Sunday, November 25, 2018

"The One Who Is, Was, and Is to Come" - Sermon, November 25, 2018

Community UMC, Quincy
“The One Who Is, Who Was, and Is to Come”
Rev. Andrew Davis
November 25, 2018
Revelation 1: 4b-8
John 18: 33-37

Today is one of those strange-feeling Sundays, as it has the feeling of a holiday weekend with many still out of town from Thanksgiving this past Thursday. It’s also the quiet before the storm, as we are in a now, but not-yet when it comes to Christmas despite the fact that Black Friday has come and gone and that Christmas décor abounds just about everywhere you look now and Christmas music will be playing on many radios, CD players, or Pandora internet radio from now until December 26th. As I was driving back to Quincy from Rio Linda yesterday, I saw many Christmas trees on top of cars and trucks pass by me on Hwy. 89 and 70, a clear sign that Thanksgiving is now over and that it’s all about Christmas.  Yet here in the church, or at least those of us who follow the liturgical calendar, it’s the end of the liturgical year with today being Christ the King Sunday before we begin the season of Advent next Sunday.  
            Christ the King, or Reign of Christ Sunday is one of those Sundays in the Christian year which is fairly new, as it was created in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.  During that time, much of Europe was still dealing with the aftermath of WWI, while some of the world powers were beginning to assert their control and rise to power, and the world at the time was quite frankly a giant mess.  At the same time, Rev. Dr. Lucy Lind Hogan explains that “the Pope felt that the followers of Christ were being lured away by the increasing secularism of the world.  They were choosing to live in the ‘kingdom’ of the world rather than in the reign of Christ.”[i]Of course, Christ the King is different than any king and his kingdom will be much different than any of the kingdoms here on earth, whether it was then or today.  It will be a kingdom of the one who is, was, and is to come that will turn any other kingdom upside down, although we stand in the in-between times of Jesus’s birth, death, and second coming, or Parousia.  
            In our text this morning, we are presented with two scenarios of Christ as king in Revelation and in the Gospel of John.  In this opening chapter of Revelation, Jesus is revealing through his messenger, John, God’s vision for the world and how God is ultimately the one who is, was, and is to come with Christ as God’s witness, and the one who will rule the earth.  While Revelation oftentimes gets a bad rap because of the supernatural/apocalyptic imagery and association with the end-times, Revelation is actually a more hope-filled book when you really get into studying it and reading in between the imagery.  Instead, there is “a shift in time and space that comes with a God who is, who was, and who is to come.  We need not have a vision of Christ as a king on a throne,” but we can instead see how Christ is no ordinary king who didn’t sit on a throne or demand royal treatment.[ii]  
            While the Gospel from John is typically read during Holy Week, let’s shift back to that time when Christ entered Jerusalem, when the people of Jerusalem declared him king.  He didn’t exactly ride in on a majestic stallion, now did he?  Nope, he rode in on a humble donkey.  He didn’t come wearing anything fancy except maybe his tunic and sandals, and he certainly didn’t wear a jewel encrusted, who knows how many carat-gold crown, but wore a crown of thorns as he walked carrying a wooden cross following his trial with Pilate that we just read in John’s gospel. We see a suffering king, a crucified king, a king who challenged systems of authority and tyranny in the Roman government, who stood up for the poor and the outcast of society.  Even as believers today, we have a king who we can turn to when we believe and confess Jesus as Lord, as  “Christ our king is right there with us and has committed to be in solidarity with and in our suffering,” even when it feels like the world is messy all around, which I don’t need to rake over the coals.[iii]  Christ’s kingdom comes down to a kingdom of love.  
            As followers of the one who is, was, and is to come and as followers of Christ our king, we have opportunities to bring that kingdom of love here to earth today, maybe with more urgency than ever and especially as our world is literally dark at this time of year with less daylight. As things are the way they are and “despite the current divisions that flow through our news and social media feeds, we” as followers need to keep striving for and embodying “the Kingdom values of [helping the poor, the sick, the prisoner, loving our enemies, loving God, loving our neighbor, and being able to forgive those who wrong us, just as Christ forgave those who wronged him].”[iv]  By embracing Christ as king, let’s strive for such values as we follow in the way of Christ our King and bring God’s kingdom here to earth, as “Jesus Christ is King and Lord of our lives, rather than a political party’s ideals, our career ladder, our children’s achievements, or the pressure to portray ourselves as having everything together,” especially during the holidays when it’s constructed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ when in reality, it’s not for quite a few people.[v]
            Earlier this month, we read from Revelation on All Saints Sunday and the good news is that we have a king in Christ who stands with us and the one who is, was, and is to come, who knows our pain, who “promises to one day wipe away every tear, make all things new, and restore and redeem all of Creation.”[vi]As we go into our new week, how are you being the presence of Christ, even in light of suffering or bad news?  How are you bringing the kingdom of God to earth in the here and now?  As we rally around Christ our King, I invite you to turn to page 882 in the red hymnal and stand as we say together an acclamation of faith that binds us together as we say The Apostle’s Creed.  In what do you believe?... 
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the Church say, AMEN!!  

[i]Lucy Lind Hogan, “Commentary on John 18: 33-37” in WorkingPreacher 
[ii]Katherine Shaner, “Commentary on Revelation 1: 4b-8” in WorkingPreacher 
[iii]Heather Heinzman Lear, “Preaching Notes for November 25, 2018” in UMC Discipleship Preaching Resources 

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