Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sermon for Christ the King

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, but what do we mean when we talk about Kingship? For some people the whole idea of monarchy seems an old fashioned, out moded form of government, despite this every little girl still wants to be a princess. Monarchy in our modern world can be seen in many different ways. There are monarchs whose names are forever linked with evil, such as Ivan the terrible, and there are those that are still seen as figures that can inspire us such as Elizabeth the first. There are the media headlines of party princes, written by journalists keen to point out any slight indiscretion made on a night out, presenting a view of monarchy as privileged people living to excess at our expense. Yet it is this very same press interest which led to Prince Harry's first tour of duty in Afghanistan being cut short. It is this press interest that also gives us the other side of monarchy. Royals who are prepared to work hard for their people, to use the press exposure they get to highlight issues, as Prince Charles recently did about religious persecution, or to help raise funds for good causes. To be a King or Queen is to be a leader, even at times of great national or personal crisis, to speak for and to the nation and provide hope in times of despair, even if they are struggling to believe in that hope themselves. The monarchy we have now on earth is far from perfect but it can give us a glimpse as to what it means when we talk about Christ the King. Earthly monarchy has a good and a bad side, because even Kings and Queens are human and make mistakes, but the Kingship of Christ is Kingship in it's most perfect form. Christ isn't like a normal King, over the next few weeks as we approach christmas we will hear about his birth, and how the wise men assumed he would be born in a palace, only instead to find him in a stable. He wasn't born surrounded by luxury, Mary didn't have the benefit of the best doctors and midwives to ensure a safe birth of a healthy son. Christ is the King who is prepared to live as one of his people, to take the risk of standing up to authority without the protection of rank or diplomatic status. A king who was prepared to die for his people, even a humiliating death on a cross between two criminals. Christ is the king who can give us hope even in the darkest of places. The Jewish peopeven had been suffering under the occupying roman forces but were given hope by the prophets in their history who had foretold the coming of the messiah who was going to free them from oppression and re establish Jewish rule in Jerusalem. They were expecting a King who would deliver a new Jewish nation and overthrow the hated Romans, when Jesus failed to live up to their expectations of what a King should be they turned against him, a bit like todays press will turn against any celebrity figure that lets them down by not being perfect. They failed to understand that the Kingdom of Christ is bigger than one nation, that the kingdom of Christ will one day reach out to all peoples and nations. If the kingdom of Christ is not the sort of Kingdom we have currently on earth, then what sort of Kingdom is it? Our gospel reading this morning gives us a clue, it is a kingdom where the naked will be clothed, the hungry fed, the stranger welcomed and the prisoner visited. In todays political climate it sounds like a wonderful dream. It would be so tempting to think that is what it will be like when Christ comes back in glory lets just sit back and wait for God to do his stuff, come back in glory and put the world to rights. However as Christians we have pledged ourselves to be servants to Christ the King. No monarch can rule effectively if they don't have the support of their people. Christ the king needs our support to help build his kingdom here and now. That means we have to be one hundred percent commited to serving Christ the king. On twitter this week there has been a series of tweets on the theme of if Jesus rules our lives then what else can't be allowed to rule our lives. Some of the suggestions I have read and thought yep, that’s fine, not a problem, ones like if Jesus is lord, celebrity can't be. Then there have been the ones that in principle I agree with, but struggle with the application of, such as, if Jesus is Lord, my bias can't be or if Jesus is Lord my insecurities can't be. Then there have been the ones which have really made me stop and think, If Jesus is Lord my family can't be, if Jesus is Lord my bank account can't be. Hang on God, having money to pay the bills and spending time with my family are probably the most important things I think about in life, and there lies the problem, yes obviously family and earning enough money to pay the bills are important, but to be true subjects of Christ the King, God still has to come first. As I was writing this sermon my mind went back to my Methodist roots. In the Methodist church at the start of each year there is a service which commemorates the covenant God has made with his people. It includes a prayer which to me seems to sets out what exactly choosing to follow Christ the King means, and it's not always easy: I am no longer my own but yours. Your will not mine, be done in all things, wherever you may place me, in all that I do, and in all that I may endure; when there is work for me and when there is none; when I am troubled and when I am at peace. Your will be done when I am valued and when I am disregarded; when I find fulfillment and when it is lacking; when I have all things and when I have nothing. I willingly offer all I have and am to serve you, as and when you choose. To choose to serve Christ the King is to commit your whole life to serve him and to work to start to build his kingdom on this earth here and now. Next week is Advent and the start of a new church year, a time for making new years resolutions. A time to think about what we can do as subjects of Christ the King to bring his kingdom a little bit closer here on earth. Amen