Sermon for Christ the King, Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 24, 2013, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 23:27-43 and Colossians 1:13-20
Sermon Theme: Is Christ Your King?
(Sources: Brokhof, Preaching Workbook, Series C; David Smith, Sermon Central.com; original ideas; Emphasis online Illustrations; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 23, Part 4, Series C; “William Willimon,” Wikipedia online)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Sunday School teacher was doing a lesson on the crucifixion, which is essentially what our sermon text for today is describing. The teacher tried her best to tell the story as realistically as she could, describing the thorns piercing our Lord’s head and the awful pain of nails being driven through his hands and feet.
In fact, the horrifying details came across so graphically to the children that one little boy blurted out, “Where in the heck were the Marines?”
We know that Jesus could have called upon the armies of heaven to save Himself, but He refused to do so. His submission to death is one of the things that make it difficult for some to understand that Jesus is the King of Kings.
William Willimon, a famous Methodist preacher, told a story in his book, Remember Who You Are, about a birthday party for 5-year old Clayton. For Clayton’s birthday party, all the guests were to come dressed as royalty, so it was like a kindergarten class of boys and girls dressed like little Kings and Queens. When he blew out the five candles on his cake, Clayton was told to make a wish that everyone could feel what it was like to be king or queen.
Well, we all had that experience at our Baptism, didn’t we? Because Jesus died on the cross for us, we, who were nobodies, became somebodies. Those who were no people became God’s people. The wretched of the earth became royalty.
Today is the last day of the Church year, and it celebrates the kingship of Jesus, the King of Kings! The Church has always celebrated Christ as our King on the last Sunday of the Church year, but it was not until 1925 that it became designated by Pope Pius XI as the Festival of Christ the King. Generally, Lutherans tend to recognize Papal decrees made before the Reformation, but not after, and this was long after.
But the circumstances under which the decree was made motivated many Protestants to accept this Roman Catholic festival, too. In 1925, we were in the grip of a worldwide economic depression; World War I, “the War to end all wars,” had just ended; and signs of World War II were already on the horizon. People felt a sense of desperation and helplessness, searching for solutions to their feelings of despair, and searching for someone to lead them out of hopelessness.
An Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, and a popular but perverse Nazi rabble rouser by the name of Adolf Hitler, were cranking up to show that they had the answer to the weltschmertz of the times. Victor Emmanuel III, the King of Italy, refused to challenge Mussolini’s rise to power, and to become the dictator of a Fascist police state. So Mussolini began to rule Italy.
As the world looked for answers and eagerly listened to these two powerful but evil men present themselves as the answer to all the problems afflicting the world at this time, Pope Pius decided it was time to remind Christian people everywhere that our allegiance is to Christ, and not to any of these worldly leaders who, like evil kings, were trying to take absolute power. That is why on December 11, 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted the Festival of Christ the King. Only Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All Christians, Protestants and Catholics alike, needed this shot in the arm reminder, to rekindle faith in the only One true King of our Lives!
Of course the world has changed significantly since 1925 when the Feast of Christ the King was first proclaimed, — World War II is long since over, Mussolini and Hitler have long since been gone from the world. Yet, although many things have changed, a surprising number of things seem to have remained the same.
The world’s economic stability appears once again to be pretty shaky, the American economy – scary, some kind of war or skirmish always seems to be on the horizon, — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Israel, etc., etc. Dictators raise their ugly heads with threats, like the feisty one in North Korea. Sometimes China gives the appearance of wanting to rule the world.
Once again people are looking for answers, and once again there are great political power players strutting the world stage and acting like they have the answers, both at home and abroad.
At the same time, the average man on the street is too busy with ‘how do I get ahead in my work?,’ how do I get a bigger and bigger bank balance?, how can I improve my sex life?, how can I get more things?, — well, if that’s your search for significance, Christ has no answer for you, and He is not your King. Even though Pilate wrote the superscription, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ Jesus was not Pilate’s King.
For Christ to be your King, you must allow Him to have total lordship over you! You must allow Him to be sovereign over your ENTIRE life, and you begin by asking yourself these questions:
One, is Christ my King in the area of ethics and morality?
Two, is Christ my King in the area of lifestyle?
Three, is Christ my King in the area of self-control?
Four, is Christ my King in the area of protection and guidance?
Let’s look at each of these.
If you lie, cheat or steal, Christ is not your King in the area of morality and ethics. With Christ, honesty is not just the best policy, it is the ONLY policy.
If you abuse your body and your mind with the things that you do, then Christ is not your King in the area of lifestyle.
If you have a “me-first” attitude in everything, indulge yourself in anything and everything you want, do only those things you want to do and none that require great effort, or any effort at all, then Christ is not your King in the area of self-control.
Finally, if you have the attitude that you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul, and “you don’t need no help from nobody,” then Christ is not your King in the area of protection and guidance. Yet, it is Christ who should be your fortress, who does protect you from all harm, it is Christ who guides you through trials, tribulations, sicknesses, tragedies, anxieties and worries, and lifts you up on eagle wings.
And of course it is Christ and Christ alone who saves you and restores you to a right relationship with God; it is through His forgiveness and His absolution that you are redeemed and made whole again. It is Christ who brings down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things, heals the sick, comforts the lonely and the bereaved, and lovingly prepares a home in heaven for His children.
Until we make that heavenward journey home, we proclaim that Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and His is the Kingdom, His is the power, His is the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.