our suffering.
To remember that because Jesus loves us, forgives us and reconciles us to God through his own death and resurrection, we are worthy to stand before God without shame; to remember that God welcomes us now and will also welcome us into the stable to worship at the manger with the shepherds, if we decide to go with them to Bethlehem to see these things which have come to pass.
Branko Lustig was eventually transferred from Auschwitz to another concentration camp in Germany, Bergen-Belsen. “When British troops arrived on April 15, 1945, to liberate the camp, Lustig heard the sound of bagpipes and concluded that he was dead. ‘I’m in heaven finally,’ he recalled thinking, ‘and these are angels playing.’”
Here we stand before the crosses in the midst of death and chaos, waiting for liberation.
In the noisy confusion around us, be still and listen here in front of the cross.
Listen, and hear that criminal turning to Jesus and saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Keep listening, and hear Jesus say to the criminal, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus remembers us and welcomes us in along with the criminal who asks to be remembered.
Listen and remember.
Remember that God remembers us and welcomes us in, and we can hear the angels singing and playing, at the moment of our liberation and welcome, when we turn to Jesus and ask him to remember us as we stand here at the foot of his cross.