We have no King Let’s Pray… Rev. Stuart Buisch
This is always a curious Sunday. The last Sunday of the calendar year is a low Sunday and everyone is busy with Christmas past and finishing up the Christmas leftovers. Christ the King Sunday is the culmination of the ‘year of Christ’ Story. Next week we begin afresh with the coming of a Messiah – God’s chosen one. We start the story of how God became human and made his home in our midst.
We begin today looking at the text regarding Jesus being tried before Pilate. It is almost comical the irony in the mouths of these Jews. “Anyone who declares himself a king”. I am trying to remember when Jesus said, ‘I am your king.’ Yes, his ride into Jerusalem was rich in the symbolism of a new king. Solomon rode his father’s donkey into Jerusalem when he was made king at the end of David’s life. There is a long tradition in humanity of telling the story that you want heard. Depending on your view of judicial issues you may or may not be grateful for the make up of the supreme court just now. However, they can only make judgements on ‘stories’, accusations that come before them of ‘injustice’. Then they must look carefully at the laws and constitution to determine their answer. They do not create the case. Such is the reality as these nay-sayers who have come before Pilate. They don’t need to tell truth they need to stir Pilate’s heart and mind to rule in a particular way.
Then the second classic line, ‘we have no king but Caesar.’ The Jews who chafed under the rule of Rome now claims Caesar as their king. They are playing a political hand to get rid of Jesus because they do not have the authority to kill. So, we come to the center of Christ the King Sunday and the challenge of Christ the King Sunday. Is Christ your King? What does that mean to you? We nominate our leaders, vote for them and then follow them cheering or follow them jeering. Paul actually calls on us to pray for them. One possibility of Christ being my king impacts how I pray. Do I pray that Christ’s work will be fulfilled? Do I seek to have Christ glorified in my life, my words, my ways, my purchases, my entertainment? I personally do not prefer cussing. So, it is most interesting to me that there are those who apologize in my company about their words but it seems to be lost on them that Jesus hears our every word. However, let me say the carefully chosen cuss word can awaken the attention of the listener.
Jesus in Matthew 25 talks about coming in his final glory. Yes, he uses the word throne but then he talks about his subjects. They are not those who know someone, they are not property owners, they do not control the lives of those under them in any form of leadership.
Those who know their Messiah behave in a particular way with the troubled of the world. Followers of Jesus provide clothing, drink, food, visits and open their own homes to strangers. This is not particularly easy. Yes, it is really easy to send a check, drop a bit of paper money in the red kettle, buy gifts for disadvantaged children. But what happens January 22, May 16, August 3? Do hunger, thirst, nakedness, prisoners, and hospitalized disappear. I wonder, for instance, what you think of the significant numbers of prisoners in municipal or private prisons who are not only contracting covid 19 but also dying of it. Are you perhaps worried that the staffing needs may diminish enough that corrections officers will lose their jobs as the census decreases? Prisoners are someone’s father, aunt, child or sibling; aren’t they? Who were the prisoners that Jesus was talking about in this story? I really struggle with this text. It makes me most uncomfortable.
It is interesting to me that the story teller has the first group – the sheep - ask about each event separately: hunger, thirst, nakedness etc. Each of those events is a separate act, a distinct situation. Food insecurity is a reality, regardless of the reasons. Maybe if we looked carefully to the roots of food insecurity, we might see how our hands have a part in some of the causes. We might say, but what am I willing to change in my life? I am not financially secure. I am not the highest paid in my field. I don’t have disposable income. Have you wondered these words?
The ‘goats’ see all of these issues as a group: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ You can almost see them scratching their heads and wondering out loud who is Jesus talking about. We all have our presuppositions about much of our life. Some of it we learned from our parents and some we have developed over life. Following Jesus, considering him the one authority over our lives that influences all our decisions has never been an easy assignment. Frequently we start off on that path of following and something changes. Sometimes it becomes a ritual – I always give to One Great Hour of Sharing – this year I gave an extra amount. But Jesus doesn’t say I looked at your tax returns and your charitable giving reflects your understanding of food insecurity in Niagara County, you are clearly aware of the lack of clean water in the Congo, you got tax credits for those nine bags you threw in the red box for homeless and that Bible Study with brownies that you sponsor at the downtown holding center.
This culmination Sunday – Christ the King – is tough work. Pray with me that each of us might think, live and give more like Christ, not just our offering here but our sharing each day of our lives, in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer, amen.
Forming Hands of the Universe, let us trust you as you reshape us into your will…
Suffering, Risen Christ, show us the light at the end of our pain that leads to your glory..
Breath of God, fill our souls with freshness, readiness and grace…