Traditional Sermon Christ the King
When you think of the word ‘king’ what comes to mind? For me right now…when I think of kings, queens and such I think of my daughter.
This past summer my daughter Elsa was getting into the ‘princess’ stage. I don’t know how it happened. Just one day she came into our room and declared herself Princess Elsa.
When one of her pediatricians asked her if she was Queen Elsa from Frozen, her assertive response was “No! That’s Elsa with blond hair. I am Elsa with brown hair!” She was princess I was “mommy princess” and Erik was “big princess.” (He gave me permission to tell you that.) All summer long she she would seek out anything that resembled a crown… be it the burger king cardboard special, a toy tiara, heck she’d even use a fancy jar lid as her royal diadem. Fortunately for our jar lid collection this phase has gone by the wayside. Princesses have been replaced by the three bears. I’m mamma bear, Erik is Daddy bear and she’s baby bear. Gotta love kids’ imagination!
But I remember too, going through that stage of becoming ruler of my realm. But aside from dress-up and make believe, where else do we encounter king language?
I know that 250 years ago the word king was a bit of an alarming word. Revolutionaries in our colonies would hear you say the word ‘king’ and that’d be fightin’ words or in many people’s case, tar and feathering words.
It’s a foreign word to us. “King” Same thing as the word “Lord.” It’s sounds fancy, it sounds proper, but it’s definitely foreign and not part of our everyday vocabulary. The last time I used the word king, may have been when I said, “Who died and made you king?!”
And yet every year, at this time…somewhere between November 20 and November 27 we dedicate a Sunday as Christ the King.
It’s a less known festival in the church year. Definitely not up there with Christmas and Easter or the Advent season. It’s a newer festival in church history. Lutherans have been celebrating it for only 40 years. And for the Catholic church it’s only been about 90 years, which is not long for church history.
So why dedicate a festival called “Christ the King?” Well, at the time in 1925 Pope Pius XI had experienced the atrocities of World War I and the growing reliance on nations, national allegiances and faith in war machines. He saw a need to remind people that nations come and go, leaders have their temporal time, but the reign of Christ is forever.
It’s the last Sunday of the church year. A way to say goodbye to one year and hello to the next is to remember who reigns over our days.
I think it’s good for us to remember that today, as well. Don’t you think?
Because similar to generations before, we do put our trust in so many places and people and forget that these places, people, and things have first and foremost been provided by our God.
So folks, you can remain seated, but let’s take out your hymnals and let us turn to hymn 855 and sing verse 1 of Crown Him With Many Crowns.
Crown Him with many crowns
The lamb upon the throne
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but it’s own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee.
And hail Him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity
Who is this king? When we hear parables about Christ’s return we hear images of the Son of Man and all the angels with him, sitting on the throne of his glory. We sing hymns like our hymn of the day that draw a picture of this king as a lamb. When we open our Bibles to books like Revelation we read that the holy are gathered into a new place, a new creation that this place “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23)
The light of the world–as Jesus Christ our king was called by John the Baptist.
The lamb who draws all to himself. The lamb who gathers we hopeful sheep that can be as clueless as the goat next to us.
Is this our king?
A lamb who was sacrificed for our sins?
Is not our king who is also the Alpha and Omega?
Is not our king the Word?
Or as the Gospel writer John tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We read about our king in the beginning moving over all creation and giving it life through Word. The king who is not only at the beginning, but also at the end watching our days and guiding our feet.
The lamp upon our path.
The savior of our souls.
The one who heavenly choruses sing about.
So let us sing about this king with verse 2 of Crown Him With Many Crowns.
Crown him the virgin’s Son,
The God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose,
yet of that rose the stem,
The root whence mercy ever flows,
the babe of Bethlehem
Who is this king?
The king of the universe, of all time, wrapped himself in flesh and the heavenly anthem was echoed by angels at night in the fields of Bethlehem. Born in a place where wise men sought him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gifts like gold that pointed to his kingship, but also the gift of myrrh that pointed to the death that he would offer for the world.
Born a vulnerable child held in the arms of Mary in a time when false kings stole thrones and innocents were slaughtered. Whisked away after an angel warned Joseph in a dream, to flee and become a refugee in the land of Egypt as men of power sought to hurt this king. How could these foolish men know that they were chasing down their hope of salvation and God in incarnate form?
The same question was to be asked again when foolish leaders in power, frightened religious men, a Governor named Pontius Pilate, and a mob cried out for this king’s death. Mocked him as being the king of the Jews and forced a crown of thorns upon his head. They like us, could not understand this king. The king of both gentile and jew, servant or rich, man and woman.
Did you notice in today’s parable of the sheep and the goats that both the sheep and the goats didn’t know when the king was in their midst? Both failed to see Christ the king in the person asking them for a warm meal for their family, or the one forgotten in the incarceration system, or the one cold and in need of a good winter coat. How often do we simply fail to see our king in the eyes of another–the king beseeching us to act, to love, to share.
And so often we forget who we are. We lose our identity to whose we are. We turn into billy goats rearing up and kicking out. Bucking God’s claim on us and destroying everything in our path. Like goats 2,000 years ago, we need to hear the king’s words “Father forgive them, for they not know what they are doing.”
So let us sing about this king with verse 3 and 4 of Crown Him With Many Crowns.
Crown him the Lord of love;
behold his hands and side,
rich wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified;
no angels in the sky
can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends their burning eye
at mysteries so bright.
Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing
who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.
Who is this king?
This is Christ the king who rules not only over time and space, but over death and life itself. This is the king who is the trailblazer.
The first to give voice to the cosmos,
the first to be raised from the dead,
the first to be seated on the throne of power.
The first to encourage you to live as God desires you to live.
When we think of this king, ruminate on these words from the book of Hebrews.
“Consider Christ who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”
Christ is the king of our world…even when the world roars otherwise. The truth of the king shines.
Let this king rule your heart.
Let his kindness persuade you.
Let his ways inspire you.
Let his mercy save you.
Are you like me, and some days your stubbornness has got your goat, and you’re wondering how to do that? Well, friends this is a great time of year to let Christ be your king and to see him in the eyes of others.
See it in the eyes of families in Manheim who because of you can be fed through hunger packs. See it on the smiles of school children who through you can have a warm coat this winter or the toy they always dreamed about.
Hear it from the joys of neighbors near and far who will receive good gifts of farm animals, school supplies and farming resources.
All we can hope is to be good sheep, right? And perhaps bless other sheep as we do so. May this lamb upon the throne, the light of the world, the king in our hearts to lead us the way.
Friends, let us rise and sing our last verse of Crown Him With Many Crowns.
Crown him the Lord of years,
the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres,
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
for thou hast died for me;
thy praise shall never, never fail