Monday, December 4, 2023

Your King Comes. . .

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent (B), preached on Sunday, December 3, 2023.

I cannot tell you how many times I hear people say “My Jesus would not... fill in the blank.”  They could be saying that their Jesus would not condemn those whose desires are for people to whom they are not married or to members of the same sex or those who are pregnant but do not wish to have a child or those who do not wish to marry but who want access to some of the privileges none the less.  They could be talking about everything from global justice to an end to racism to the equitable distribution of resources by need.  You name the cause, we enlist King Jesus as the one whose job it is to make it happen.  Jesus is the one in whose name we do many things because we presume that Jesus must want what we want.

The only problem is that this is false.  Worse, it is a lie.  You do not have a Jesus who is your own.  Jesus belongs to all of us – in a way even to those who do not yet know Him by faith or acclaim Him Lord under the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is not a personal Lord or King but the Lord and King who reigns from the throne of His father David forever.  When Jesus made His way into the city of Jerusalem amid palms, hosannas, and thanksgiving, He did not come to be the King we wanted or expected.  He entered to fulfill the kingly purpose of His Father in heaven and to accomplish His purpose in sending Him into the womb of the Virgin and the wood of the cross.

Christ is not the King of territory.  He has not come for land.  He has come to reign over people and those whom He has elected unto salvation in particular.  He has not come to conquer nations or to govern through political structures.  He has not come to rid society of its vices or to make better the lot of life on the earth.  He has come to endure the violence of the cross – to be the King of suffering before He is the King of glory.  The cross is not antithetical to His purpose but the only purpose for which He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit and the only context for His public ministry and work.

It is not the particular sin of the liberals to get this wrong.  The parties on the right also err in this regard.  Jesus has not come for a cause or to prove some people right and other people wrong.  He has come to take upon Himself the full weight of sin and to suffer in His body all the punishment this sin deserves and to die the death that was ours to die.  Before Pilate, Jesus admits.  He is a King and for this He was born.  But Pilate and all the people in the Church missed the point of it all.
Our Lord comes as the King long promised to restore what Adam broke and we all lost because of Adam.  Throughout the lineage of kings good and bad, the promise God gave to Abraham remained – the King will come to rescue His people.  When Israel faded and Judah was left, the promise remained – the King will come to rescue His people.  In the line of unlikely as well as predictable heirs, the promise remained – the Kind will come to rescue His people.  When the night sky shown bright with the birth of a first born to blessed Mary with faithful Joseph at her side in Bethlehem, the promise was fulfilled – the King will come to rescue His people.

King Jesus does all the wrong things and none of the right things we expect from a king.  He began His Kingly purpose by calling people to repentance.  The kingdom of God has come not because the world is under a new government or things are getting better but only because the One whom God has sent has revealed Himself.  He speaks of His kingdom, teaches that kingdom in parables, and manifests that kingdom in miracles.  Now, He comes to Jerusalem ready to finish what He began.  A people is there with palms in hand and garments laid as carpet along the road, chanting “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna!”

Did the people who marched and chanted and laid down their palms get it?  Probably not.  The apostles who had been with Jesus for three years did not get it until after the resurrection when the Spirit brought all things to their remembrance and after Jesus had opened the Scriptures to them.  Do we get it today?  Probably not.  We are still tempted to look for my Jesus and to define His kingly reign in terms of what we want Jesus to do for us or for the world.  We want our own Jesus but God has sent the King of the ages.  That is how deeply sin has corrupted us.  

We beg for a king just as Israel begged to get rid of the judges and get a government like every other government on earth.  We may not want a monarchy but we look to the government to fix what is wrong in the home, what is wrong in the school, what is lacking in security, what is inequitable or unjust in the world, and what divides peoples and races and nations.  The truth is we would probably be satisfied if Jesus would give us a better today and a bit more happiness in this life and would gladly give up heaven and the resurrection of the dead entirely.  We are always trying to define what it means for Jesus to be King instead of listening to Jesus tell us what that means.  The world might look different between conservative Christians and liberal ones but both of them expect Jesus as King to repair today more than they yearn for Him to deliver the kingdom that is forever.

Jesus is King not because we recognize Him or acclaim Him or welcome Him.  He is King because He is whom God has sent into the womb of the Virgin and onto the wood of the cross for us and for our salvation.  His kingdom is not about repairs to the wrongs of this life but to the gift of eternal life.  He comes as King not because we are worthy of His coming or deserve His intervention.  He comes because God is determined to repair what broke in Eden and has invested Himself fully in His Son to do just that.  His Kingly reign is revealed most profoundly when on the cross the world meets Him:  Behold, your King!"

Christ is the loving King who does not command service but who serves.  He is the gentle King whose power is used not for revenge or to conquer but to forgive and to save.  He is the hidden King who is present where He has promised – in the water that gives new and everlasting life, in the absolution that ends the terror of sin with forgiveness, in the voice which still speaks and acts through His speaking to accomplish His purpose, and in the bread which is His body and the cup of His blood.  His yoke is easy and His burden light not because He asks nothing of us but because He has set us free so that what He asks we can finally give – ourselves, our souls, and all things.  He has stood with us in our weakness and covered us with His righteousness so that we may be carried through trouble and trial and delivered before the Father who waits to embrace us with open arms.

Welcome Him.  He alone is the King we need and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we learn to rejoice in His kingship.  He alone is worth the knee you bend and the voice you confess, worth the sacrifice of present joys for eternal fulfillment, and worth the denial of the things our old Adam insists upon so that we may possess the things the new Adam has come to bestow.  In the holy Name of Jesus.  Amen.

No comments: