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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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Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Changed from Glory to Glory

The Season of the Epiphany has to do with God manifesting his presence to humankind in various ways. There were three special times recorded in the Bible when God manifested his glory. We recall the event of the children of Israel encountering God at Mount Sinai. They became afraid and were unwilling to listen to God directly. They ask Moses to listen to God and tell them what God said. Thus, Moses became the first prophet of God.

Today, we have a second time that God manifested his glory. Reading from 2 Kings:

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.   (2 Kings 2:9-12)

Elisha was in awe of the glory of God. In a way, he resembled the children of Israel in the wilderness. He became a prophet, but first he had a learning curve. When he tried to exercise his new position, he did so in a curious way we read:

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.   (2 Kings 2:13-14)

Our own relationship with God matters more than any mantel of authority we may have.

In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, we have a third remarkable example of God manifesting his glory:

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.   (Mark 9:2-8)

The two men who experienced God’s glory directly were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. But only Jesus could fulfill both of them. We need to look to Jesus. We need to look upon Jesus. The Apostle wrote:

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

We are called by God to come up to his mountain so  to speak. He wants us to experience his glory within our hearts. How do we do that? We must spend time with Jesus. We must worship him in  Spirit and in truth. Again Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We become like the one we meditate upon and worship. Where is our heart today? Whom do we worship? Are we afraid to draw near to God? Is his glory overwhelming? Or does it beckon us to draw closer to him? We have an advantage over the children of Israel and even Elisha. we have a covering of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for us. Was he sacrificed in vain?

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (Collect from the Book of Common Prayer)

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