Revelation 1:4b-8 and John 18:33-37Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.For the past two weeks our church has been making ornaments for our Christmas tree on the town square and I …
Revelation 1:4b-8 and John 18:33-37
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.
For the past two weeks our church has been making ornaments for our Christmas tree on the town square and I just love the way it has turned out. The ornaments we have been making are of a special type — they are called Chrismons, and they are symbols of Christ.
So we made ornaments that were of the nativity, the cross, the chalice of the last supper, the dove which symbolizes the Holy Spirit that came down at his baptism, the star of David which reminds us that he is of the line of David, the Greek symbol of peace, the Greek symbol of the alpha and the omega, and the crown of the King of Kings.
So our tree actually represents the life of Christ, which makes it truly a Christ-mas tree. And our tree matches our theology for our church year. In the Episcopal Church we have a set pattern that we follow, and this has been going on for many centuries. This past Sunday was our last Sunday of our church year. This Sunday we start over with Advent, our first season of our church calendar as we prepare for Christmas.
As we celebrate our year, we walk through the life of Christ and our place in the God’s plan for creation. So each year we think and pray and study about the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord.
This past Sunday of the Year, we celebrated what is known as the Feast of Christ the King. Now a lot of people focus on the second coming of Christ as the days of judgment, where God sorts through the good and the evil, where we each appear before the throne of God. But what I want us to think about this week are the days after that. The days of the new kingdom where our Lord Jesus Christ reigns as king.
In our gospel reading, Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. And so today I want us to take some time to think about and remember our true identity. Our true citizenship.
I want to begin by admitting that as I began thinking and praying about this sermon for Christ the King day, I found that this day is not one that especially inspires me like some of the others in our church year, such as Holy Week and Christmas. And I think it has to do with how some people talk about how they look forward to the mansions and crowns they will receive in heaven.
I have to say that is not something that touches my heart and moves me. I am not a Christian, a follower of Jesus, because I hope that someday I will be rewarded with a big a house and bunch of stuff in heaven (nor for that matter here on earth — but that’s a different sermon).
Indeed I find that I am more inspired by the visions of Isaiah, of a place of abundance and infinite peace and joy, where the lion lays down with the lamb, and the fields of heaven overflow with good food and grapes and fruit, and people who live in peace. A place of quiet villages filled with families and friends, sharing time and love and feasts with one another. Those are the visions that inspire me, and so I began wondering what does Christ as King mean for people like me, who have visions of heaven like those.
Which led me to think about the kings and kingdoms of this world. Lord knows we have had some doozies. None of them have ever been perfect, and some of them have been downright horrid. And so I began to see why Christ as our king is truly something we need to think about and pray for and look forward to in hope. Because his kingship is the one we truly want and would love.
Under his kingship, our visions of heaven come true. Kings of this world and their kingdoms have done a lot of good, but they have also done a lot of harm. It is the kingdoms of this world, the nations of this world, the governments of this world that perpetuate poverty and oppression, persecution and tyranny. They are the ones in this world that have the power to declare war or to keep the peace. And through their power and way of governance, the people of the world throughout time, have been affected for good and for bad.
I long for a place of no oppression and no poverty, but also no sickness, no darkness and no sin and no death. A place of complete abundance and grace and peace. And so I long for a good king and a good kingdom, who clearly will not be of this world. Today we are reminded that it is coming. That such a place exists, and that we are already counted as citizens there.
Some people believe that we can usher the kingdom of God here to earth. I am not so certain about that, and quite frankly as you can see, I look forward to a kingdom that is not of this world. On the other hand, as Christians, we are called to wait in an active way. We are called to make a difference in this world as we wait for the next.
I recently read a beautiful commentary by Richard Rohr on the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his companion St. Clare. St. Francis was the founder of the Franciscan order of the monks. He gave up a life of great wealth and power, to start a monastery that cared for the poor and the outcast. Richard Rohr had this to say about this choice:
Francis and Clare of Assisi are still having a profound impact in the Christian world, eight hundred years later. They told us by their lives that Christianity could be joyful, simple, sweet, and beautiful.
I believe that the Gospel itself, and the Franciscan vision of the Gospel, is primarily communicated by highly symbolic human lives that operate as “Prime Attractors”: through actions visibly done in love; by a nonviolent, humble, and liberated lifestyle; and through identification with the edged out and the excluded of every system. The very presence of such Prime Attractors “gives others reasons for spiritual joy.”
In other words, Francis and Clare lived as if they were citizens of the kingdom of heaven. They lived as if the things they professed about their Lord Jesus Christ and our Father above were true. They lived their lives in the truth of the gospel, and through their lives, they attracted others to become Christians in a deeply profound and spiritually joyful way.
And so my question for us this week is, what if we did that? Each week we recite together the Nicene Creed, we say the basic beliefs of our Christian faith.
What if we were to act under the influence of our spoken convictions?
What if we all acted like God was there at the beginning, creating the world, and then he came down and became a man?
What if we acted like we actually had a role in killing Jesus on the cross?
What if we acted like we believed he died, was in a tomb and rose from the dead?
What if we acted like we believe he ascended to heaven?
What if we acted like we believe that Jesus will come again and receive us to be there with him?
What if we lived as citizens of heaven, of the kingdom of Christ? Living out the truth, living in the truth. Letting it touch our hearts and permeate our lives.
So I want to close by encouraging us all, as we start our new church year, to make a new year resolution. A church resolution.
As begin our walk together in another year of faith, may we each resolve to look for the truth of our God and pray for it to impact our lives. Let us resolve together to live as citizens of heaven.