November 21, 2021 – Christ the King Sunday – John 18:33-37

Christ the King Sunday.  If it wasn’t for the fact that the name of this festival day is part of the name of this congregation, I might be urging us to join the many churches who have changed the name of this observance to the Reign of Christ.  Because really, in 21st century America, what is our reference point for monarchs?  The last king we knew was the one that taxed us without representation, and we called that tyranny and declared our independence from his kingdom. Today, the only time people get excited about talking about royalty is when they’re dishing the dirt on Harry and Megan or wagering on the chances that Charles will abdicate the throne so that William can ascend to it . . . or idly wondering if it’s possible that Queen Elizabeth is immortal.  Yeah, we don’t put much stock in kings.

You might be surprised to know that apparently Jesus didn’t either.  At least he didn’t seem to think of himself in that role.  The word king is used 80 times in the New Testament, and only 38 times is it used in reference to Jesus.  And of those 38 times that the word king is used for Jesus, guess how many times Jesus used the word to refer to himself?  None.  Other people called him king – sometimes in earnest, sometimes questioningly as Pilate did, and sometimes in mockery as the soldiers did when they were taking him to be crucified.  But nowhere is it recorded that Jesus called himself a king.

But what Jesus does talk about is his kingdom.  In fact, he talks about the kingdom quite a bit – in his teaching, in his parables, and even as we heard today during Pilate’s interrogation.  But Jesus said that his kingdom is not from this world.  What does that mean – that his kingdom is not from this world?  To me, it means that the kingdom of God is not like ordinary earthly kingdoms that have borders and boundaries and armies to protect those borders.  Instead, the kingdom of God is a space.  It exists in every home where parents and children honor, respect, and love each other.  It exists in every region and country that takes care of the weak and vulnerable.  It exists in every church that reaches out to the needy.  The kingdom of God is not confined to any one place, but exists in all the places and spaces where God’s will is done.

The kingdom of God is also a time.  It is that moment in time when someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person.  It happens in those times when we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war.  It happens whenever people join together to combat hatred, to overcome ignorance, and to pass on the faith to the next generation.  But even though the kingdom of God is a time, it is not confined to any one time.  It is in the past – in the life and work of Jesus.  It is in the present – in the work of the church.  And it is in the future – when Christ will come again to reign over a world of love, justice, and peace.

But it’s not here yet – not fully.  And that’s why every time we say the Lord’s prayer, we continue to pray urgently, “Thy kingdom come.”  We know that Jesus brought the kingdom of God to earth, but we also know that this is not yet the kingdom in its perfection.  We don’t have to look very far or very hard to see sin and sorrow – and neither sin nor sorrow have any place in God’s realm.  So we continue to pray that Christ’s kingdom will come, that Christ himself will come again, bringing his kingdom of love, justice, and peace to perfect fulfillment.  As Luther wrote in his Small Catechism, that day will come whether we pray for it to come or not.  But we pray that it might come in and through us – through our efforts, through our actions, through our ministry to a world in need.

In this space where we are today and in this present moment in Christ’s unfolding kingdom, we are celebrating Commitment Sunday, the culmination of our fall stewardship campaign.  I’ve seen the envelopes coming in through the mail so I know that a number of you have already returned your pledge cards.  Thank you.  Some of you have brought your cards in today.  Thank you.  And some of you may not feel that you are able to make a financial commitment at this time.  Nonetheless we thank you for the ways that you are able to support this congregation.  At the time of the offering, we’re going to invite everyone to act out their commitment to our mission and ministry by coming forward and placing their pledge cards and/or regular offerings in the offering plate.  As you come forward to offer your commitment to Christ, our king, I encourage you to pray, either silently or aloud, the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer:  “Thy kingdom come.”  When you put your pledge card or offering in the plate, say “Thy kingdom come.”  I place in your hands not just this offering and not just this commitment, but I offer you all that I have and all that I am.  Use me to bring about the kingdom.  “Thy kingdom come.”

Because this can be the place where the kingdom comes – a place where love, justice, and peace flourish.  This can be the time when the kingdom comes – when we demonstrate God’s love for others, even strangers and outsiders and people on the other side of the globe; when we advocate for the basic human rights of all of God’s children; when we stand united in our purpose of sharing the gospel of peace.  With the Holy Spirit’s help and by our working together, God’s kingdom can come.  May this be the time and the place for God’s kingdom to come a little closer to us.  And may this be the time and the place for the kingdom to come through us, through our love and our actions, through our serving, even as Christ, our king, has served us.

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