Did you know that by getting up this morning – by coming to church – you have chosen to do something revolutionary – something radical – something – that could be considered SUBVERSIVE? Rebellious?
Now some of you might be reconsidering your decision to come to church this morning –
And some of you rabble rousers are feeling pretty good about that decision…
Christ the King Sunday is a Sunday where we claim that Jesus Christ is the King over all things. That Jesus has power and authority over our lives, over our church, over our city, our country, and our world.
That Jesus has power and authority over and above the rulers and politicians in this world
Over and above the corporations and businesses that rule this world.
Over and above the wealthiest people in the world.
Over and above the people who want to perpetuate evil and oppression.
Jesus has power and authority over and above our boss, our landlord, our relatives who created Thanksgiving drama in our lives yet again, and over and above the very fears that drive us to do things that harm and hurt us and keep us from living the life we dream of.
Jesus has power and authority over everything.
Because Jesus Christ is the King.
It is indeed a radical and revolutionary and counter-cultural and rebellious and subversive statement to claim that in the midst of the kind of world we live in – that Jesus Christ is the King.
In our passage today, we begin to understand even more about what happens when we make such a claim in the world and why it is risky.
Now Jesus seemed to have a real knack of getting himself into trouble. He broke the rules, ate with sinners, talked to women in public, healed people on the Sabbath, and spoke without fear to the people in authority, challenging them to look deep within and to follow God with their true hearts.
Aside from all the rule breaking, the really risky part of Jesus’ ministry was what he was teaching people about.
Jesus went around teaching everyone about the Kingdom of God. He said that in God’s kingdom, that the poor and the meek and merciful were the ones that were blessed. He said that in God’s kingdom, all people were welcome, whether they were the beggar on the street or the rich ruler. In God’s kingdom, there is enough for everyone – regardless of who you are – the banquet is set and there is plenty of food for all. And in God’s Kingdom – there is so much love and grace and forgiveness that even if you have completely lost your way and screwed things up, there is a great banquet and celebration waiting for you when you choose to return to God.
But what really got him into trouble is that he said that the Kingdom of God is near. The Kingdom of God is at hand. In fact, the Kingdom of God becomes real in the world when we begin to live this way - when we choose to operate and treat people with dignity and love and respect and equality and when we lavish God’s good gifts on each other without worry or fear. Jesus preached a Gospel of great Abundance – abundance of love and grace and forgiveness but also an abundance of resources – food, necessity, even power to do God’s will in the world.
Jesus preached the good news of his Kingdom – and it was a Gospel of Abundance and it got him into a lot of trouble.
Now in our passage today, Jesus finds himself being questioned before Pilate. And we the readers know that this questioning is happening on the last night of his life.
Pilate, a Roman governor, a person of privilege, a man who has gained everything he has by ensuring that others do not also share in that privilege lives in a world of scarcity. A world where there is not enough for every person, a world where power comes by taking it from others, a world where once you get what is yours you do not share it with others for fear that you will be left without what you need, and a world where protecting your own self-interest is the only way to survive.
In this world, there is no room for a king like Jesus, there is no room for his gospel of abundance – for someone who claims to speak on behalf of the people, for someone who offers healing and hope and love to the poor, for someone who challenges the systems that are in place that keep some in power and others powerless, for someone who insists that the message he brings is for all people.
Jesus is a political threat to him and to his entire way of life.
And so when Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king – it is a VERY loaded question.
And Jesus’ answers tell him everything that he needs to know. My kingdom is not your kingdom. My ways aren’t yours. I don’t care whether you call me a king – I’m not interested in power or status in the way that you are.
I am here for one thing – to testify to the truth.
To make the name of God known to all people – to let the love of God live in the people and by the power of God, set all my people free – including you Pilate.
That is what makes me a king.
And underneath his statement – it is clear what he is saying -
Your world of scarcity, your world where you take what you have from others and where you protect your own self-interest out of fear… that is not the TRUTH.
God is not a God of scarcity Pilate, God is a God of abundance.
But - Pilate - he simply cannot hear it.
Because if Jesus is who he says he is.
If Jesus is the king, then power and status and wealth and resources is not.
If Jesus is King, then we are all equal and we are all in need of God’s love and grace.
If Jesus is the king, then everything that Pilate has built his life around is worthless.
If Jesus is the king… if Pilate could really hear that - then Pilate would have to respond.
And he just Cannot. He has too much to lose.
While I was serving as the Youth Pastor at Riverside UMC, I spent a week every summer for 7 years down in Appalachia – doing service work repairing homes of various families.
Every year I went though, I found myself incredibly blessed by the people and by the way in which they lived their lives.
It started the first summer I was there, when I worked in Floyd County, KY and I was assigned to the home of Verline. Of all the 7 years I went, Verline’s house was probably in the worst shape – but I’d challenge you to find a more joyful and loving woman.
Verline was a strong Christian woman and each day we would arrive on the job, she would greet us and say – another beautiful day – ain’t God good April?
While Verline had very little to her name – she was eager each day to share with us – tomatoes from her garden? A peanut butter sandwich? She was happy to offer what she had.
Part way through the week we invited Verline and her family to a picnic at the state park where all the families would gather with all the workers and volunteers and enjoy an evening of good food and fellowship. It was always my favorite time of the week. And as I sat there at the table with Verline talking about her life and her grandchildren’s lives and the struggles she faced, I just asked her – “How do you manage it all – trying to make sure you have enough for you and your family and put food on the table?”
And she just smiled at me and said – “Oh April, don’t you worry about me. God is in charge around here and so there is ALWAYS enough. There is always enough.”
I’ve never forgotten Verline and Ricky and Sarah and all the other faces I met over the years – the people who taught me about what the Gospel of Abundance really means.
The People who taught me what it really means to say that Christ is the King over and above everything else that the world offers.
And so when we gather here on this day and say that Christ is the King and celebrate this day – it is indeed a radical and subversive thing. It challenges the very fabric of our culture and our world – it challenges us to rethink what is really important to us and how willing we are to live in the world as if there is in fact enough time and resources and money and LOVE for everyone.
And I wonder – do we really believe it?
Are we really able to hear it?
Do I really believe that there is enough time and resources and energy and food and love to offer to the world what it really needs?
And am I really willing to let go of my fears and live in such a way that doesn’t just try to hold onto what I think is mine?
Or do I, like Pilate, have too much to lose?
I want to say a few words about next week.
Because there are few places where it is harder to live into this idea than when it comes to our money.
Next week is our New Consecration Sunday, the day in which we will present our financial pledges to God for the 2013 year.
It is a powerfully faithful act to say to Jesus that you will trust him with your money. Part of the power of making something like a pledge is that you are saying in advance, before you know what is to happen – that you believe in the crazy world that we live in – that God will be faithful and that you will choose to operate in a way that believes in abundance – in a way that believes that if you are generous and share with abundance, that somehow – there will be enough for you and also for others.
It’s a bold thing to do.
There are almost no other places in the world where we are asked to do this kind of optional act of generosity.
And the very act of doing so is one way that God continues to invite us to live in God’s kingdom.
To say that I will choose to live in a state of generosity as if there is enough for everyone –
To stand against my own fear that I will not have what I need -
To say that Jesus is the King.
And so I invite you in the next week – as you pray about this – as some of you pray whether you will give at all, as some of you pray about how much you are able to give –
I invite you to allow God to use this opportunity to stretch and challenge you –
That just like Pilate, you might come face to face with the Gospel of Abundance – and be invited to trust Jesus Christ the King in a way that is more real.
Because that’s the point.
That’s the biggest reason that God invites us to give in the first place.
And if we aren’t careful, living like that – might begin to change and shape us in profound ways. J
“God is the one in charge around here. And so there is always enough.”
May we live as if it is so.