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        I speak to you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

              Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

       Today is the Feast of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of Pentecost, and the final Sunday of the Church Year. This is a day of remembering – remembering that as this year ends, as with the End of the Age, Christ our King rules victorious over all of creation.

       Now, I don’t know about you, but I find images of kings and kingdoms challenging. We live in a democracy, and the forbearers of our land rejected monarchy. I think here in America we tend to use the title ‘kings’ for our entertainers rather than our rulers. Who might we crown as the “King of Jazz.” (Has the Rector convinced you all it’s Miles Davis?) Perhaps you thought of “The King of Rock n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley, or even “The King of Pop,” Michael Jackson. They were called ‘kings’ because they were considered the best at what they did, at the top of their game. To call someone a ‘King’ is to convey an exalted status, to elevate them over and above us, to assume they are richer and more powerful than we are.

       The great irony of the feast we celebrate today is that the Jesus of the gospels is none of these outward things. Christ bears no resemblance to the image of a rich king we have in our mind’s eye. He turns our idea of kingship on its head. Jesus tells us the world’s kingdoms are about power and prestige. His is about service and humility. The world’s kingdoms are often about coercion and violence. The Kingdom of God is about peace and reconciliation. Worldly kings surround themselves with adoring attendants; Jesus surrounded himself with the poor, the lost, and the despised.

       Today’s gospel shows us Jesus reigning not from a throne but hanging nailed to a cross. He is adorned not with royal robes, but wears a crown of thorns. Jesus rules not with power and might but in submission and obedience. He is surrounded not by adoring attendants, but by two criminals, and a crowd in which some taunt and tease, and others wait and watch.

       “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The words of the repentant thief come from one who recognizes not only the kingship of Christ, but somehow also knows the cross is not the end of the story. He somehow knows that Jesus has yet to come into the fullness of his kingdom.

       Now remembering is a critical theme in Jewish thought. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, the book of Exodus tells us that God “remembered” his covenant with Israel and freed them from their bondage. This kind of remembering is not the opposite of forgetting – God did not forget Israel. Rather the opposite of this kind of remembering is dismembering. But God re-members Israel, seeks to restore them, gathers them together, and reclaims them for his own.

       Thus the thief on the cross pleads to be “re-membered,” to be brought back into the fold of God, to be forgiven, restored, and freed. He wants to be part of Christ’s Kingdom, the bringing together of all that is lost, and divided and broken. Jesus promised that it would be so – “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

       Christ the King Sunday is one of the newest liturgical celebrations in our entire Christian calendar. The feast day was established not all that long ago, in 1925 in fact, by Pope Pius XI. It gained popularity in the Protestant Church during the 1960s when many churches began using the Lectionary, that fixed schedule of scripture readings, to proclaim the Word of God each week.

       But why did that Pope create this feast and suggest the readings we just heard?

       Quite simply, it was in response to the devastation of World War I. Europe was still reeling from a war more terrible than anything ever imagined. New leaders were taking advantage of the nations’ weaknesses. In 1925, Benito Mussolini had been the leader of Italy for three years, and Adolph Hitler was beginning to gather power. The Pope’s motivation was, in the face of new dictators and false values, to remind the Church and the world that as long as people refused to submit to the precepts of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, there would be little prospect for peace among the nations of the world.

       The Pope’s critique of the world could well have been written today. It seems as if the idea of a peaceful world lives only in the imagination of God. For there has rarely, if ever, been a time when we have all lived together in peace. Certainly none I can remember. Not a single age has successfully restrained the dogs of war; to the contrary, many have loosed them with great enthusiasm. It seems we have come to measure the greatness of a nation almost exclusively by its capacity to make war. We think it is better to be seen as ruthless rather than appear to be weak. Nations too often have wrapped aggression in a thin veil of justice disguising self-interests. Need we look further than the extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the age-old strife in Palestine? Any student of history has reason to be grim. The story of humanity is not a pretty one. The Feast of Christ the King is as much a judgment of our human shortcomings, as it is a hopeful reminder that we are called to make God’s vision of a peaceable Kingdom our own, for a world to be ruled only by the standard of love. A world marked by justice, compassion, reconciliation, and peace.

       The question is: Who exercises dominion over whom? Who or what rules our lives and how? If we consider this carefully, then this Feast of Christ the King might make more sense to us.

       If we’re honest with ourselves, we will own up to the fact that greed, pride, selfishness, and fear motivates much of this world. Consider the economic and political systems where what matters most is not whether you are right or wrong, but whose side are you on, who you voted for, or who you work with. Too often, the hearts and minds of many think only of what is in it for them, but rarely consider those they do not know, or those they do not like.

       The forces which rule our culture in every nation are obvious. Rubble and debris lie everywhere. Pictures of those who yearn for food to eat in Africa, Asia, Haiti and the U.S. come to us by way of TV every day and night. There are homeless on the streets of Washington, D.C. For years, Chrissie and I have supported with food and clothing a veteran we refer to as “Andrew by the Bridge” - how much longer has he been on 14th Street than we have even known him? There are many who have been beaten, battered, abused, or are dependent upon drugs or alcohol. Andrew fits all those categories. He is part of the “hidden” who live out on our streets and not in a home.

       The pursuit of happiness, success, and the exaltation of our families, region, country, religious or political thinking as the most important things in life can be fraught with danger. These are, partly, the same things that led Mussolini and Hitler in the 1920s and 30s, and they are, in part, the things which feed the Bin Ladens and Ach-ma-dee-nih-jads of our world today. These are the reasons that Pope Pius XI thought we needed to hold the banner of Christ the King before us.

       After today’s worship, we gather to re-member as the Body of Christ represented through the people of St. George’s. We come to do the business of this parish as it sees itself living, celebrating faith, and exercising ministry in this neighborhood of Bloomingdale, the city of Washington, D.C., and the wider world. We come together because we see that banner of Christ the King before us. We will hear about accomplishments and shortcomings, hopes and fears, things done and yet to be done. There will be reports, you will wrestle with finances, we will learn about the works of organizations and committees, and you will elect new vestry members to join those continuing to lead the way and chart a course for St. George’s future.

       Bringing people together is never an easy task, despite our best efforts. The first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah reminds us how the Lord gathered up the remnant of His flock out of all the lands where He had driven them, to restore them to the fold, so that they might be fruitful and multiply. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which He will be called: “The Lord is Our Righteousness.”
 
       Jesus, our Lord and King, is our Righteousness, the One who heals, forgives, and restores. Christ Jesus is the One who, even as he died on the Cross, promised us all as he promised that repentant thief crucified at His side, that He would ‘re-member’ us all when He comes into His kingdom.

       So today we assert the gospel message that Christ is in charge. We proclaim it not only because Jesus is King, but because the peace we need today, the hope we seek now, can only be found in and through Him. And even more, the peace that this world needs, the peace which our culture needs, comes only through Jesus Christ. So it is important, very important, that we, along with Paul as he exhorts the Colossians, name Christ not only as the King of the Universe, but also as the King of our lives; of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

       So who and what rules our culture? I believe we all know who rules now.

       Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as we close this church year, and begin a new one in the life of the Church and of our parish, let us remember how far humanity has missed the mark. Let us remember how disjointed, disconnected, and dis-membered we really are, and how desperately we need a Savior King, a monarch who invites us to share His vision of a reconciled world. Through his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, Christ has begun the process of drawing all of creation back into the heart of God, the fullness of God’s Kingdom. Here at St. George’s, let us boldly claim this King who promises to bring you and me and all of creation together under His most gracious rule, for in Him will all things come together.

       Jesus, re-member us when you come into your kingdom.

       I speak to you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Nov. 22nd, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
I just finished reading your sermon. I knew that when you answered our Lord's call that you were doing the right thing. Your sermon makes me even more certain than ever that your call and your response is why the Holy Spirit has led you and you have responded well. Your message was a clarion call to all who heard it or will read it to look in the mirror to see ourselves as to just where we are and how we individually are responding to our Lord's call. Love, Dad+
(Anonymous)
Jul. 17th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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