Sunday, November 21, 2010

"He's a King?"

Colossians 1:11–20
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Luke 23:33-43
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

A Message from the Pastor (As told by a stranger from the past)
I’ve been watching all of you for over one hundred years. I have been watching how you live, where you live, how you work, how you play, what values you have, and how you relate to others. One of the peculiar things I found has to do with your jewelry. Did you know that the most popular jewelry item is a cross? Besides wearing them hanging from your neck, I’ve seen them dangling from ear lobes, attached to a wrist bracelet, and worn on a lapel. I’ve even seen a few of them hanging from a nose or from a lip. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be disrespectful of the cross. I know how important it is to you. It is the symbol of your religion and what you believe.

What is interesting is that they are always shining and bright. Many times they are covered with jewels or etched with a fancy design. I seldom see one with Jesus hanging from it.

I’d like to ask you a question? Would you be willing to wear an electric chair around your neck, or as other kinds of jewelry? After all, that’s what the cross was. It was the principal means of execution at the time of the Roman Empire, just like an electric chair is a popular means of execution today. You see, I wore a cross when I was on earth at the time of Jesus. I was wearing the means of execution as I proclaimed my faith in Jesus.

In this culture, the world focuses on success. It wants to display things that are shining and bright, not those items that display truly what God is all about as Jesus hangs and dies on a cross. We want to think positively from the world’s point of view. We want to feel good as the world sees it. Humorously, this culture likes to think of Jesus in a similar way to one of your comic book heroes, Superman. He comes to this earth in a strange way, he wanders the earth for thirty-three years and he is almost done in by a Kryptonite Kross. Then he struggles into a phone booth of an empty tomb, comes out with his Easter clothes, and wonderfully leaps into heaven. You like to always think of the Christ as was describe in the second reading for today. He is the image of the invisible God, first born of creation. All things are made through him. He is the head of the body. The fullness of God dwells in him. We like to think of Christ in this heavenly way. We forget about the human Jesus.

In the gospel story for today, we read that, “The people stood by, watching . . .” I was one of those people. I saw him virtually crawling up the hill with the cross over his shoulder. I saw and heard him cry out in pain as they laid him on top of the cross and drove the nails into his hands and his feet. I saw as they hoisted the cross up on pulleys and dropped it into the hole. Is this the kind of king that you want? Do you want a common criminal for a king?

They placed a crown of thorns on his head. I saw the blood from that and the birds pecking at his head because of it while the wild dogs were nipping at his feet. I saw his bruises and stripes from the beating he took. The interesting thing that happened occurred when they were hoisting him up. With all that ugly treatment that he received, he said, “Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing.” Imagine that. After all that treatment he wants them forgiven. Is that the kind of king you want, one that forgives unconditionally? Do you, as his follower, want to be the same?

What is ironical, is that all those around him, the leaders, the soldiers, and even one of the criminals, while scoffing at him and mocking him, called him a king or the Messiah of God. Isn’t that interesting? While, I’m sure, they didn’t believe it, they called him what we consider him to be.

Then the most amazing thing happened. There next to Jesus was the other criminal. He looked over at Jesus and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Imagine that! Here is a man who is suffering greatly. Who knows what kind of person he is. He has to be in utter agony hanging from that cross. Yet, he recognizes Jesus as king. He recognizes that Jesus is coming into his power. He recognizes that Jesus’ reign is about to begin. How can that be? Does it take suffering, hopelessness, helplessness, and a recognizing that he totally lost all control to see who Jesus was? Is that the hiddeness of God? Does God reveal himself most vividly in times of suffering, agony, and defeat? Is that the kind of king that you want?

After all, when one reads about Jesus walking this earth during his three years of ministry, he/she finds him eating with the losers. He eats with sinners, tax collectors, and even prostitutes. He feeds those who are hungry. He has compassion on the ill, the lame, and the broken people. He reaches out to those who are marginalized. Is that the kind of king you want? As followers of a king, do you want to do the same?

This is the end of the church year. It is the time that a person can acknowledge that Christ is King. It is a good time to think about this king we wish to follow. Next week begins Advent. Each has an opportunity to prepare for the coming of the king. No, he wasn’t born in a palace. He was born in a stable and placed In a feeding trough, where manure and other things of a stable would be. Follow him from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Follow him to the cross and then to the empty tomb. But it doesn’t end there. Go into the world and tell others the kind of king he is and how he reveals God’s love to all.

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