Saturday, November 19, 2016

Year C, Proper 29, Christ the King Sunday Jeremiah 23:1-6, So you wanted a king, did you. . .

Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
A reading from 1 Samuel, Chapter 8:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you.  Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them."

 So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king.   He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you:  he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;  and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers.  He will take one- tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.  He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take one- tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day."

 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, "No! but we are determined to have a king over us,  so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles."  When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord.  The Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice and set a king over them."

Garth Brooks sings a song I like.
The chorus is:
“Sometimes I thank God
For unanswered prayers.
Remember when you’re talking
To the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer
Doesn’t mean he don’t care.
Some of God’s greatest gifts
Are unanswered prayers.”

I find myself wondering today,
What life would have been like,
What life would still be like,
If God had simply steadfastly refused
                To grant Israel’s request for a King.
Would we have sung Garth Brooks song?
Would that have been one of God’s greatest gifts?

Israel’s demand for a king didn’t work out so well for them. 
·         First it was Saul, a handsome man.  But he was disobedient.
·         Then there was David.  As great as he was, he had Uriah killed so that he might take Bathsheba for his wife. 
·         Solomon was wise.  But in his wisdom, or lack thereof, he took on 700 wives and 300 concubines, and then he, in the end, allowed his wives to introduce pagan worship practices into Israel.  God wasn’t pleased.

It gets worse from there.
From the Prophet Jeremiah we hear these words:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord.”
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

Enter Jesus.
We crucified him. 
It was Pilot who acknowledged who he really was on the inscription that hung over him on the Cross.
“This is the King of the Jews.”

I had a parishioner in Sandpoint, Frances Newell, by name.  She was a character.
She’d devoted much of her adult life to studying the scripture. 
And she’d wait anxiously for my visits so that she could depart the knowledge she’d gained on me.
When I’d arrive to give her communion, her Bible would be laid out before her, and often there would be notes on the table as well.
She wanted to get her message across.
Her conviction was that the Church had abandoned the message of Jesus.  That we had been led astray.  And that it was her mission in life to call the Church back to be faithful followers of Jesus.
It all boiled down to just one thing.
The Kingdom of God.
It was all about the Kingdom.
And it couldn’t be about Jesus,
                If it wasn’t about his Kingdom.
Jesus was, is, and always will be the King.
He wasn’t a rabbi,
                Or a pastor.
He wasn’t a spiritual advisor, or even a healer, though he certainly healed people as well.

First, and last, Jesus came as King.
“The Kingdom of God is at hand!” was the message he brought. 
And Frances made clear her conviction that when Jesus spoke about the Kingdom, he wasn’t talking figuratively.  Nor was he talking about the far and distant future.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. 
And Jesus was, is, and always will be the King.

“Democracy is ungodly!”  Frances would declare.
There is nothing godly at all about a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”, because, to be blunt, “the people” are sinners.

Probably one of the most regrettable things Jesus said regarding the Kingdom, was in response to Pilate:
“My kingdom is not from this world.”
Frances would say that “Yes, the Kingdom is not from this world, it is from God.  The Father gave the Kingdom to the Son.”
But we have dismissed any talk about the Kingdom of God being relevant to this world at all.
And that is the problem, Frances would say.  That is the problem.

One more thing about Frances’ message.
It’s not just that we should elect a “Christian President”, there have been many.
Her point is that we should not, as Christians, submit to any earthly ruler. 
Jesus is Lord, and no other.

I used to dread my visits with Frances.  I didn’t like getting brow beaten every time I came.
But with time, I’ve come to believe that Frances had many things right.
Oh, I don’t think that we as Christians are going to overthrow the United States government and replace it with a theocracy.
No, not happening anytime soon.

But this I have come to believe:
·         When Jesus came proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand, he didn’t mean that one day in the future it would come to be.  He meant now.
·         To say “Jesus is Lord” is also to say that no one else is.  You cannot simultaneously declare that “Jesus is Lord”, and that “Caesar is Lord”.
·         I am becoming convinced that there is no such thing as dual citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  You cannot serve two masters.  Either Jesus is our King, or we willingly submit to the reign of the earthly rulers. 
·         If “Jesus is Lord”, then in the end, it really doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter who is the kings of this world are.  In declaring  “Jesus is Lord” we are submitting ourselves to the reign of Christ.
·         And finally, one of the most important things we pray for, in the Lord’s prayer, is “your kingdom come.”
In the small catechism, Martin Luther explained this petition.  He writes:
What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

Christ the King Sunday.
Food for thought.
God never wanted to give us an earthly king, in the first place.
And when that didn’t work out, he gave us his Son, that Jesus might be our King.
An earthly king.
Or Jesus.
The choice is yours.
Just know that only one can save us.


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