Sermon Archives

Sunday, November 22, 2020
Christ the King (Year A)
The Reverend Walter Brownridge, Associate
Jesus Christ is King

May I speak in our ever-living, ever-loving, and ever-leading God. Amen.

Today, this first, this final Sunday of the church year, is often called the Feast of Christ the King, or the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. It is used to mark the end of, in fact, 52 Sundays, where we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate his life, his ministry, his teaching, his witness, when we, if you will pause with this yearly remembrance, as we go into a new church year next week, Advent one.

But why is this still important to us? Why do we care? Why should we care?

Well, this understanding of course is about who is Jesus to us? Who is Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Emmanuel, God with us. Who is he to you?

Not to get political, but I found this information this week in the news, quite profound about how some people still struggle that the church would carry such a message. There is in the state of Georgia, as you know, a two simultaneous Senate campaigns coming and one of the candidates happens to be the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church where not only Martin Luther King served as associate pastor, but Martin Luther King Senior, was the lifelong pastor of Ebenezer Baptist and his son, Martin Junior, came back to Atlanta after living in Montgomery in the 1950s, for a bit more safety and security, as well as freedom, to lead the Civil Rights Movement.

This current candidate, who is still the pastor of Ebenezer, has come into some controversy with some people because, about 10 years ago, he gave a sermon. Not sure if it was on this feast day. Baptists’ don’t really follow a liturgical year as we do, but in the text that day, the scripture text that day was, Jesus talking about how one needed to serve just one master, one Lord, one King; God, and not two. Whether that was money or fame, mammon as Jesus would say, or any institution, and as this preacher began 10 years ago with this sermon, he talked about specifically, he even said, “You cannot serve both the military and God.”

Now, even then that may have ruffled some feathers within Ebeneezer Baptist Church. No doubt, many like me, would have been veterans or maybe even active duty. Some may even have been military chaplains. And while this pastor who has a PhD in theology, might’ve been more careful if he was lecturing in a class, as opposed to giving a sermon, he would understand that he was not trying to say that military call and serving God are incompatible. He was simply saying that you may have many different allegiances in your life, many different allegiances in your life, but at least as far as we understand in the black church that raised up someone like Martin King and others in the Civil Rights Movement, you can have all the allegiances and commitments you want, but above all, you must ultimately serve God. God and Jesus Christ.

So I think the point is that yes, Christ the King is still important for us. It is a way as we end the church year, to make sure that our priorities are aligned, that we know something of what we’re talking about, when we say, I seek to follow Jesus, for he is my Lord and Savior.

What does that mean for you and I today, even if I can say what I’ve just said about priorities, when our priorities like everything else in the world, seems to have been turned upside down because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Well, it was a friend of mine said recently, “In the time of a pandemic, you better learn to love and serve and praise God. In the time of COVID-19, you better learn to love and serve and praise God. To understand that it is only through God’s grace, God’s guidance, as we listened to public health experts, scientists, and even God willing, our political leaders, that God’s grace, God’s wisdom, will uphold and sustain all of us and that God’s grace may be particularly needed for us to restore a spirit of common purpose and common trust in one another.” For it seems that we are not able to do so just relying on our own devices, but that is nothing new. Jesus knew in his time as he preached and gave his examples is in this gospel we heard today, in that judgment, the call for us to love and care for the least, the lost, the marginalized, the dispossessed. Yes, the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and those in prison. Those should be our priorities.

I dare say, if we neglect, if we neglect that, then God help us all. And we need to do so particularly now in this time of pandemic. When our to-do lists, or checklists, our priorities have been all discombobulated, if you will. When we’ve had to figure out new ways of thinking and being, conducting ourselves as a family, as students, as teachers, to understand that still, as the image of Christ in the stained glass here, of Christ is still the ruler of all.

My most favorite image icon of Christ is besides the one where he is the great teacher and giving a blessing, is the one where he has a blessing in one hand and the other, he holds the orb, the globe of the nation. Excuse me, the globe of the world.

Indeed, we must remember that. You know, the Gaelic, there’s a Gaelic expression that I won’t dare try to say, but it translates into fists of light. And when we talk about Christ in this way, when we talk about Jesus, he is often described as the light of the world and the most ultimate and best example in that Celtic tradition of fists of light that break through the darkness, punch through the darkness, and the sadness and the difficulty, and the tribulations that we may endure, is this fist of light. That is what Jesus is, if you will, particularly in this time of pandemic; a fist of light. A ray of hope, and for us to join in that effort to be a ray of hope, to be part of a fist of light to break through the darkness that sometimes shrouds over our lives and this world.

So very important. You know, for me, there’s two other images about Christ as King that are important. One is my time in South Africa and I think because of this pandemic and way my brain has been working, I’ve been thinking much about those days. I had the privilege once of leaving Cape Town and going up to Johannesburg and preaching and a local parish, which is in a township called Sophiatown, really a suburb. Sophiatown is famous for many things, including people like Desmond Tutu, who had been around there as a young boy. His mentor, the late Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who was then just the monk who cared for Desmond and many other young boys, including getting the trumpeter, Louis Armstrong... Excuse me, giving the great South African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela, his first trumpet, which was in fact a gift from Louis Armstrong, given to the Anglican-British priest, who took it back to South Africa, for Hugh to learn to play the trumpet on.

The Parish of Christ the King in Sophiatown, emblematic of that call that yes, despite apartheid, despite all that was happening in the world of those people living there, where they had been removed from their homes and replaced by whites, and yet they still would return when they could to church on Sunday, and even after the church was closed, it eventually opened after apartheid ended and the spirit of the people lived on.

This idea of Christ as King, it helped people like Desmond Tutu as a young boy, understand that despite whatever government, whatever authoritarians, petty tyrants, whatever apartheid said, that there was indeed a higher law; a divine law that came from God almighty and expressed in our Savior Christ the King.

We can go from South Africa, to a Gaelic expression, to right in the home of our mother church in England, where the hymn we just sang, King of Glory, King of Peace, composed by the Anglican priest and poet George Herbert would say, “When we recognize that God has given us all, the beauty of those words come through us.” And so when Herbert concludes, we are inspired to do the same. To yes, say, seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee. In my heart, if not in heaven, I will raise thee.

Beloved, as we struggle through this time of pandemic, when yes, a ray of hope of vaccines on the horizon may be coming next year, but as we still struggle to be careful and as we still struggle to figure out how are we going to live, and do, and be, hold on to that reality that Jesus Christ is King. Amen.