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Christ the King – Year C 2019

1. Not being much of a monarchist,

a. I often fail to understand the fascination of people,

b. especially Americans, with the British Royal Family.

2. And yet I cannot deny the fascination;

a. The endless stream of documentaries,

b. Series like The Crown,

c. And the billions of dollars generated by royal family tourism

d. for the British economy all testify to the enduring attraction royalty generates.

3. But them who am I kidding?

4. I remember the first time I saw a president when I was 17.

5. And a stream of motorcycles and police cars sped through the capitol’s streets,

a. Shepherding a long black limo

b. as People yelled and waved

6. It was the president! All right; it was President Jimmy Carter.

a. And He was on his way to church.

b. But I still remember the excitement. I was THERE.

7. In our bitterly divided country, reactions to the current president

a. when his motorcades drive through Manhattan are far more mixed.

8. Nevertheless, be they monarchs or presidents -

a. all of us know the excitement of seeing powerful people.

b. Of standing outside the Met on the night of the Gala,

c. Of glimpsing the famous on Broadway, at Lincoln Center or just eating in a restaurant.

d. There is something almost hardwired in us to want to be near the strong, to be close to the powerful, and thus to share in their glory.

9. One day two thousand years ago

a. Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor arrived in Jeruslaem for Passover,

b. when the Jewish people celebrated their freedom from slavery in Egypt.

10. Every year he came to be present in the city.

a. He would march in with soldiers, riding a war horse, trumpets blaring and standards held high,

b. to remind the people that while they were free to celebrate their freedom in the past,

c. in the present they were subjects of Rome.

11. Reaction to Pilate was also mixed. But lots of people were there;

a. For Pilate represented Caesar;

12. Those who were there, were there because they wanted to be,

a. to share in Caesar’s power and glory.

13. They would have scarcely noticed another parade taking place that day.

a. It was the arrival of Jesus on Palm Sunday.

i. Jesus who they believed was a son of David,

ii. And who had come to the city of David be the new anointed King, like David.

14. Those who were there were there because they wanted to be;

a. for if Jesus was their NEW king,

b. they wanted to share in his power and glory.

15. Today’s Gospel takes place one week after those two parades.

a. We do not know where Pilate’s parade led. Presumably to his palace.

b. But we see where Jesus’ led;

i. not to a palace but to a prison,

ii. not to a throne but to a cross.

16. Of course by Friday the crowds were gone.

a. For the glory they hoped for on Palm Sunday

b. was replaced by the humiliation of Good Friday.

17. Even the disciples are gone, and replaced by two criminals,

a. Who, as they hang on their crosses, and debate the sign hung on Jesus’ own: “this is the king of the Jews.”

18. For one thief, being a king means what it meant for the people a week ago;

a. Power – if he were a king he would save himself, right?

b. He would summon his supporters,

c. come off that cross and lead them to victory.

19. But for the other, being a king means a different kind of power;

a. it means the power of a king to pardon those who have wronged him,

b. and to welcome all who ask for pardon into his kingdom.

20. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth

a. Luke’s Gospel is a parade which enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and leads to the cross

b. Where two thieves fight over what they expect from Jesus the King. Why?

21. Because Luke knows that the parade doesn't end at the Cross;

a. it really begins there anew; it will go out from Jesus’ city, Jerusalem

b. and spread all the way back to Caesar’s city, Rome.

22. And also because Luke knows a thing or two about kings, and their parades;

a. He knows the kind of leader you follow will determine the kind of people you become.

b. Join the parade which follows a king like Caesar,

i. and maybe you will be led to power over people and the glory of ruling them.

c. But join that parade which follows a king like Jesus, and well,

i. Maybe you will be led to a cross

ii. but in that cross you will glimpse a different kind of power and glory

iii. The kind of power that Jesus the king wielded when he pardoned the criminal

iv. And the glory that criminal experienced when he was welcomed into Jesus’ kingdom.

23. A king who welcomes even criminals;

a. which for Luke would have meant not just thieves and crooks,

b. but Greeks and Romans and all those who did not, could not, follow the Law of the Jewish people;

c. but were nevertheless welcomed as equal members by their true King;

24. According to Luke that is what all people could expect from Jesus their king.

25. Today, our Church calls Jesus a King and in that asks us what we expect from him:

26. It is not a silly question.

27. Why else would politicians spent most of their time

a. raising money,

b. posturing in the media

c. and preparing for the next campaign,

d. if they did not yearn to bask in the glory of winning and enjoy the power of ruling?

28. Why else would we support their campaigns,

a. Cheer at their speeches

b. And celebrate their victories

c. If we did not want to bask in the glory of their victories and benefit from their rule?

29. Is that what we expect from Jesus as our king? Many would.

a. It is why many glory in a Church of silk and lace,

b. with its ministers dressed up like royalty and issuing pronouncements,

c. which their subjects must obey.

d. If there is a place where we can find the parade of power in all its kingly glory it is the church.

30. But we dare not forget where that parade leads;

a. sometimes it leads to the power and glory

b. but also, at least in democratic countries defeat; in public opinion, the press and on election day.

c. for such power is often resented, its glory envied,

d. And there is really very little room on top for those who try to claw their way to the pinnacle of power.

31. But then . . . there is that other parade.

a. The one leads to Jerusalem and to Jesus’ death;

b. but just so leads on to life; the risen life of Jesus,

i. Experienced in the pardon, forgiveness and welcome

ii. found amongst the people who make up his kingdom.

c. it does not celebrate those few who have abused their power to claw their way to the top,

i. but includes all those on the bottom

d. because strangely enough, that is where Jesus says we can still find him,

i. walking amongst his people as their king, who rules by welcoming them, forgiving them and feeding them, and whose only command to us his subjects, is that we do the same.

32. Which parade are you at?

33. Look around you - Look within you. What do you see?

a. People who come every Sunday to share in Jesus’ death so we can share in his life?

b. People who want to be welcomed,

c. need to feel forgiven,

d. hunger for something that power and glory could never satisfy?

34. If you see that group of people around you;

35. if you sense that need within you,

36. give up on that other parade. You’re already at the right one.

a. The one which has continued for two thousand years

b. The one which, in the midst of kindgoms and empires, democracies and dictatorships,

i. Has challenged leaders to serve their people

ii. Has challenged all of us

iii. to share in Jesus’ work of forgiveness and service.

iv. And to find in that shared life see the only kingdom of which Christ is ever truly king.

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