A Different Type of King, Nov 25, 2012

Title:A Different Type of King, Nov 25, 2012

Christ the King Sunday was a Catholic idea. Pope Pius XI wanted to specifically commemorate Christ as king, and instituted the feast in the Western calendar in 1925. Pius connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. Secularism was on the rise, and many Christians, even Catholics, were doubting Christ’s authority, as well as the Church’s, and even doubting Christ’s existence. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Ironically today in Adult Ed we concluded the "History of Christianity" which mentioned him. For us it is the last Sunday in the Church year before moving to Advent next Sunday and Year C which will emphasize the readings in Luke.  The bulletin is here. The readings for this Sunday are here. 

Today’s 11am service had 47 people with many visitors on this Thanksgiving Sunday. The day was cool in the 40s with mixture of sun and clouds. Johnny’s son Johnathan was here with entire family from Blacksburg. We had two newcomers, Shawn and Sarah. Catherine had her daughter Catherine and fiance Steve from Charlotte, NC

We celebrated the birthdays of Alexander Long IV and Alexander Long V, born on the same day in November. 

Advent begins in a big way this week with the ECW meeting to decide what funds will go to which outreach projects. The men have their ECM meeting on Saturday, breakfast at Horne’s followed by a church cleanup. They will finalized their Christmas project. On Sunday after the Advent 1 service at 5pm the Everetts will sponsor a potluck supper. On the same day, Catherine and the Key family will depart for Staten Island to help with the clothes sorting project following Hurricane Sandy. 

The scripture this week is about kingship. But the times were one of persecution as we know with the Gospel reading.  

However, the first two readings today come from desperate times of persecution, with no peace and with no justice.

The book of Daniel was written around 200 years before Jesus lived, when the Jewish people were being persecuted by the Seleucid Empire.

The Book of Revelation was written during the persecution of the early church by the Roman Empire under the emperor Nero. 

But as James Wallace points out in a sermon written for this day,

“Both of these readings call us to hope and to trust that God will be victorious, no matter how dark the days seem,” because these readings describe for us our true authority, our God Almighty.”

As the days shorten, and winter comes upon us, we feel the darkness of our own times—our country is divided, we are in serious financial trouble, we are still at war, and for many in this country, our situation seems hopeless.

And so, these readings give us hope for the future, because we Christians believe that the one who governs us is our God Almighty, not any of the transient rulers of this world.

John’s text is a showdown between two kings. Being Christ the King Sunday, it shows the distinctive qualities of our King.

One of these king’s authority is finite (Pilate). The other king’s authority is not (Jesus).  This encounter and this conversation expose this truth, which Christ the King Sunday is set aside to celebrate. Christ is Lord—of the Church, of the world, of the universe.

John intentionally and dramatically arranges the trial of Jesus before Pilate into 7 or 8 scenes, punctuated by Pilate’s egress to meet the Jews and ingress to interact with Jesus.1 Each scene — and the whole trial — centers on kingship.

The issue of Jesus’ kingship is already raised in chapter 6. After he satisfies the bellies of the 5000, they try to seize him and force him to be king; but Jesus slips away. His authority as king originates not from this world but from God and his kingdom has to do with the reign of love, not political expediency aimed at personal aggrandizement.

There are 3 questions asked of Jesus by Pilate :

Are you the King of the Jews?"

Rather than answer Pilate, Jesus becomes the interrogator and judge in this trial. Pilate is not as in control as he pretends to be and Jesus knows it (see their exchange in 19:10-11). This ironic blurring of juridical and political roles is a favorite technique of John’s.

In response to Jesus’ question, Pilate declares, "I’m not a Jew, am I?" Of course he’s not; quite the opposite: he’s a Roman representing the arm of the Empire that is oppressing Jesus’ own people, the Jews. But insofar as John sometimes uses the term "the Jews" as a collective character representing opposition to Jesus, the irony becomes thick. 2 John 1:11 declares, "He came to what was his own, and his own people didn’t accept him." As Pilate remains opposed to Jesus and entirely uninterested in truth for truth’s sake, he does in fact become indistinguishable from those in 1:11 who act out their rejection by handing Jesus over to Pilate.

What have you done?

"My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.

But Jesus does not crow about being a king; rather, he immediately speaks not about himself but his community, calling it a kingdom . Here he contrasts himself with Pilate.

So you are a king?

Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

Pilate uses power and authority for selfish ends with no concern for the building of community, and certainly not a community guided by love and truth. Pilate hoards power and lords it over people even to the point of destroying them, on a cross or otherwise.

Jesus empowers others and uses his authority to wash the feet of those he leads. He spends his life on them, every last ounce of it; he gives his life to bring life.

Pilate’s rule brings terror, even in the midst of calm;

Jesus’ rule brings peace, even in the midst of terror (John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-26).

Pilate’s followers imitate him by using violence to conquer and divide people by race, ethnicity, and nations.

Jesus’ followers put away the sword in order to invite and unify people, as Jesus does when he says "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (12:32). 

Pilate’s authority originates from the will of Caesar and is always tenuous.

Jesus’ authority originates from doing the will of God, and is eternal

Jesus believed in the truth of God’s kingdom, that God’s reign of justice and peace is possible here on earth, even his own desperate times, and that God’s reign is possible even in our own desperate times.

And he lived accordingly, and was willing to die for what he so strongly believed.  

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