Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King

Track 1: My Kingdom Is Not from this World

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13 (14-19)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Today we celebrate “Christ the King.”” He is King of King and Lord of Lords. Do we see Jesus as our King and Lord? What does that mean?

During the earthly ministry of Jesus there was great misunderstanding about his kingship, however. In today’s Gospel reading we are given a glimpse of this misunderstanding:

Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”   (John 18:33-37)

We can understand why Pilate was confused about Jesus’ kingship. He was not a Jew. But as we read John’s Gospel we begin to see that Pilates was actually attempting to understand what Jesus was saying. In some ways, he was more inquisitive than the Jewish authorities. They had rejected Jesus as their king. He did not fit their preconceives expectation.

In their religious minds, they believed that they fully understood Judaism. They did not ned any teaching from Jesus. Their concern was to rid themselves of Roman rule.

In his testimony before Pilate, Jesus talked about two kingdoms – two very different kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. Which one is real?

Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”   (John  18:38) That is the question. Which kingdom is real? There is so much untruth in the world today. There is so much untruthful being reported. But God’s Word is truth.

From the Gospel of Luke:

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among y0u.”   (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus’ answer was that the kingdom of God was not coming in the manner the Pharisees were expecting. There would be no great and magnificent leader who staked out a geographical claim and routed the Romans; rather, the kingdom would come silently and unseen, much as leaven works in a batch of dough. In fact, Jesus said, the kingdom had already begun, right under the Pharisees’ noses. God was ruling in the hearts of some people, and the King Himself was standing among them, although the Pharisees were oblivious to that fact.

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He brought the kingdom of God to earth. His presence in their midst gave them a taste of the kingdom life, as attested by the miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus was inaugurating the kingdom as He changed the hearts of men, one at a time.

For the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. One day, however, the it will be manifest on the earth, and Jesus Christ will rule a physical kingdom from David’s throne with Jerusalem as His capital – his millennial reign.

The Apostle wrote:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.   (Revelation 1:4-8)

Have we been freed from our sins by his blood? That is the only requirement for entering the kingdom of God. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to give praise and thanksgiving to our King.

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Perhaps we could compare the prophecies of Daniel and John, the Revelator. First from Daniel:

As I watched,

thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne,

his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;

his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.

A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.

A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.

The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.   (Daniel 7:9-10)

And from Revelation:

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  (Revelation 1:4-8)

How does it compare with the two Apocalyptic visions?  Daniel writes about a heavenly court which sits in judgement. In Revelation, we read:

even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

There will be an accounting of the lives of every person, before an awesome God. For Christians, that accounting was done on the cross. That is our only hope to stand before God with Jesus as our intercessor.

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28

Track 1: The Greatness of God

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

The temple in Jerusalem was a magnificent building. It was central to the Jewish faith. Reading from today’s appointed Gospel:

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”   (Mark 13:1-2)

Jesus statement was a shock to his disciples. He would soon replace the temple. Reading from John’s Gospel:

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:19-22)

How big is our God? Is he bigger than our church, our denomination? For Hannah, God was everything. She exalted him with praise. Reading from 1 Samuel:

“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.

My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;

for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.   (1 Samuel 2:1-4)

Hannah had been barren. She prayed to God for a son:

She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”   )1 Samuel 1:11)

When the priest Eli assured her that God would grant her prayer, she believed him, despite the fact that she had struggled for many years to have children.

God answered her prayer. Again, from 1 Samuel:

Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”    )1 Samuel 1:19-20)

Eli assured Hannah that her prayer would be answered. We have greater assurance. Heading from the Book of Hebrews:

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   (Hebrews 10:19-25)

Hannah went through difficult times. We are going through difficult times. Are we given to despair or do we encourage one another? That may depend on how big our God is and our confidence in the blood of Jesus. Through Jesus, our great high priest, we have access to the throne of God.

It is time to exalt our God with the highest praise. Praise should always be in season, but especially in difficult and trying times as these. Let us follow the example of Hannah.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.”

God is greater than our problems. He is stronger than our enemies. Hannah concluded her high praise of God:

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.

The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.”   (1 Samuel 2:9-10)

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Both the Old Testament and Gospel readings focus on the end times. In Mark, Jesus warns about the false “christ’s” who will lead people astray:

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”   (Mark 13:3-8)

In Daniel, we also have a warning:

The Lord spoke to Daniel in a vision and said, “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”   (Daniel 12:1-3)

Daniel speaks about two categories of people: those who are prepared for this time and those   who aren’t. Which category are we in?

 

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Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27

 Track 1: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Today we have a lesson on Kingdom principles. What is important in the Kingdom of God? Who is important: Reading from Mark’s Gospel:

As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”   (Mark 12:38-40)

The scribes thought they were very important people. But as Jesus revealed, they were not very nice people. They devoured widow’s houses. Widows were held in a special place by God. We see this in his comments about a certain widow in today’s Gospel reading:

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”   (Mark 12:41-44)

Though this widow was poor, she gave all that she had to God. In today’s Old Testament reading. we again look at Ruth. Reading from the Book of Ruth:

Naomi her mother-in-law said to Ruth, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”   (Ruth 3:1-5)

Naomi shared a word of wisdom, from God, with Ruth. Ruth did exactly what she was told. Though she was a Moabite, she sought God and his ways. Though she was a poor widow, God elevated her to a position of great importance. She married a rich and devout Hebrew. Together, they became central to God’s plan for all humanity. Reading from Ruth:

Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.   (Ruth 4:13-17)

Ruth and Boaz had a son, Obed. This not only established the line of David, the King of Israel, but ultimately the earthly lineage of our Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the most high God.

We often do not see the order of things. God establishes the order for his purposes. We are often not able to judge the significance of a person. God does not judge by outward appearance. He judges the heart of a person.

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Church in Corinth:

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.   (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Where does all this leave us? How important are we to the Kingdom of God? Perhpas the better question is: Where is our heart? Only God can determine that. Nonetheless, let us take a survey of our heart. How do we treat others, especially those of less means or privilege?

As we consider the unconditional love of God, we are brought to our knees. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. “Not many of us were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” Yet, while we were sinners, Jesus paid the price for our sins. Let us show him our appreciation by the way we love others.

Jesus said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”   (Matthew 5:3)

 

Track 2: Suggestion

1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Both the Old Testament and Gospel readings seem to suggest a theme. 1 Kinds tells how God used a poor widow to feed Elijah during a famine. She was willing to give all that she had to the prophet of God:

The word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”   (1 Kings 17:8-12)

In the Gospel reading Jesus observes a poor widow give all that the money that she has to God:

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  (Mark 12:41-44)

What an we learn from these readings?

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All Saints’ Day

Unbind Him and Let Him Go

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
or 
Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day. What does it mean to be a Saint. How do e define a saint? Is a saint a good person? Jesus said:

Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.   (Mark 10:18)

Perhaps we could say that a saint is by his very life a righteous person. What does God’s word have to say about this definition? Reading from the Psalms:

God looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.   (Psalm 53:2-3)

Perhaps a saint is someone who has performed a miracle. Does that qualify him for  sainthood? Not according to Jesus. Reading from the Gospel of Matthew:

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’   )Matthew 7:22-23)

Perhaps only God can define sainthood. Reading from Leviticus:

Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes, and observe them; I am the Lord; I sanctify you.   (Leviticus 20:7-8)

Could it ne that becoming a saint has more to do with God than us?

In today’s Gospel we read about Jesus raising of Lazarus from the dead:

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”   (John 11:38-44)

Perhaps Lazarus is a metaphors for us. Are we not bound by this world and the things in this world. Jesus wants to unbind us and let us go. He, alone, has the power ti set us free,

Before he raised Lazarus, Jesus had this dialogue with his sister Martha:

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”   (John 11:21-27)

Jesus has the power of the resurrection. He is the resurrection. Do we want to hold onto the world and the flesh? Or do we seek his deliverance?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the in Rome:

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.   (Romans 1:7)

He went on to explain:

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit[g] is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.   (Romans 8:6-11)

Jesus told Martha: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Are we ready for the glory of God?

The psalmist wrote:

Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.   (Psalm 24:9)

Can we become saints? Perhaps Jesus is waiting for us to lift up our heads. Perhaps he is waiting on our heart’s desire. Perhaps he is waiting on our prayer request. Are we ready to be set free from the world and the flesh? Are we ready for his glory?

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