Sermon for November 21, 2021 Christ the King Sunday, Thanksgiving

“The Everlasting Kingdom”

Revelation 1:4b-8

John 18:33-37

 

     Our texts for the day are concerned with the kingship of Christ. Revelation calls him “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” In John’s Gospel Pilate asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?” After some verbal sparring, Jesus answers, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world….” To answer Pilate’s question Jesus Christ is King, but not just king of the Jews. He was and is the king of every nationality, language, and every inhabitant upon our Earth in every age. “Here,” as John the Baptist once said, “is the Lamb of God who takes way the sin of the world.” Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s! Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end.

    What if Pilate had been able to grasp the fullness of who the man standing before him was? I wonder what difference it might have made. Perhaps Pilate would have seen to it that Jesus was protected or escorted to safety, but of course Pilate had no way of being able to discern who Jesus was. Perhaps that is part of the meaning of Pilates question to Jesus, “What is truth.” Jesus as the truth of God was standing before Pilate, but Pilate was incapable of discerning the truth.

    Consider for a moment the significance of who Pilate was. Through the ages of time the course of human history has been measured by empires. From the Assyrian empire, to the Babylonian, to the Mede-Persian Empires, great kings rose and fell. A few hundred years before Christ there was, the Empire of Ancient Greece, and then finally for Pilate there came the Imperial Roman Empire. Considered by many to be history’s greatest empire. At the height of its power the Roman Empire spread from Britain in the northwest across the Mediterranean and through the Middle East to the Persian Gulf. Pilate was living during the apex of power of the Roman Empire. He was a figure of authority, the Roman governor of the Judean province. Who would Jesus, a man who spoke about no earthly kingdom, have been to him? Pilate would have had very little regard for this itinerant preacher. He knew he was an Innocent man, but he had more fear or respect for the crowds he was governing than for Jesus, and so he sent this King Jesus to the cross to die.

    And yet every kingdom that has ever existed, Those of Asia and the middle East, and those in China or the great Pre-Columbian empires, the Aztecs, the Mayas, and the Incas, all of them came to an end. None of them stood forever. The point is, that regardless of the might and duration of any empire, none were, everlasting. Perhaps none will be everlasting. Will the United States or any of the nations of our world last forever? History seems to teach that if we are not careful everything has a beginning and an end.

    The only kingdom that is eternal is God’s kingdom, because it is founded not upon the brokenness of humanity, but upon the wholeness of God. The Alpha and the Omega…An everlasting Kingdom. If any country or kingdom is to survive it will be because its people and leadership have turned to an eternal power greater then themselves.

    This point was illustrated by someone who once said, “When Noah was building the Ark he had very little might, but he was whole before God and he won. When Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers, he was virtually powerless, but he was whole before God and came out victorious in the end. When Gideon and his 300 followers, with their pitchers and lamps, put the Midianites to flight, they were in an insignificant minority, but they were whole before God and they triumphed. When David, ridiculed by his brothers, went out to meet Goliath, in size he was a joke, but he was whole before the Lord and he defeated the giant. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg he was anything but a power in the church, but he was whole in his faith and he won. And Jesus was crucified by the soldiers of the mighty Roman Empire, he was conspicuously powerless in terms of this world, but he was whole in obedience to His Heavenly Father, and He became the Savior of the world.”

    Who was Jesus that Pilate should have been mindful of him? He was the everlasting Lord of God’s kingdom that lives in the hearts of every woman and man that truly believes. It is this that stands the course of time and changes. As the hymn says, “Kings and kingdoms may all pass away but there is something about that name.” In Christ is the eternal reign of God that we are invited to share in.

    Now Pilate could not see that Jesus was the everlasting King. Pilate could not contemplate the end of Roman rule. He could not perceive that he too was invite to a greater court than the one he knew. However, I think if Jesus had his way Pilate also would have been one of his followers. The truth is that Jesus calls us all to hear and follow. The question is are we more like Pilate wrapped up in the trappings of today’s power and influence, or are we able to perceive the large eternal moment that is upon us? Are we ultimately confident in our own position, power, and knowledge, or are we able to believe that there is definitely something more we need?

    The human heart will not change its path until it understands its own need. You will not be moved toward faith until by God’s mercy you are able to understand the short distance of life we all travel compared to the eternal nature of the hope Christ offers. The riches and rewards of this life are short lived. Christ offers us an eternal everlasting and kingdom, and the ability to share in wholeness of life. In Christ we are part of a kingdom that is greater than any kingdom or empire that has ever been or ever will exist. Through out time kings and queens rise and fall, but God is ever sovereign and that will not change. God has called us to be a part of that Everlasting Kingdom.

The writer of Revelation tells us who we are. He writes in verse 5,

“… and from Jesus Christ, who is…the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (NIV)

That is who we are. We are his kingdom, we are his priests, we are his brothers and sister. Let none of us question our value in this world. We are children of the Most High.     

A story is told of Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. He was waiting at an airport for a plane during World War II. A sailor stepped up to the ticket window: “I want to see my mother,” he said, “I ain’t got much time.” The ticket agent explained to the young man no space was available on the flight he needed. Overhearing this, Roosevelt stepped up to the window and told the girl to give the sailor his seat. A friend asked, “Teddy, aren’t you in a hurry, too?” Roosevelt replied, “It’s a matter of rank. I’m only a general. He’s a son.”

    That’s what the Bible says about you and me. If Christ is who he says he is, that means you and I are who he says we are too. We are citizens of God’s kingdom. We are priests. More importantly, we are sons and daughters of the King. Perhaps every child should grow up knowing that old time gospel song that says, “I’m a child of the King, I’m a child of the King, with Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.” If we can believe and live into that truth what a difference it might make for us and others. Jesus Christ is King of Kings. That tells us who he is. That also tells us who we as his followers are.

    This week we are celebrating another Thanksgiving Holiday. Therefore, let me simply close my thoughts with these words of Abraham Lincoln from his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863.

 

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

 

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

 

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

 

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

 

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.”

 

This week let us remember that Jesus Christ is King, and he has called us to be a special people in this world. We are his church, his beloved bride, his brothers, and sister, his own elect–a kingdom and priests. Now that we know who we are, let us not forget to go forth in praise and thanksgiving; living and sharing in this truth that we have received. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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