Top Priority – Pastor Robert’s sermon for Sunday, November 25


The celebration of Advent and Christmas, and Lent and Easter are holy days and seasons in the church that go back for many centuries.
There was a new recognition added to the church calendar in 1925 through the Catholic Church. The last Sunday before Advent was designated as Christ the King Sunday. This was done in response to governments who were seen as abusing their power and to life being lived with little thought of God.
     This day is a world wide recognition that the rule of Christ is above all leaders and states. In the twentieth century, monuments were erected like this statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro to commemorate that Christ is indeed over all. A contemporary song expresses the theme of this Sunday celebration.

Above all powers, above all kings

Above all nature and all created things

Above all wisdom and the ways of man

You were here, before the world began

Above all kingdoms, above all thrones

Above all wonders the world has ever known

Above all wealth and treasures of the earth

There’s no way to measure what you’re worth*

*By Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc

     In the U.S., a king is not a familiar figure to us. There are 26 countries in the world that are still headed by kings, queens, emperors, sheikhs, or princes.  We do not live under the ruler ship of a monarch. However  we do have some interest in kings:

 -Our fascination with British royalty and the most recent royal baby

 -The Burger king guy

and

              – The king of rock and roll

     Elvis Presley was given the title of king because of his popularity. In the mid-70’s I have a friend who worked with a woman named Linda and she adored Elvis. He was doing a show at the Charlotte Coliseum. She had never seen him perform live and she offered to give her a ride to the concert which was several hours away. She bought a new outfit and had her hair done in a magnificent bouffant. She brought her to the arena and returned to pick her up after the concert. For her it was one of the best nights of her life. She had maneuvered her way  to the stage and had touched his shoe. Her intention had been to take his boot off but she had been unsuccessful.

Linda had polio as a child and consequently had spent time in a hospital. She had listened to Elvis on the radio during her illness and felt that it was his music that gave her hope. Elvis was at the top of her list, and for that one evening, life could not be better.

We may have folks we idolize but our understanding of kings in our time is limited…

Let’s look at what we can discover about Jesus being a king.

In the Old Testament, kings are described as shepherds. A shepherd is to care for his flock, to know them by name, to lead them in the right direction, to protect them from those who would harm them. Likewise, the king is to put the welfare of the people above his own.

Jesus calls himself the Good shepherd. He cared for the hungry, the hurting, those who felt isolated from God. His heart was always concerned with his flock.

Jesus spoke a lot about God’s kingdom in his teachings. At the ending of his ministry, he is publicly proclaimed as being the king of the Jewish people. In the last week of his life, Jesus enters into Jerusalem, and weeps for the city. He is accused of coming into Jerusalem to lead a rebellion against the ruling Roman government. He is tried and convicted. The Roman soldiers dressed him in a robe, put a crown of thorns on his head and mocked him.

The sign above his head on the cross read “King of the Jews.”  A king that is defeated and is killed is not our expectation.

The story of Jesus being a king of course doesn’t end there.

In the letters of the New Testament and the Book of Revelation, we have wonderful  descriptions of the risen Jesus who is now “king of all kings and lord of all lords.”

He suffered a cruel death and yet his love rules over all creation. In Colossians, he is described as showing us what God is like, the invisible is now visible and of holding all things together. He is making all things new. He is bringing peace and restoration. He is king not for his own glory but he is king in order to bring all people to God. He is at the very center of everything. He reconciles all things thru death on the cross.

Some years ago a pastor in Scotland traveled to the Queen’s Highland castle in order to lead the Sunday service at the chapel. He was uncomfortable about how to act around royalty, unsure what to say in her presence. He arrived but there was no one to meet him.

He was taking his suitcase from the car when a woman came into view wearing a tweed jacket, with a scarf tied around her head, and walking three corgis. It was Queen Elizabeth herself! She apologized that no one had welcomed him and called for the absent doorman. That evening he joined them for a pleasant supper and he saw royalty in a new light.

It is almost beyond belief that we have the privilege daily to be in the presence of our king who gave all so that we might have abundant life.

What is the kingdom of God like? Jesus shared many stories to describe his kingdom. He taught that the kingdom is like the love extended by a father to his son when the son leaves home and takes his inheritance. When the son has nothing left, he returns home and is greeted by a joyful banquet hosted by his father who offers forgiveness and love.

Kingdom is a shepherd who goes out to find one missing sheep and doesn’t give up until it is found.

Kingdom is a man who had a party and extends his invitation to all who want to come.  Kingdom is a place where servants are honored. It is a place of surprises: the last shall be first.

In the Kingdom, there is justice; the widows, and poor and children are not forgotten. It is a kingdom where the king offers not condemnation but forgiveness, not despair but hope, not brokenness but wholeness. It is a kingdom that may seem small like a mustard seed, but grows everyday into a mighty tree.

It is a good day to think about the qualities of our Lord, all the names of honor. It is imperative that we consider Christ being our king. When I hear the news of the world, and become concerned about all the troubles near and far, all the uncertainties, I rejoice that there is One who holds all things together: all space, all time.

When I think about this past week of Thanksgiving, I know that when we offer our thanks that underneath all the blessings of life is the great love of God for us and for this world. We see this so clearly in the way Jesus lived.

A question that needs to be asked: Who has power over us? Who influences our lives?  Is Christ our top priority?

N.T. Wright, British pastor and scholar wrote in his book Simply Jesus: “We want someone to save our souls, not rule our world.”  He was acknowledging that there are other kingdoms that can pull for our devotion. They may offer prestige and security, status and honor but that is not what the kingdom of God is about.

We make a choice over who we follow and whose guidance we live by. We invite Christ to be a part of all areas of our lives as we claim him as king.

But this is the amazing thing about King Jesus.  He will only be recognized as king when others see his love, compassion, and mercy in us. The kingdom becomes visible through us and our actions.

Our hearts change, and our community changes – God continues to work within creation. We are part of God’s kingdom happening here and now.

There is a carol sung often at Christmas concerning a king who looks out from his castle one cold night . He sees a man struggling to gather fire wood. He asks his page who the man is and where he lives. Together, the king and the page travel to the man’s house bringing food and drink. As they hike through the deepening snow, the night becomes more bitter. The page says that he cannot go on. The king tells the boy to walk in his footsteps and he will be able to make it.  He walks in the master’s steps and together they bring a blessing.

Whose footsteps are you following?  Who reigns in your heart?

May Christ the king be the first priority in our lives.

Top Priority

Small Group Discussion Questions

Revelation 1:4b-8 & John 18:33-37

November 25, 2018

Christ the King Sunday represents the last Sunday of the church year (the Sunday prior to the 1st Sunday of Advent.) The theme of this Sunday is very similar to Ascension Sunday which is always observed toward the end of the Easter season. These two Sundays are on the calendar to remind us that Christ is the true King over all creation.

What helps you to remember that Christ is the true King over all creation especially when those who are in power fail to rule in loving and just ways?

In the Old Testament, the king of Israel was often described as having shepherd like qualities. Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd. The sign above him on the cross read, “King of the Jews.” 

How does this image of Jesus being both our King and our Good Shepherd help you to have a stronger faith?

 

When we honor and worship Christ as the King of kings, we are making him and the building of his kingdom on earth the top priority in our lives.

In what ways is the building of Christ’s kingdom evident in the way you live?