Summary: This is a sermon used on Christ the King Sunday, looking at our King on a cross and what it means for us
The splintered throne
Today is not just the Sunday before thanksgiving, it is the last Sunday in the Christian year, which centers around the theme of Christ the King. This time of year gets to be very busy – for those who were in the board meeting this past week, you know the full schedule that December brings with it (and those who weren’t, will soon know). Add to that, all the busy things from our personal lives and its even worse. All that to say that after today, our minds turn to Advent and Christmas, when the Christian worship year begins again. So let’s pause for a few moment today, while we can still take a breath, and consider this day we call “Christ the king”. What does it mean for us as God’s children, and what is God’s good word to us this last Sunday before we journey anew to Bethlehem?
One of the prophetic scriptures that is read is today’s OT scripture in the lectionary, Jer. 23:5,which calls Jesus our “righteous branch”. In Col. 1:15, Paul calls Jesus the “firstborn of all creation.” The text we read from Luke towers over these lofty titles as it brings us back to our Lord’s crucifixion. No, I do not have my season mixed up. This text might seem out of place as we focus on Christ the king today – I kean, a king on a cross? It might seem out of place to read about Jesus crucifixion as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but I don’t think it is. I think it paints the true nature of our King, lifts our hearts in thankfulness for what God has done for us.
This is a special scripture, because of the 4 gospel writers, only Luke records in detail the conversation that took place between our Lord and the two thieves who died with him that day on Calvary. Yes, here we find, as in the other gospels, the mocking crowd and the derision of the soldiers. But only Luke includes a verse where Jesus says, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” At that place of horrific human suffering where abandonment meets death, Jesus dies on a rough hewn cross beneath a darkened sky and above a murderous earth. This one who is the King of the Jews, the King of the universe, offers mercy in the midst of it all. And that is how this scripture, that we associate with lent and holy week, fits in here on Christ the king Sunday – the splintered throne.
It is here, on this splintered throne that our Lord, hoisted above the ground and pegged to a cross between two thieves, is enthroned as the forgiving King. Here, Jesus, if you please, holds court before the crowd of insulting bystanders and a corps fo profane soldiers. Here Jesus hangs on a splintered thrown, the instrument of his death, with two lost sons of God who stole and murdered their way to Calvary. Here Jesus dies not so much as King of the Jews, as the sign over his head said, but as Christ the king, full of love and mercy. So even though we spend a lot of time here at the splintered throne during Holy week, reflecting on the sacrifice God made for us, I want us to take a few moments to kind of look at things with new eyes, in a way we may not have before.
For one thing, look with me and see Christ the King as the giver of life in the midst of death. The sheet bloody horror of death by crucifixion cannot be imagined. Scholars tell us that to die on the cross, for most people, was to die from exposure, dehydration, and suffocation over the course of several days. The Romans, in a chilling definition of the word, perfected death by crucifixion. They used death on the cross as both a reminder to their friends and a warning to their enemies. So death by crucifixion was gory and cruel. At this place of suffering, even in the midst of his own suffering, Jesus chose to offer forgiveness and life in the midst of death. We who worship this One who gave his life for us would be wise to follow him by giving such gifts to others. If we think about it, we realize that all around us on a daily basis are expressions of death in some form or another. The violence that is all around us speaks for itself – people knocking out strangers for the fun of it, children killing their teachers, young people killing because they are bored, people who turn to gangs for a sense of belonging because they have no one else who seems to care, children lost in the system, people who are afraid to come out of their homes or let their kids play outside because of the violence surrounding them. These are things we can look at and see and know they are death producing. But then there are other things -things like racism that diminishes another’s humanity, indifference that ignores another’s identity, sarcasm that mars another’s self-worth, obscenity that profanes another’s intelligence, unacceptance that refuses to embrace another for who they are, all these conspire to inflict death of another sort. Unlike the things we mentioned earlier, these things may not physically end another persons life, but they kill something precious within that person that was fashioned by the hand of God.