Monday, November 25, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 24, 2019

Sermon: “Long Live the King!”

In early September I made my way into Hobby Lobby to pick up something for Kids Bible Discovery.  The weather was warm, the great feeling of being done with a busy summer and the hope of a new school year were on my mind.  The sun was high in the sky and with a smile on my face I strode into the store only to be confronted with…Christmas. 

Before a single leaf had started to turn, my vision started to burn.  Well ahead of sweater weather, and before I could prepare whatsoever, my eyeballs were accosted by red and green tinsel, giant blow up snowmen, and twinkling trees ready to welcome the newborn King.

I’m never in a great mood when Christmas comes too early.  In my house we don't decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  The gifts, the decorations, the food, and the time spent with family, but there is a time and place, and that time is not now, and that place is not here…yet.

All that being said, I want to turn your attention this morning to the season of Advent, and the celebration of Christmas.  Now before some of you roll your eyes because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, hear me out.  And I’m sure some of you are saying, “Finally!  I’ve had my tree up since All-Saints Day!”

This past Sunday was Christ the King Sunday.  It’s also the last Sunday of the Church year, or the 24th Sunday after Pentecost.  This coming Sunday will be the beginning of a New Church year as we begin the season of Advent.  The Church year is more than just a way to pass the time, mark the seasons, or give the altar guild something to do to change the paraments in the church.  The Church year can instruct, enlighten and help us see the grand narrative played out in the pages of Holy Scripture. 

This past Sunday, November 24th is the culmination of the celebration that began almost a year ago.  To understand Christ the King, we need to go back to the beginning of Luke’s Gospel to see how this all began. 

In the first chapter of Luke we see the angel Gabriel paying a visit to a young virgin named Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary” the angel said, “For you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33) 

In the Church year, this text foreshadows today, Christ the King Sunday, but there is more.  In Luke 2, that famous Christmas Gospel we hear more about this child.  As an angel visits some shepherds they hear, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be or all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Now, it might not be as overt in the text, but the shepherds got the message loud and clear.  A baby born in the hometown of King David who is called the Christ, this must be a king.  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah which means “the anointed one”.  People set apart were anointed, like prophets, priests and kings.  This anointed one would fill all three positions as the Christ of God, the Savior of the world.

Paging through Luke’s Gospel we see a number of other instances where Jesus is called a king. In fact at His two trials, that is the accusation; that He is the Christ, the King of the Jews. 

That brings us to our Gospel lesson from Luke the 23rd chapter, and without the context of the Church year it might sound out of place. Luke writes, 33 When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him. The criminals were also crucified, one on his right and the  other on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” Meanwhile, the soldiers divided his clothes among themselves by throwing dice. 35 The people stood there watching. But the rulers were making sarcastic remarks. They said, “He saved others. If he’s the Messiah that God has chosen, let him save himself!” 36 The soldiers also made fun of him. They would go up to him, offer him some vinegar, 37 and say, “If you’re the king of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A written notice was placed above him. It said, “This is the king of the Jews.” (Luke 23:33-38)

Doesn’t sound like the story of most royalty?  His reign seemed to be coming to an end before it even began.  There would be no shouts of “Long live the king!”  Instead there would just be insults and mocking towards the one whose head wore a crown of thorns.

That phrase, “Long live the king!” has been used for centuries in the western world at the coronation of a new monarch.  It seems to have its roots in France at the coronation of Charles VII (7th) in 1422.    Perhaps you know it spoken in jest by Scar in the Lion King, as he sends Mufasa to his death, but I digress. 

There are some long reigning monarchs in western history.  The longest being Louis XIV (14th) of France who reigned for 72 years 110 days.  Louis the XIV (14th) was known as the Sun King for he thought so highly of himself that as the planets revolved around the sun, all of France revolved around him.

The longest currently reigning monarch is Queen Elizabeth II who has reigned for 67 years 286 days and counting.  She has celebrated her Silver, Golden, Diamond and Sapphire Jubilees, during her long reign.
But how long was Jesus’ reign?  The promised descendant of King David lived a mere 33 years.  The Messiah that was foretold by the prophets never had a coronation celebration or a jubilee festivity. Or did He?

Jesus truly begins His reign precisely at the moment when He suffers the deepest humiliations.  The inscription over the cross, meant to mock His messianic claims, speaks the very truth.  Jesus, the Messiah and King is saving sinners.  As King eternal He could save Himself, but in love He will once again not give into the temptations of Satan. 

In fact, on the cross He shows what He will do for all humanity.  Luke continues, 39 One of the criminals hanging there insulted Jesus by saying, “So you’re really the Messiah, are you? Well, save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal scolded him: “Don’t you fear God at all? Can’t you see that you’re condemned in the same way that he is? 41 Our punishment is fair. We’re getting what we deserve. But this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” 43 Jesus said to him, “I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

This criminal on the brink of death and hell, suffering for his own sin is the first to come face to face with Jesus’s announcement that sin is forgiven by virtue of the cross.  This sinner is embraced by the One who saves, the Christ, God’s anointed Messiah, the King of the Jews.  As the King takes his last breath and dies, sin’s reign is finished and the Messiah’s begins.  Three days later death’s power is shattered and the reign of love, mercy and grace explode upon the world in powerful, transformational ways and we all cry “Long live the King!” Next week as green gives way to blue and a new Church year begins, we move into the season of Advent where we wait with eager expectation for the return of the King.   And in this grand story we find ourselves as one of the players. 

We are like that criminal hanging on the cross, trapped by our sin, unable to save ourselves.  Our punishment is fair, we are getting what we deserve, but in Christ the King, something amazing happens.  And like that criminal, we too are freed from our condition by a word of Grace and an act of love. “Today you will be with me in paradise!”

At the cross, Jesus is King; in this place in Word and Sacrament the King is here to confirm His promise to His own, that on account of Christ your sin is forgiven. And here we hear the words spoken to sinful criminals, “Today you will be with me in paradise!”  And this promise is a certainty.  The King has decreed it to be, His words are truth and that truth will set us free. The reign of the true Son King has begun and will continue far beyond that of Louis the XIV (14th) or Elizabeth II. 

When we shout out “Long live the King!” it is with the knowledge that as sons and daughters of the King, we proclaim what Isaiah foretold, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And we are heirs to eternity as Peter writes in his epistle, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Christmas is never too early for the children of the King.  So, feel free to decorate early, you even have my permission to keep your decorations up all year in celebration of Christ to King who comes to us not just in Advent and Christmas but all year, every day, in so many ways.  Next year when I go to Hobby Lobby I will do my best to remember that it’s never too early to celebrate.  And as we finish the church year we see the culmination of the story that began in Bethlehem and was fulfilled on the cross as Jesus cries out, “Today you will be with me in paradise!” And in many ways, Jesus says to you, His chosen people and royal priests, may you live long with the King!
-Pr. Seth Moorman


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