November 25th, 2012 “The Truth” Rev. Heather Jepsen
Revelation 1:4b-8 and John 18:33-38a
Today is Christ the King Sunday. Smack dab in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is one of those liturgical holidays that we totally miss. Advent and Lent have enough Sundays in them that we are not likely to miss them. But Christ the King is right up there with Baptism of the Lord and Trinity Sunday when it comes to easy days to miss. Christ the King is always the last Sunday in the liturgical calendar, sort of a final statement in the church year. Next Sunday we start the cycle all over again as we begin Advent and get ready for that babe in the manger.
Though we always forget about it, and it can be a doozey to preach, I happen to like Christ the King Sunday. It’s a sort of “in-your-face” to the powers that be, and I think the little rebel in me gets a kick out of that. You see, today is the day that we declare we are not of this world. We declare that political powers and systems may come and go, but we have only one true king and that is Christ. Today is the day that we declare that no matter who is elected for President, our allegiance lies with only one being, Jesus our Lord. It’s pretty exciting really.
In our reading from Revelation we come face to face with this power that we worship. This isn’t just some one-time thing, some ruler come into power for a lifetime. Not a Vladimir Putin who seems to always manage to get himself in power. This isn’t even a generation of royalty like the British throne where one family just rules forever and ever. No, this king we are talking about is the one who is and who was and who is to come. This is the king of all time and space, the king of all authority, a king whose reign is beyond the scope of our imaginations.
Not only is Christ the King’s reign one of all time and space. He is the Alpha and Omega. From A to Z this king encompasses everything. From the grains of sand, to the forces that spin the earth, to the vast distance of the stars, to the movement of blood vessels through my body, this king is the be all end all of life. This king is ruler of everything and this king is everything. As the gospel of Thomas puts it so eloquently, “Pick up a rock, and I am there.”
The wonder of this great king and kingdom is that Jesus consented to come among us, to limit himself to the finite in order to bring us a better understanding of the will of God for our lives. Of course, for Jesus to come among us, he could not bring the whole wonder of his presence. Just as Moses could not see God face to face, Jesus needed to cloak his holiness so to speak. He needed to hide his otherworldliness in human flesh. Fully human, fully divine, the king that is Christ was a like a ray of sunshine in a dark world.
I love Jesus’ encounter with Pilate in John’s gospel because I can see it so clearly in our modern setting. Pilate is the one with power in a form that we are accustomed to, a form we can recognize. Like all political figures before and after, Pilate is someone we are familiar with. Jesus, on the other hand possess a power that is so distinct and different, a power that is foreign. The power of Jesus is not of this world, and does not respond to Pilate’s subtle attempt at provocation.
I love the way author Frederick Buechner imagines this scene in his book “Telling the Truth”. Buechner pictures a modern setting, Pilate as businessman, and he tells the story like this. Having just gotten off the phone with his wife
(read selection page 12-14)
Buechner brings this scene to life. The power of Pilate and the empire he represents. From the big desk to the picture of the ruler on the wall, all the trappings of our modern understandings of power are there. Jesus, a nobody from nowhere, already broken and beaten in the office. Here is the king of kings, whose kingdom is not of this world, waiting to be taken to his cross. The contrast between these two understandings of power creates a memorable scene.
I like to imagine that on that fateful day, Pilate got a glimpse of real truth. Pilate got a glimpse of the real kingdom, and real power. This Jesus, who refused to play by the rules of others, had a certain freedom that Pilate never would. This Jesus had something, he had truth. As if somehow sensing that Jesus is no ordinary rabble rouser, three times in John’s gospel Pilate attempts to have Jesus released. I think that Pilate caught a glimpse of reality that day, he caught a glimpse of Christ the King.
In our own lives, we too have those moments when we see the power of God, when we sense the bigger reality in our world. There are breakthrough moments, like when someone is healed from cancer or we miraculously avoid a car accident. Those are the times when we encounter the great one envisioned in the revelation to John.
And yet there are also those little times, times I think we see the Alpha and Omega, the God of it all. In my own life I am thinking of those moments when I catch a glimpse of my daughter dancing and it brings a tear to my eye, or when I am able to be in the right place at the right time to minister to someone, or those moments when you as a congregation minister to me. Perhaps you sensed a little in-breaking of our great God as you gathered at the table with family and friends this past week.
The wonder of Christ the King Sunday is this realization that our world of power and money is not the only thing out there. Is perhaps not even the most real thing there is. There is another power, another kingdom, a kingdom of love and justice that doesn’t respond to things like money and influence. There is another king, one who is the be all end all of life, one who longs to be in relationship with us, one whose name is love.
This Christ the King Sunday, as the world around us continues to rock with war and violence, with struggles for power and influence, let us take a deep breath. Like Pilate, let us ask “what is truth?” And let us open our eyes to the answers. From the chance to lend a helping hand, to the smile on a child’s face, to the love we share within this congregation, there is another kingdom of which we are a part, there is another king which we serve. Thanks be to God for this one, the Alpha and Omega, Christ the King, truth himself. Amen.