A Sermon for the Reign of Christ the King
Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston, AB
21 November, 2010 (Lectionary Year C)
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-46
He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:13-14)
Jesus Christ the King, Son of God
Jesus began his career before time, when he was fully present with God the Father and was engaged in OP CREATION. At this early point in his career he attained the rank of Son of God and fully shared in his Father’s strategic command authority over all things.
In 0 AD he was selected by the Father to command OP INCARNATION and, with the support of the Holy Spirit, was born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. From the Carpentry School in Nazareth, Jesus was posted to Galilee and commanded the twelve disciples in a three year tour of preaching, teaching, and performing miracles. For his leadership in a variety of medical, logistic, and instructing roles, Jesus was widely proclaimed as the Messiah and Son of God. His work as a fully human person, forsaking his heavenly honours and taking the role of a servant, earned him his Father’s commendation.
In 33 AD Jesus accepted command of OP SALVATION, headquartered in Jerusalem. During a three day campaign, he engaged enemy forces including worldly power, sin and death, and defeated them decisively at the battle of Calvary. For his role in this engagement he was decorated with the Crown of Thorns. During OP RESURRECTION he rose again from the dead, for which he earned the title of firstborn of the dead, Alpha, and Omega.
Following his resurrection, Jesus assumed worldwide command as Head of the Church, resuming all the powers and authorities that he held at the beginning of the time. He is currently stationed at the right hand of God, and is tasked with training and preparing his followers for his coming again in glory.
Jesus enjoys family life as a member of the Holy Trinity, and has countless brothers and sisters who are the adopted children of God the Father
This week past I was attending a chaplains’ conference in balmy Vancouver and our guest speaker was the commander of LFWA, BGen Wynnyk. He was a good speaker, and told us he was a great supporter of chaplains because he had a great uncle who served in the Canadian army as a padre. He also made it crystal clear that he had high expectations of his chaplains, and so he put us on notice that in return for his support we had better work hard for him, for his troops, and for their families. Every padre in the room, I think, left knowing who the boss is (or at least, one of our bosses) and what he expects us to do.
As with any military event, there were biographies of all of our speakers in our conference packages. The military biography is highly conventional piece of writing. Each one tells you about the career of its subject, detailing all the postings, promotions, awards, accomplishments and decorations, and ends with some personal and family information. The point of the commander’s biography is to assure his or her followers that the boss has what it takes to lead. It says, here is a qualified person you can trust, and even though he or she is the boss, they’re a family person like you are and so they can relate to you.
As I was reading General Wynnyk’s biography, which is very impressive and inspiring, the preacher’s part of my brain was reading along and suddenly realized that our second reading today, from the first chapter of Colossians, is St. Paul’s attempt to write a commander’s biography for Jesus. I was so taken with this idea that I penned my own version on the flight home, which I’ve included above.
My version isn’t meant to compete with Paul (I think his place in the church is safe) but simply to underscore the point made in Colossians and in this service, that this is Jesus Christ. Call him King. Call him Messiah. He’s the boss. He’s our boss, our commander. We’re his troops. But our CO isn’t like any other you’ll read about in a standard CF issue biography. This one’s different.
One of the paradoxes of the Christian faith is contained right here, in this chapel. The name of this chapel is Christ the King, which ties in with the day we celebrate. In so far as this humble little chapel on this small base can manage, it points the glory of the King of Heaven and Earth. But, behind me, a piece of the heritage of the Roman Catholic chapel that once existed here beside the Protestant chapel, is the statue of Christ crucified on the cross. The cross behind me, like the gospel reading from Saint Luke that we hear today, reminds us that our king, our CO, has a different and a greater power than the rulers of the earth can imagine.
The Romans placed a sign over Jesus that, in calling him a king, really mocked him. Look, they were saying, this is what happens to anyone who sets himself up against Caesar comes to. This pathetic dying man is what a fake king looks like. Some, Luke tells us, buy into the Roman message and mock Jesus because they can’t imagine power working any other way than the strong being on top and the weak crushed beneath them. Others, particularly the condemned man who asks Jesus to remember him, see the truth. This man realizes that Jesus is not about saving himself, but is about saving others, and that his power is the power to open the gates of heaven itself. This simple exchange between Jesus and the criminal is a concrete example of what Paul says in the abstract in Colossians, about God in Christ rescuing us from the power of darkness and transferring us into the power of his kingdom (Col 1:13). It’s an act of rescue that happens one by one, again and again, as each of us comes to Jesus the King and decides to serve him.
Not everyone makes this decision. Yesterday my wife brought home a women’s fashion magazine, which included an article on the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious Movement) which is apparently for people who want a relationship with the divine that is “unmediated by authority”. The article quotes Oprah’s “go-to guru” Eckhardt Tolle who says that his version of spirituality is more accessible than “a teaching that is heavily dependant on the past – like ... Christianity” (Elle Canada Dec 2010 p. 144). Not everyone, it seems, needs a king.
For those of us who are SAR (Spiritual And Religious), we believe differently than self-appointed gurus such as Echkardt Tolle. We choose to follow Christ the King because his authority combines love and power. The King who opens paradise to the criminal opens it to each one of us, as unworthy as we may be. He does so out of love and friendship, because he is a CO who cares for his followers. As Jesus says in John’s gospel, "I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends…." (John 15:15), We know also that we come to one another as friends because Christ is friends with each of us, and if being SNBR is all about ME, than being SAR is being all about ONE ANOTHER. Finally, we know that being SAR isn’t about the past. Jesus may have died and risen again in the past, but he isn’t finished. Today is about the Reign of Christ, a reign which will last for ever and ever. We follow the one who is outside of time, who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. The Reign of Christ is then, and now, and to come. It’s every moment of our lives lived in the love and peace of God.
So, my friends, today we have heard our commander’s biography. We’ve heard about his career, about his accomplishments and decorations, and his qualifications. We’ve been reminded of how lucky we are to have him as a boss. And, this Sunday, as we prepare ourselves for Advent and for our four week pilgrimage to Christmas, we’ve been reminded of just what kind of King it is that awaits us in Bethlehem.
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