Summary: A sermon for Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year, [Pr.29] Series A
Christ the King [Pr. 29] November 23, 2008 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that through your Son, Jesus the Christ, you have revealed your will for our lives, and have redeemed us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word and the Sacraments, that we might come to gain a deeper appreciation for all that our Lord has done for us, and come to embrace him as our redeemer. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.
This morning, we celebrate the last Sunday of the church year, a Sunday in which we honor Jesus the Christ as King. It is a day to remember that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls us to acknowledge that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is worthy to be our Lord, who will judge the world in righteousness.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of two of Christ’s teachings on the subject of his future judging of the world, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. The first occurs at the end of what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”
In this passage, the judgement of condemnation seems to fall upon those who use Jesus’ name in a casual manner, as if they really didn’t know and understand Jesus from their hearts. Simply engaging in acts of ministry is not what Jesus wants. He wants us to know him in such an intimate way, that our actions, and the way that we live our lives, naturally flow from our relationship with him.
And in our Gospel lesson for this morning, the emphasis of our Lord’s judgement again seems to fall upon truly knowing Jesus from the heart, in such an intimate way, that as we encounter persons in need, we respond to them as Jesus would have responded. Just listen to how personal and intimate, Jesus makes his judgement.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
And the interesting thing about our lesson for this morning, is the fact that those who did what Jesus would have expected, did so without trying to earn our Lord’s good favor. Because they knew Jesus so intimately, so
personally, they didn’t even realize that they were acting the way that Jesus desired. From knowing Jesus, their life had been changed in such a way that they just naturally responded to care for those in need.
It was not as if they knowingly set out and acted in such a way to earn brownie points from our Lord come judgement day. The fact that those whom our Lord blessed and invited into the kingdom of God, did not even know that they had done these things, is a clear statement that it is not our deeds that make us righteous, but our intimate relationship with Jesus.
In a large Christian University, two persons were called upon to recite the 23rd Psalm of David, in a study group that was focusing on how hearing the Word of God proclaimed, can effect us in various ways, even change the meaning of a certain text. One of those chosen to recite the psalm was a professor trained in the techniques of speech, drama and music. As a result, he intoned the psalm with great beauty and power.
When he had finished, those in the class applauded with enthusiasm, and asked him to repeat those verses, that they again might hear the beauty of his performance. Then the second person was asked to recite the text. She was a first year student, who had yet to pick a major. With no musical talent, she chose to simply recite the psalm from memory. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…