Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christ the King

Well, we have made it to the end of the church year.  Today is Christ the King Sunday.   This is the day that we celebrate the reign of Christ over the world.
Since we so often hear how America is such a Christian country, I figured I should be able to just look around and see all kinds of signs that Christ truly is the King.  But for how much I looked, I had some difficulty finding any sign that anyone truly believed that Christ was the king.  People were crabby.  Drivers were mean.  No one seemed to care about anyone except themselves.  For being such a Christian country, we seem to be so far from living our Christian heritage.
Why do we, and I am not just talking about us gathered here this morning, but all of us in this “so called” Christian country, have difficulty showing to the world just how Christian we are?  If Christ really is the King of our lives, why is it so hard to see? 
One of the big arguments our Jewish friends have is exactly that question:  If Jesus was the Son of God; then why isn’t it more obvious in the world?  And I really think they have a point.  As a friend of mine always asked, “If being a Christian were illegal, could people find enough evidence to convict you?
I think one of the problems is with the whole “King” thing.  We don’t have a whole lot of experience with kings, and often the experience we do have has more to do with Elvis as the King of Rock ‘n Roll or Michael Jackson as the King of Pop.  Quite often, when we think of King, we think of someone who is out in front, out seeking popularity.  We may think of some of the tyrants from third world countries, but we probably have the most experience dealing with the King as showman.
When it comes to Christ the King, Christ OUR King, we don’t have a showman.  We don’t have someone who is out seeking fame; we don’t have someone who is out there trying to dominate all the things, quite the contrary.  We have a King who is a servant.  We have a King who is not seeking the limelight.  We have a King who is not out seeking popularity; and to us, this can feel odd.  In our world, the things that we are TOLD are important are those things that are constantly seeking our attention and seeking our adoration.  We are told our politicians are important because they are always on TV.  We are told celebrities are important because they are always seeking our adoration.  We are informed by the media that these people are important, and that we are supposed to follow their leads. 
But our King, Christ the King, is different.  I think if Jesus were in the world right now, we probably wouldn’t hear much about it on TV.  He wouldn’t be making the headlines.  He wouldn’t be on the 11 o’clock news.  I don’t know if he would even make it to the morning talk shows.  Jesus didn’t make it onto the radar of the leadership of Biblical times until the end of his ministry.  And then, when he did make it into their consciousness, it wasn’t in a positive manner.  No, I think Jesus would more likely be one of the Occupy Wall Street people than one of the politicians.
Now, you may wonder why I would say that.  Well, look at what Jesus says to the sheep and the goats in today’s parable.  Jesus does not separate the sheep from the goats by how much they have acquired.  Jesus does not separate the sheep from the goats by the size of the house the creature has.  Jesus does not use the usual, or worldly, methods of separating the sheep from the goats; Jesus’ method of judgment is a challenge to us.  Jesus’ method of judgment is a challenge for us to move beyond the expectations of the world and move on to something quite incredible.  Jesus’ method of judgment asks us to look beyond caring for our own needs and reaching out to care for the needs of others.
Our world tells us to look out for ourselves.  Our society holds the “lifting yourself up by your bootstraps” in high regard.  Our world seems to think that if you are poor, unemployed, or have some kind of disease, then this is your own fault and you are getting what you disserve.  Our world keeps telling us that the people who are industrious are the ones whom God helps.  You know, “God helps those who help themselves!”  (Actually, this is not in the Bible at all.  It is most often attributed to Ben Franklin, but more accurately came from Algernon Sydney in 1698.)
But this is so opposite of what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel.  When Jesus lifts up the sheep, he doesn’t praise them for being frugal; he doesn’t praise them for not creating dependent deadbeats.  He does not praise them for helping those who help themselves.  What he does do is praise the sheep for helping those who were in need.  He praises them for feeding the hungry, for bringing drink to the thirsty, for visiting those in prison.  (What we need to remember about visiting those in prison, this wasn’t just a social visit, prison did not supply for those in prison.  It was up to visitors to bring supplies for the in prison.)  He tells the sheep that when they helped the least in society, that they were, in fact, helping Jesus.  This is no, “God helps those who help themselves,” this is God looking with gladness upon those who reach out the hand of love to those around them.
On Christ the King Sunday, we are once again reminded that the way of the world is not the way of Christ.  We are reminded that our King is not a showman or someone seeking fame.  We are reminded that we are to be followers of Christ and that we are to reach out to others in Christian love.  We are reminded that when Christ looks to us, Christ is not interested in what we have acquired for ourselves, but what we have given to others.
What ways can we reach out?  How can we feed the hungry?  How can we clothe the poor?  How can we become the people of God out, in the world?  How do we trust in our King more than we trust in our own bootstraps?  We claim Christ as our kind, but do we really believe this?  This is the tough part.  Do we trust that we can give?  Do we trust that God will care for us when we step out in faith?

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