John 18:33-37, Revelation 1:4b-8
When one searches for inspiration for a sermon, it is often a good idea to turn to the experts. For today, our expert is Walt Disney and a famous movie known as “The Lion King.” Here is a scene with the young future king Simba and his distinct celebration of his impending rule. [Play video] As a child, Simba literally can’t wait to be king! He’s excited about the prospect of bossing everyone around, having his subjects wait on him, basically basking in the lap of luxury. Later he learns that being king is not so easy. It is harsh, and challenging, even painful at times. Wearing the cloak of authority can become a heavy weight.
Today is the day of the Christian calendar where we celebrate Christ as King. Our paraments have changed from green to white to represent the coming of the light. I often think of Jesus and his knowledge that he is in fact ruler of a kingdom beyond earth. How difficult was it to take up that responsibility? Did Jesus have a choice to possibly set his kingdom aside, renouncing his throne so to speak? Knowing he would die at the hands of those he came to save, do we ever wonder if Jesus celebrated his impending kingdom, or did he perhaps carry the heavy weight of rule as well? Jesus was one to promote humility not grandeur, simple living not grandiose pageantry. So perhaps we are seeing a glimpse of the reversals in the Kingdom of God in the life and example of Jesus.
Think of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. By all rights he could have taken the most elaborate mode of transportation, yet chose a simple donkey. He could have had the elders of the church as his subjects but instead communed with fishermen and outcasts. He could have been born in a palace and lived a life of ease, but instead was born in a stable in an obscure town where very few people even took notice.
When Jesus preached, he blessed the humble, the meek, the lowly, the downtrodden, the poor. Jesus made it very clear that the haughty who believed in themselves first and God second were the ones who would struggle to enter the kingdom of God. He noted it was harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God then for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle. Not an impossible task but a difficult one as often the wealthy would put themselves first instead of God. When Jesus entered an area he would begin to bless and heal all who were there, not seek out the scholars and religious leaders. He ate and drank with outcasts – tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers. Perhaps he was sharing a bit of the Kingdom of God.
Today we recognize Christ as King. Many times Christ referred to the Kingdom of God when he initiated a parable. Often it was a story of the norms of society being turned on their ear because the outcasts and marginalized where rewarded and welcomed, often for the first time. When we recite the Lord’s Prayer, part of what Jesus taught us to pray is, ‘thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ On earth as it is in heaven – it sounds like Christ would have us envision the Kingdom of God on earth. Perhaps Jesus would have us present the Kingdom of God in our words and actions.
What would it look like? How would we envision the Kingdom of God on earth? How would we live that out? I remember the summer before last, we had an anonymous donor come forward with a generous donation to give summer fun packs to our backpack buddies recipients. We were able to include things like family passes to Six Flags, jump ropes, footballs/basketballs/playground balls, coupons for Ritas and Chick Fil-A – all kinds of stuff to help struggling families have a little fun over the summer. One mother was so appreciative, she walked back to the school (because she has no car) and made a point of sending a special thank you to Mayo. Is that a bit of the Kingdom of God on earth? I think so.
Where else have we witnessed the Kingdom of God on earth? Is it through our various ministries, outreach, missions? I think so. Every time a neighborhood child is able to have meal on the weekend because they received one of those ‘special bags’ I think we have shared a bit of the Kingdom of God on earth. When we welcome members of the various AA groups that meet here, hosting a dinner for them, inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner, are we not sharing a bit of the Kingdom of God on earth? When I enter a classroom at Mayo Elementary School only to have one of the kids call out, ‘Pastor Kathy!’ is that not sharing a bit of the Kingdom of God on earth? When we invite folks in our community to worship with us, going door-to-door with a personal invitation, is that not sharing the Kingdom of God on earth? When we participate in an energy assistance program with other local churches because the county funding is drying up, are we not sharing the Kingdom of God on earth? Any time we can shed a little hope in a very dark world, we are sharing the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.
So what? If you have been following the world events for the past week or so all you can see is darkness. Evil seems to be winning. We can preach about hope and light all we want but our daily lives live out another scenario. Or do they? Is it possible to carry the Kingdom of God with us even in the midst of trial? Can we find any hope in the world we live in? I have mentioned a movie called ‘Bruce Almighty’ before. Bruce is an ordinary guy who takes on the power of God for a brief time. One lesson he learned through this experience was to become someone who was less self-centered and more attune to the needs of others. He found himself helping to push a broken-down car out of the road instead of sitting in his car complaining about it. He finished a photo album for his girlfriend even though it appeared as though they were splitting up. He served as a blood donor and coined the slogan, “Be the Miracle.”
Every day we have opportunities to be the miracle in someone else’s life. In a time of need sometimes a miracle is not having to pay for my order at the drive through because someone else already paid for my order. In a time of need sometimes a miracle is taking time out during a football game Sunday to visit a friend in the hospital. In a time of need sometimes a miracle is looking in on an elderly neighbor who is a bit unsteady on her feet. Some will says these aren’t miracles, just acts of kindness. Perhaps they are both as we share the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.
One of the greatest ways we can share the Kingdom of God on earth is through prayer. So today I am going to ask you to do something a little different. There are index cards in every pew and prayer cards in the pew pockets. Our world is in need of prayer. We just concluded a sermon series on the power of prayer and so I would like to harness that power. Consider the unrest and despair all around the world. Consider the needs of those in our own families and our neighborhoods. I would like each of you to write a prayer on these cards. Simple is good – something like ‘Prayers for the Syrian refugees.’ I am not taking a political stance on anything, but I am looking for us to battle the real enemy – the one that would have us arguing policy over humanity, politics over genuine care for one another. Where do you see evil at work in our families, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our country, in our world? If you would please take a moment, write a prayer, then either pass it down your pew or designate/bring your request forward to this table where we can leave our concerns at the foot of the cross.
Christ the king has defeated evil through his death and resurrection. We look forward to feasting at the final victory at the heavenly table. We can share hope in a dark world because only light can chase away darkness. Only love can drive out hate. Bring your petitions to Jesus the King.