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Sermon for Last Sunday after Pentecost 2021 (Christ the King)

2 Samuel 23:1-7 Psalm 132:1-13 (14-19)

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

Back in medieval times, there was a court jester who just went one joke too far. He insulted the king. The king was furious. He sentenced his jester to be executed immediately. The court was agitated. “Please be merciful,” they pleaded. The king wasn’t ready to back down so that the jester could live, but he did decide that instead of execution, the jester could choose the method of his dying. Turning to the jester, the king says, “How do you want to die?” The jester replied, “If it’s all the same to you, my Lord, I’d like to die of old age.”
Kings demonstrate power. In the story the king decides to give the jester a choice. In the gospel, Pilate doesn’t realize that he is being given a choice. The Gospel truth is that God is in the choice business. Power will not be imposed, instead it is an invitation.

So today we arrive at Christ the King Sunday, the end of the season after Pentecost. And today we are invited to meditate on how the concept of king can be as confusing as the concept of Messiah. During this time, many expected a Messiah to fight against Roman occupation and usher in the kingdom of God. So, we have a classic confusing conversation. Pilate’s image of a king is a threat to the Roman Empire; Jesus makes it clear that this is not who he is. Instead, Jesus is a truth-teller. And the truth about the universe is that God is love and that God is calling us to love. And this is the eternal Kingdom that Jesus is witnessing to and ushering in.

The reading from Revelation reminds the Christian community of both the origin of its identity and its ultimate hope for the future. The cadence of beginnings and endings resounds over and over again in this reading. Many people hesitate to talk about their faith, thinking their faith journey hasn’t been spectacular. All of our journeys are spectacular if Jesus touched us and changed our hearts. It is not about us, but Jesus working in and through us.

In the reading, Jesus is portrayed as a powerful King, victorious in battle, glorious in peace. He is not just a humble earthly teacher. He is the glorious God. When we read John’s vision, we hear the truth from the King of Kings. We are asked to let the words – the truth about Christ – penetrate our lives, deepen our faith in him, and strengthen our commitment to be Christ’s hands and heart and feet.

On this day of baptism, I would like to talk about our commitment to Roman, Arturo and Ariela. Their Godparents are taking on the responsibility to help their godchild to grow up whole and strong. There is also a spiritual component asking for their helping the children to be brought up in the Christian faith and life. That is why we all need to know Jesus – not just the man but his teachings and his example. This spiritual relationship between godparents and children is unique to the Christian faith. It binds the godparents to the children, together with parents, and the larger family - the whole church of Christ.

Years ago, baptisms used to be private services for the family. With the revamping of the prayer book, the service became part of the main Eucharist. It happens with the community of faith gathered. We are to take an active part in the raising of these children. Baptism sets in motion a relationship between God and the person baptized as well as relationship with all other members of the church. In a few minutes, we will affirm our willingness to support these children in their lives in Christ.

We will reaffirm our Baptismal vows along with these to be baptized. It is these relationships that matter. A baptism that does not launch a growing relationship with God and the other members of the household of God is an empty one. We, as the community of faith, are a large part of what happens here today.

We may be asking ourselves, “What is life in Christ?” What do we stand for? The Baptismal Covenant spells out our beliefs and the expectations that go along with them. The covenant includes five questions that help flesh out our beliefs. Each question’s response is I will with God’s help.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? I will, with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? I will, with God’s help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help.

We understand where our strength and guidance and encouragement and hope come from – God. We are in this together. Pilate asks Jesus, “what is truth.” So what is our truth? Who are we in the eyes of God and who is God living in us and loving us? The real evidence of our belief, of our truth is our action. We live our faith not only with our lips, but also with our lives. To treat all those we encounter as if they are Jesus is no easy task.

What we do for others demonstrates what we really think about Jesus’ words to us – feed the hungry, give the homeless a place to stay, look after the sick. How well do our actions define us as Christians? The question is not who, but what – the importance of serving where service is needed. The focus is on our love for every person and desire to serve anyone we can. Such love for others glorifies God by reflecting our love for God. Out of our gratitude and thankfulness comes our desire to serve.

We, as individuals and as the community of faith must embrace God’s truth. We are called to be Christ’s hands and heart and feet in this world. We are called to rise above the pettiness, the gossip, the hardened hearts, to be present for each other. The truth is that God loves all of us. As the perfect revelation of God, Christ is the truth, and the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. In following, we are set free to do the truth and we are free to bring the newly baptized with us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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