Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What kind of King makes peace with His own blood?

Sermon for Pentecost Last, Proper 29C, preached on Sunday, November 24, 2013.

    An oft repeated hope raised from the dust of the battlefield is a war in which there are no acres strewn with fallen dead and wounded warriors.  In this hope only two champions meet in battle to resolve the conflict.  The lives of all hang in the balance of one battle and one who remains standing after it is done.  It is an oft repeated theme in movies, such as the recent installment of The Hunger Games series.  In fiction, each side picks its own best warrior to fight.  Today we see the fantasy as real.  God has sent His own Son to wear our flesh so that He may fight all our enemies, one Savior against sin, death, and Satan.  Christ is the King who fights for the life of the world to make peace through His blood.
    Kings are usually insulated from suffering and death.  But not Jesus. He is born like us so that He might suffer for us, in our place, and die the death that we should have died.  Earlier in the Gospels, when Jesus says before Pilate who questions if Jesus were indeed a king, our Lord says, "It is for this I was born."  He is born not to inspire us or teach us how to be better people or have better lives.  He is come to do battle, to suffer, and to die.  He lives the life we should have lived and then we are credited with His righteousness.  He dies the death we should have died and we receive forgiveness and life by His sacrifice.  He rises not for Himself but to bring His people through death to the life none of us deserve nor dare claim as our own.  That is what it means to call Christ King.
    Fifty years ago this week JFK was assassinated.  His time as President was often called Camelot – a fantasy and romance of high ideals and nobility.  But Jesus’ kingdom is no romantic or fantasy place like Camelot.  His is no inspirational story meant to bring out the best in us.  He is King to suffer and die and make our peace with His own blood.  His Kingdom calls us not to fight with Him but to receive the fruits of His one, all sufficient victory. That is what it means to call Christ King.
    Kingdoms are often fearful places in which subjects come in terror before their powerful monarchs.  But Jesus’ kingdom is no fearful place to us.  We cower not in fear of the unknown but are bidden and welcomed by what He has revealed to us by His suffering and death.  We may  enter Christ's kingdom as enemies but we are made His family by our baptismal bath in His blood.  There we encounter the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin.  It becomes for us the washing that gives us new birth.  There we shed our old lives in captivity to sin and in fear of God to live the new lives of His grace, seeking the holy and loving God as Savior.  That is what it means to call Christ King.
    Here we live out this life.  Called by the voice of His Word, washed in His blood, we are bidden to assemble in His name here – here where through the means of grace He bestows the fruits of His suffering and death to us, undeserving though we be. Here we live out our lives in the Kingdom, receiving from the Word and the Sacraments of Christ the peace His blood has secured.  Here we come as sinners who have fallen and we are restored through forgiveness.  Here we come as the wandering whom He has sought and found.  That is what it means to call Christ King.
    Our Lord does not trust our lives in His Kingdom to us or to others.  He makes it His own solemn duty to sustain what He has begun. His kingly reign is manifest not in some distant glory but the glory of the means of grace, where we encounter Christ and the power of His blood in the places where our King has appointed, where He comes to us to finish the new creation born in us in baptism.  That is what it means to call Christ King.
    Here, as we acknowledge what He did, we find in His work the surprise of a future beyond our imagination. His Kingly reign is no earthly peace keeping force but the promise of eternity given us by grace.  Just as the past pointed to Christ whose kingly reign would come from the cross to a world in need of redemption, so everything about our lives in Christ points us to the life that is yet hidden within Him for all eternity.  He has made us His own prized possession.  He has formed us for Himself.  He has made our peace by His blood.  He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us.  What this means is that nothing in our Christian lives today is an end in and of itself.  Everything points to what is to come, the foretaste of the promised future, and pledge and down payment of His finished work.  That is what it means to call Christ King.
    Too often we talk as if Jesus were some fantasy King who inspires what is best in us.  We talk of His kingdom as if it were some virtual reality instead of a real place.  We talk as if faith were merely a choice or decision to follow Him and love Him.  What audacity and hubris!  We treat Christ as some glorified earthly ruler instead of the redeemer of the world whose suffering and death have brought us forgiveness and life and whose blood has washed us clean.
    Our King and His kingdom are no fantasy or spiritualized reality designed merely to inspire us.  No, our King has come for the reality of our lost lives, to bear the burden of all our sin and guilt, to pay its awful price, and to make peace through His shed blood. He has come to accomplish all of this and then to give away what He has won as the free gifts of grace.  As this end of the Church Year, we see all of Christ’s saving work through the lens of Calvary and His saving work there that gives us life.  One man, one life, for all men and all lives, one death to end death, one peace thru His one blood.  Do not call Jesus King without seeing that kingly reign from the cross and the kingdom of the crucified Christ established by His death that gives us life and the blood that makes our peace with God, with each other, and even with death.  Amen.

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