Christ the King

Author: 
Revd Sarah
Date: 
Sunday, November 20, 2016 - 9:30am

Sermon – Christ the king – Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

Today you will be with me in paradise

Christ is king.  ........what does it mean to you to say, believe and trust that Christ is your king?

Christ incarnate, Christ crucified, Christ the shepherd - who longs to bring home the lost; gather the broken, the fragments, into the wholeness of his re-creation; enfold God’s children into the fullness of life in his kingdom.

If we choose Christ as our king, the leadership style we follow is the self-sacrificial shepherd. Christ rules by being born into homelessness, spending his time with fishermen, carpenters, lepers, and sinners, displaced as a refugee, and executed with criminals. If Christ is our king, our job is to live a life like his.  To give away our power, because God rules the world not us. To be faithful, not powerful. To be saints, not heroes. To let go our status, safe boundaries and rules, and risk being vulnerable and self-sacrificial in love and service to each other, to open our hearts and lives in costly witness to Christ.

If Christ is our king, we must bear our cross, and carry the cross for others. But if our trust is in him, we too can hear his promise of forgiveness and salvation: today you will be with me in paradise.

 (** Phone Steve in congregation.......phone rings loudly & Steve scrambles to turn off)

J B Jones, a Baptist preacher from Louisianna, tells the story of the great jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis at a gig in Manhattan one night.  He was playing ‘I don’t stand a ghost of a chance with you’ and reached a dramatic moment when off went a mobile phone in the audience. Audience and trumpeter paused in a moment of tension, just as a congregation might in the midst of worship, and the embarrassed phone owner hurriedly silenced his phone. Then Marsalis gently began to play again, seamlessly improvising around the phone’s ringtone until he resolved the improvisation back to that very moment of interruption in his harmony.  The great king of jazz had woven the discordant fragment back into a re-created and beautiful whole. 

Now the great preacher might have improvised this story to bring comfort to a mortified Steve, drawing him back into the warmth of the attentive congregation, the generous hearted body of Christ.  The average preacher would simply have set poor Steve up beforehand of course!

Christ our king is the master improviser – weaving the most discordant, broken, lost lives back into the perfect harmony of God’s re-created kingdom. Today you will be with me in paradise, is his promise to the criminal hanging on the cross; his promise to those who open their eyes to see Christ in their lives.

Our readings today move our understanding of kingship from the human to the divine. Jeremiah’s portrayal of failed human leadership sees people pulled in different directions, scattered and displaced. We can’t fail to think of our culture today – the millions of people living in homelessness, the millions of displaced refugees seeking safety, the millions of lost and hidden sufferers of abuse through the oppression of the powerful.  Into Jeremiah’s picture of failed human power and kingship, God intervenes to raise up faithful shepherds who restore social justice, care for victims, create the sense of belonging and security for all that enables human flourishing.  Only then will people be ready and able to see glimpses of the coming Messiah, glimpses of Christ’s kingship breaking in.  

Paul’s letter to the Colossians moves our image of kingship to the eternal. Christ our king makes visible the invisible God. Breaking in to our proud and powerful world as a helpless, homeless baby, a crucified, criminalized and rejected refugee, who rescues all humanity and rules through the power of sacrificial love.

Our king is the man hanging on the cross. Mocked, rejected, tortured, crucified. It is on the cross, in utter human weakness, that Christ our king is enthroned; crowned ‘King of the Jews’. And even as he dies, Christ’s ability to reach beyond himself in self-sacrificial love is undiminished. Though his hands are nailed and bound, he reaches out beyond his suffering in loving forgiveness to all humanity, and in intimate love to those closest to him in his humanity – bonding in love his broken disciple John with his broken mother Mary.

Christ our king reaches out to us from the cross, touching us in our suffering with his perfect love. And he asks us if we will reach out to touch the hands of others, to touch the hands of the lost, to touch Christ in his suffering now and glimpse his kingdom.

Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society are just two charities who work to reach out to lost children and welcome them into relationships of love.  The Children’s Society reports that every 5 minutes in the UK a child runs away from home or care. Children in care often run away simply to get lost in the hope of being found.  Crying out to be gathered up in love after years of abuse or rejection. Our human yearning is to be found....to be gathered up....by somebody, by Christ where we are fully known, fully loved, at peace in paradise.

I don’t know whether you’ve seen the recent Barnardo’s advert on TV or on YouTube. It’s entitled Believe in Meincredible things happen when you believe in children.   With the Tears for Fears song ‘everybody wants to rule the world’ playing in the background, the short film switches from child to child, each performing impressive creative skills to demonstrate their courageous re-flourishing after abuse.  The accompanying heart-wrenching words of the children move from: I am not his little secret.  I am not the toys I never had. I am not my 17 foster homes. I am not my broken ribs. I am not worthless.  To...:  I am strong. I am loved. I am free. Believe in me.

When we believe in children, when we see, believe and trust in any person, particularly if they are vulnerable or broken by pain, then they are seen and loved into being again. Then we follow Christ our king in his leadership style - gathering the lost and bringing them home. Incredible things happen when we believe and trust in others.

 

Incredible things happen when we believe and trust in Christ our king - our master improviser, enthroned on the cross, who reaches out to weave discordant lives into the harmony of creation until all is resolved in paradise.

The great contemporary theologian Sam Wells concludes for us on Marsalis’ story:

Christ is like that great jazz trumpeter. Christ is playing a tune, a song of love, and longing, and desire for us. And we are like a mindless mobile phone that rings discordantly and threatens to ruin the whole of this dazzling creation.  And Christ pauses. And there’s that moment of dramatic tension and grief and anger and loss, which we could call judgment. And then slowly, painstakingly, but eventually thrillingly and joyfully, Christ weaves us back into the improvised melody until all is resolved and in harmony for ever.

That’s out of this world. That’s the gospel. That’s what it means to say Christ is king’.

Amen.