Sermon for Christ the King, Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 22, 2015, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: John 18:33-38
Sermon Theme: “What Do You Worship as King of Truth?”
(Sources: Anderson’s Cycle B Preaching Workbook; Emphasis Online Commentary; Emphasis Online Illustrations; Online “Snoopy and the Meaning of Life”; original ideas)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the most all-time favorite Peanuts comic strips shows Snoopy in the lead-in box lying on top of the “u” in a stone sculpture of the word “truth.”
Then the strip actually begins with Snoopy lying on top his dog house, staring at the stars, unable to sleep. “Rats,” he says, “it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m wide awake!”
“Were am I going? What is the meaning of life?,” he asks suddenly.
So he trots to the back door of Charlie Brown’s house, and kicks the door loudly, “Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.”
Inside the house, Charlie Brown is awakened from his sleep by the noise and says, “I recognize that kick. That is the kick of someone who has awakened in the middle of the night and wants to know the meaning of life.”
Charlie goes to the door, sticks his head out, and says to Snoopy, “The meaning of life is to go back to sleep and hope that tomorrow is a better day!”
Then Charlie adds, as he slams the door in Snoopy’s face,” And if you’re thinking about eating, forget it!”
Snoopy walks back to his dog house muttering, “Wouldn’t that unplug your heating pad!”
All of us no doubt have had nights like that and can identify with Snoopy, especially in the unsettling times of recent weeks, — ISIS brings down a Russian passenger plane; ISIS causes mass murder and destruction in Paris; Al Qaeda terrorists take hostages in a hotel in Mali; and with 27 killed; ISIS says on the day your wife leaves for New York that they will suicide bomb Times Square. Yes, these are unsettling times!
What does all of this mean? What is the meaning of life? What is truth?
Muslim radicals are trying to destroy what you and I always believed was the truth. (pause.) What is truth?
That’s the question Pontius Pilate asks in today’s sermon text, a text which seems better suited for Lent, but is a traditional text for Christ the King Sunday. Although we Christians, knowing the answer in our hearts, ask the question seriously, Pilate asks it sarcastically – in his heart, doubting there is such a thing as absolute truth.
In Chapters 18 and 19, which include our sermon text, the Kingship of Jesus is John’s major theme. Pilate ironically paid Jesus the highest of tributes by having an inscription placed on the cross in three languages, Greek, Latin and Aramaic, the words, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The text raises the question we must ask ourselves, “What do I worship as King of truth?”
As early as the feeding of the multitude, there had been references to a movement to make Jesus King. Because of the interpretations of the rabbis, many Jews believed the Messiah would be an earthly King, and on Palm Sundays, the crowds hailed Him as King.
But Jesus made clear His kingdom was not of a worldly nature. It would not be won by military battle. Instead, He would be the Suffering Servant promised by Isaiah, not a mighty king riding into battle.
Jesus is definitely a King, though not the kind Pilate needed to fear. He is a king from outside of the world. His royal commission is to proclaim truth and to recruit all those from everywhere who will hear the truth.
Pilate was confused, both by the kind of King Jesus was reported to be, and by the meaning of truth, doubting even its existence. Pilate brings to mind what Winston Churchill once said about truth: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” After his encounter with Jesus, Pilate just disappears from history.
When Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king, our Lord answers, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Then Pilate cynically asks the question, “What is truth,” but he doesn’t wait for an answer. John, the writer of our text, just leaves this answer-less question hanging. Perhaps John leaves the answer hanging to cause us to reflect upon who or what truth is.
Most people have some power, which they serve as THEIR king of truth. Making money might be their king of truth. For some, it could be their own pleasure. No doubt for others, it is looking up to some person as their king of truth. For some, it might be the modern miracles of technology.
For Pilate, it was political expediency. For the chief priests and scribes it was preserving the status quo. For ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists, it is a misguided attempt to please Allah by killing Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims.
But truth is embodied in Jesus. He lived and died for the truth. His resurrection proves that He is king of truth. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Truth is not merely memorizing passages from the Bible and from Luther’s catechism, nor is it a mathematical formula of “do this and do that.” No, “truth” is a story, — a true Story, that unfolds in time and on earth. Truth is known when a person knows the Story, the whole Story, and nothing but the Story, the Story of salvation through Jesus Christ which begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation. And believes the Story.
So who or what do YOU worship as your king of truth? (pause.) Actually, I really don’t need to ask that question to those of you congregated here today, do I? I know you well, and I know from your faith you are true believers who know the Story.
What the world needs, as Missionary David Kim pointed out to us, is for you who know and believe the truth to go therefore and tell others about that truth.
You remember Pastor Kim passed out a card for each of you to pledge the following: “I commit myself to the Lord and to the Great Commission to take these five actions: to indentify, to intercede, to invest, to invite and to involve these three disciples” – and you were to list three.
A member of our church told me a couple days ago that she had already listed two on her card, — her brother and a daughter-in-law. I told her, “Now you have begun your work as a missionary!” The church must be a church in mission.
Our congregation and churches all over America will soon be gathering together for a Thanksgiving worship. We will pray for God to continue blessing America as He has in the past.
We WILL BE blessed, however, as long as there is justice and the fear of God giving shape to our government. The churches of our land must call our leaders and citizens to that truth. French political historian Alexis de Tocqueville, who, in 1835 after visiting our young democratic country, said, “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
All members of faithful Christian churches indeed have a word to share with the nation, and we should be bold in our proclamation of the truth.
We must proclaim the true story and our true allegiance to the true King, who is the Alpha and the Omega, and who, in His person, is the answer to truth. As Karl Barth said, “Jesus does not give answers to questions about truth as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the truth.”
As Christ the King Sunday ends the church year today, let us enter Advent with a new commitment to tell the Story, the whole Story, and nothing but the Story, the Story of Salvation through Jesus Christ, our King. Amen.