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11.22.09, O Worship the King, Psa132.8-12, Rev1.4b-8, John18.33-37 Sermon Summary

by on November 30, 2009

I have a humorous and fantastic monologue in my house. It always starts with, “If I were King, I’d make you . . .” And then I fill in the blank. But kingship takes on an entirely different perspective in light of the revelation in Jesus Christ.

The reading from Revelation tells us a number of things about Jesus. He’s a ruler, but he’s also the firstborn. And if the firstborn, that means there are second and subsequent born to follow. Revelation tells us that Jesus also sanctifies those who follow him as a priesthood. [As an aside, that sanctification includes the sacrament of baptism, for priests were called and gifted by the Spirit, and anointed with oil to symbolize that. In the baptism liturgy, the anointing with oil serves the same purpose.]

Revelation reminds us that Jesus is also the coming one, which provides a timely segue into the season of Advent which begins next week. But the characteristic of Jesus I want to emphasize out of this passage is that of witness. Of what kind of kingdom did Jesus bear witness?

According to John, Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world.” Jesus is not a dictator, not a tyrant. He doesn’t exercise unrestrained power, and his will is not irresistible. Jesus is not a political power player and not a megalomaniac. He is not, in a word, Pilate, and his kingdom is just as opposite.

The kingdom revealed by Jesus is a place where the king is faithful to God’s will. Instead of serving his own interests, the king serves the interests of the needy in Jesus’ kingdom.

The kingdom as Jesus revealed it is a reality to be lived in now, for the king is present. Christ is present in three ways. The first is in the presence of the Spirit. After his resurrection and ascension, the Spirit descended on the crowd (anointing them!) and uniting them with Christ and his priesthood. That Spirit continues this anointing in our lives today.

The second way the Christ is present is in the gathered assembly. We are each members of Christ’s body, to use Paul’s metaphor. And when we gather in worship to testify to one another of God’s enduring activity in our lives, there Christ is present in our midst.

And finally Christ and his kingdom are present when we celebrate holy communion with bread and cup. We have been given this meal as a foretaste of the divine and universal communion we will share in the culmination of God’s redemptive activity. The kingdom of Christ is a reality to be lived in today.

But it is also a reality yet to come, yet to be fully realized. This is why we join our voices in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s kingdom to come. Christ’s kingdom is to be lived in, but also prayed for, watched for, hoped for. This quality of present and yet to come, of existing now but not yet, is best illustrated through the parables Jesus told.

He told agricultural parables of planting seeds and reaping a harvest. It isn’t until the harvest that the fruit of the labor is manifest, but the harvest is present already in the planting. He likened the kingdom to a great banquet preceded by formal invitations and preparations. The banquet doesn’t officially begin until the guests arrive and are seated, but it is present already in the intention of the host in making the guest list and setting the table. Jesus told parables in which a lord entrusts his estate to servants while he is away. When the lord returns he evaluates the stewardship of the servants. The judgment doesn’t come until the lord returns, but he is already present in the activities of the stewards.

Jesus manifested this kingdom that is present but also still to come. This is what made him a faithful witness in the words of Revelation, and this is our calling in the priesthood Christ has given us. The present aspect of Christ’s kingdom calls us to corresponding behavior. The future aspect of Christ’s kingdom calls us to be hopeful. In big words, Christ’s kingdom has both ethical and eschatological implications. May we, as the subsequent born children of God and subjects in Christ’s kingdom, bear faithful witness as he did.

I close with a reference to the Confession of 1967:

Biblical visions and images of the rule of Christ, such as a heavenly city, a father’s house, a new heaven and earth, a marriage feast, and an unending day culminate in the image of the kingdom. The kingdom represents the triumph of God over all that resists his will and disrupts his creation. Already God’s reign is present as a ferment in the world, stirring hope in men and preparing the world to receive its ultimate judgment and redemption. With an urgency born of this hope, the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God. (Confession of 1967, BOC 9.54-5)

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