The Holy Gospel according to Matthew, the 25th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Sermon Christ the King
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and Jesus Christ, our Lord and King. Amen.
Today is the festival of Christ the King. It is the end of the church year. Next week we begin Advent and the new church year.
What does it mean to say Christ is King? What does it mean to say Jesus Christ is Lord?
Luther suggested that we are always worshipping a host of false gods. Because Christ is King, these false gods are not king.
Because Christ is King - You are not king.
No offense, but this means that ultimately, I don't answer to you. I answer only to God. I am freed from doing the things that are done just to please other people. I don't have to ask myself who will be angry at my decisions. I am going to answer to God for my actions, not you. The good news is that you don't answer to me either.
We don't need to answer to others and do what they say. How many times have you heard your parents say, or said to your kids, "If someone asked you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?" We need to claim Christ as our moral compass, not blindly follow orders from other people.
Marva Dawn, in her book, The Unnecessary Pastor, says that we need to remember whose servants we are. We need to realize that the only things that are necessary are the things God wants us to do. Anything else is unnecessary. What that means for us as a church is that we base our decisions on what God is calling us to do, not what the person with the loudest voice wants.
Because Christ is King - Caesar is not king.
In New Testament times, saying Christ was king and not Caesar was what got Christians crucified. Remember the sign over Jesus' cross? King of the Jews?
In our time, the government is Caesar. We can say we love our country, but our first love is Christ and allegiance to Christ must take priority. Our true citizenship is in heaven. We are part of one billion Christians in God's kingdom here on earth, most of whom are not in North America or even in Europe. The fastest growing churches are in Africa.
When Caesar is not king, we put the needs of the world ahead of the needs of our country, remembering that God loves the whole world, not just people who live where we live and look like us.
To say Christ is king is to stand up and speak against hatred and violence and injustice wherever they are found. It is to support fair and just laws everywhere.
To say Christ is king is to pray for our elected representatives and encourage them as they make huge decisions about our taxes and health care, asking that they preserve programs that are a safety net for the elderly and provide for the poor and promote peace.
Because Christ is King, you are not, Caesar is not.
Because Christ is King - Money is not and business is not.
In our capitalistic society many people are addicted to money. Most people believe they would be happier if they just had even 10% more money. Studies don't bear that out though. People with 10% more money than you aren't any happier than you are. They believe that they still need 10% more to be happier.
Money is like a bad drug for us sometimes. Most people who win lotteries end up broke. Most people who get a large inheritance have spent it all in eighteen months. The average time from getting an inheritance to getting a new car is eighteen days.
Money is not king, so business is not king, either. Multinational corporations are not king, despite the fact that their money gives them the ability to buy political power.
When we proclaim Christ is King and money and business are not king, we are free to use our resources to help others. We do this in many ways through the ministries of our church. We support the children in our On the Corner program and give quilts to our neighbors at Rod’s House. We share our building with the Preschool and many other groups.
Through our benevolence to the synod and ELCA we support programs that reduce poverty. We give micro loans to women who can start their own businesses, help support their families, and afford to send their children to school. We are sharing the good news of the gospel through the work of nearly 240 missionaries in over forty countries.
We are developing the faith life of young people from preschool through seminary at over 2000 educational institutions, including Pacific Lutheran University here in Washington.
We are developing the faith life of our children and youth though our network of outdoor ministries including Holden Village and Lutherhaven where we send our youth every year.
Because Christ is King, you are not, Caesar is not, money and business are not.
Because Christ is King, I am not. If Jesus is Lord, I cannot be. I am dethroned.
Sin has been defined as turning in on oneself. Because Christ is king, then I am not the center of the universe and the world does not revolve around me. When we proclaim Christ the king, we allow our world to revolve around Christ.
Christ explains how we do that in today's parable. When we feed and clothe the poor and hungry, take care of the sick, welcome the stranger, and visit the imprisoned we are serving Christ our king. We are making Christ our King the center of our universe, not ourselves.
Because Christ is King, you are not, Caesar is not, money is not, and I am not.
And finally, because Christ is king, sin and death are not.
Through his death and resurrection, Christ has defeated the final enemies. Our sins have been nailed to the cross. We no longer need to fear death. We are freed to live as servants of the ruler of heaven and earth. We're freed from bondage to ourselves, each other, Caesar, money, and anything else that enslaves us.
Christ the king loves us and comes to us in the form of neighbors we are blessed to serve.
Go, give generously, welcome openly, serve unselfishly as servants of Christ the King. He promises that we will inherit the kingdom that he has prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Amen.
Many thanks to Bishop Michael Rinehart, gulfcoastsynod.org for the outline and ideas in this sermon.