Sermon Christ the King 2012
Grace, mercy and peace to you from the God who is, who was, and who is to come. Amen.
Today we celebrate the festival of Christ the King. It may seem unusual, but today’s gospel reading is part of the reading for Good Friday. It does sounds a little strange to hear that today. But it is appropriate.
It is the place where Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews. That was the accusation that won Jesus the crown of thorns and got him lifted up onto the throne of the cross.
In the days and weeks before, large crowds had been following Jesus. He was becoming so popular that the authorities were threatened by him. The crowds were trying to crown him King of the Jews. Calling him that was treason. Caesar was king. Calling anyone else the king meant you were talking about overthrowing the government.
Jesus had been betrayed by one of his own followers. The religious leaders wanted him out of the way. They didn’t have the authority to get rid of him permanently, so they brought him to Pilate.
Pilate was in a difficult political predicament. He really doesn’t want to be accused of treason. He doesn’t want to upset the crowds either. The penalty for treason was death on a cross.
Let’s look at the scene. We have an encounter between Jesus and Pilate. The entire passage is two chapters long but we only have one scene here.
Try to imagine you are watching it as a play. The stage is set in two parts. One half is Pilate’s headquarters. The other side is the portico or patio, just outside of the headquarters.
Standing on the patio from the beginning of the scene we have the religious leaders who have brought Jesus to Pilate. They know they have brought him to stand trial for his life. They know what the outcome will be. They are waiting on the patio.
The play begins when Pilate comes out to greet Jesus and takes him into the headquarters. The gospel writer gives us lots of stage directions. He tells us that Pilate moves between the patio and the headquarters several times – seven times, in fact.
Pilate wavers between Jesus and his accusers. He keeps going back and forth. He knows what the right thing to do is. He also knows the easy thing to do. The best thing for him politically is to take the easy way out. He is torn between the right thing and the easy thing.
We know what happened. We confess it in the creed every week. Pilate chooses to do the easy thing. He caves to the political pressure. He denies the truth standing right in front of him. He handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Jesus said to Pilate, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate didn’t listen, but we can listen. If we do listen to his voice, we hear Jesus say that he loves us enough to die for us. He loved us that much before we were even born.
This year the festival of Christ the King comes right after the secular festival of Black Friday. In worship we heard the story about a very different kind of Black Friday.
The secular festival of Black Friday has a very clear message: Shop til you drop. Help the economy by spending money on gifts people don’t need and won’t remember three months from now.
Most of us don’t believe the myths that our lives will be enriched by fighting the traffic and crowds to get those bargains. Most of us are disgusted by the commercialization of Christmas, yet many of us participate in it anyway. Why?
Like Pilate, I think many of us are wavering between the truth, the right thing to do and the easy way. We wander back and forth several times as he does. We wander between the compulsion to spend more than we have and feelings of guilt that tell us it isn’t helpful to us, those around us, or the planet.
Pilate’s fate does not have to be ours. Hear what Jesus says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus is the truth. We do belong to him. We can hear his voice.
His voice is telling us that we are loved already. Having more things won’t make us move lovable. Neither will good works. He died for us before we were even born. We are saved and freed by his gracious love.
We are freed to celebrate his birth among us. We are free to give out of generosity rather than obligation. We are free to buy gifts out of love rather than insecurity. We are blessed to focus on who we are as brothers and sisters of the King, rather than on what we lack.
We are free not to buy people things they don’t need or want and won’t remember. We are free to give to those who really do need our gifts. We are free to help our neighbors who are hungry or homeless. We are free to help people all over the globe who are less fortunate than we are.
We are already loved. Jesus will never love us any more than he loves us right now. Jesus will never love us any less.
The voices in the commercials that you hear that are telling you that you are inadequate are lies. You are already worthy in God’s eyes. God opinion is the only one that really matters.
It is not that God wants you to have less. It isn’t really about the gifts, the things that you buy. God wants you to have an abundant life.
God wants you to have more – more love, more peace, more joy, more contentment.
God wants to give you a greater sense of security, a profound sense of belonging, and the very clear knowledge that you are precious to God, the giver of all good things.
We can hear the truth. We belong to the God who loves us.
Thanks be to Jesus Christ our King – the One who is, who was, and who is to come. Amen.