Sermon for Christ the King Sunday

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Picture this: A Fall Homecoming Parade down Main Street of a small town. There are floats and bands, dignitaries and royalty, cheering students and community. The anticipation of triumph is in the air.

Or: A small child, who has recently learned to walk, struggles to boost himself to a standing position. Finally he achieves his goal and squeals with glee. then takes a few rapid and triumphant steps before falling to his diaper-padded backside, only to start the struggle to stand and walk again.

These are familiar images of triumph to us -- exultant and unfettered incidents. They lift our hearts just to think of them. It's the thrill of accomplishment. The exhilaration of hope and promise.

The Gospel for Christ the King Sunday from John 12 describes another triumph -- Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. There are none of the outward trappings of conquest, no armies, no weapons, no escort as a noted dignitary might have. Just Jesus riding a colt, followed by the disciples and flanked by great crowds who believed Jesus was the Messiah, the liberator, the Savior. It's basically a one-horse parade with lots of bystanders covering the path with palm leaves and even their own coats.

What a moment! What a thrill! The entry of the popular Jesus into the temple city at Passover time.

The people are enamored with him. Excited by the reports of miracles he has done; anticipating more of the same. Anticipating triumph and so pleased with themselves that they are a part of it.

As we mark Christ the King Sunday this year I want to draw two lessons from the texts. Triumph is one. The exultant joy of being a follower of Jesus Christ should never leave us. He truly is our King, our Savior, our Risen Lord. This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and so we appropriately lift up the Kingship of Christ. His triumph. His victory. Of course we know it is a different kind of triumph than the folks along his path into Jerusalem were likely anticipating. It wasn't a military triumph or a political triumph. You might say there was no visible effect.

Yes, you and I know there was and continues to be an incredible life-changing inner-effect. Jesus' triumph was through death on a cross, a lowly pain-filled and innocent death for the Son of God. He triumphed over death by his resurrection, and over our sin through his innocence. That's the incredible life-changing inner-effect of Christ our King. He triumphed over sin and death for us. Now that's Triumph!

We Lutherans are fond of asking the question. What does this mean? In this case, what does Jesus' triumph mean for me? How does this life-changing inner-effect show itself? Good question. They indicate a willingness to look into aspects of faith, not just to ride along on the surface. Perhaps they also indicate an awareness that life itself is not one continuous experience of triumph, for Christians or non-Christians. To refer back to the two examples of feelings of triumph that I cited earlier, not all Homecoming Parades result in a winning game, no matter how exultant or "pumped" players and fans may be. And of course, learning to walk as an infant has its ups and downs, shall we say? These are just everyday examples of ordinary experiences. We haven't touched on the truly difficult experiences of life like disease, hunger, homelessness, divorce, death--to name a few. Where is the triumph of Christ the King in those times?

Now we come to the second lesson from the Christ the King texts. The lesson of peace. Christ's triumph over sin and death gives us peace in all the circumstances we encounter in life. In the Colossians text Paul writes about peace coming through the blood of the cross. We understand that to mean that because Christ first suffered and died for us He gave our suffering, and our dying, new meaning, new value, new perspective. We know because of what He did, that we are not alone in our trials. He has gone ahead of us, and yet also remains with us as we walk difficult paths.

That is the miraculous nature of Christ the King. Peace does come through suffering, trauma, even death to those who follow the King, as we do. God's gift to us in Jesus is the miracle of peace in the face of Life's difficulties, large or small peace given even in the face of the final enemy of death.

The triumph of Christ the King is not over governments or rulers, armies or weapons, the triumph of Christ our King is over sin and death. Through the blood of His cross we receive His peace.

Picture this. A hushed hospital room, a dying patient who has struggled bravely against cancer to gain more years of life with spouse and children. The cancer has not been conquered, and it will soon win this battle. Standing all around this bed is a family, holding hands in a circle that includes the patient and this hospital chaplain. After all they have been through together, knowing that the end is near, these weary and grieving people are singing, ever so softly, and gently smiling at their loved one. Away in a manger....the Little Lord Jesus....singing of the baby Christ, the baby King, whose sweet triumph is about to engulf their loved one, and all of them one day. Be near me Lord Jesus. I ask thee to stay. Peace in all hearts in this hospital room, even as those hearts are breaking. Close by me forever and love me I pray. The final words hang in the air as does the final breath....and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

Triumph comes. Peace at last for all. Christ is King. Amen

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