Welcome to worship on this Christ the King Sunday, November 21st, 2021! We are glad you’re here in spite of all that is going on in and around our province!
The worship bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order of worship along with the words and responses to the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the sermon in full. The sermon is also included on this page after the video.
For a fuller at-home worship experience, you may have a lit candle for the duration of the service and some food and drink for communion. We know that the time for communion has been extended since there are people in the space, so we ask that you use that extra time in quiet prayer and meditation.
May God’s gracious blessing be upon you this day!
Holy God, open our hearts this day to receive your Word and set us free to follow your truth, that by the power of your Spirit we can faithfully follow you and your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I’m going to be honest with you, I had this sermon all written and ready to go a few days ago. I had a big weekend planned and I didn’t want to be worried about sermon writing through it all. So I talked about the floods around here that happened this past week, and pondered the question, “how can a good God let bad things happen”. I was proud of myself for having it done earlier than usual, and was able to get some rest in the form of a full day off, which have been a bit scarce for me lately.
But then this past Friday happened, the day that I was taking off to rest and do things around the house, the day that a kid was found not guilty for shooting and killing two people and seriously injuring another. And I was moved to change my sermon. I’ll admit that I hummed and hawed about it for a good day, mostly because I legitimately was busy and had other things to take care of, but also because I was emotionally spent and didn’t know if I had it in me to rewrite it completely.
But then yesterday happened. Yesterday was supposed to be day 2-ish of my weekend although I was scheduled to be at a joint meeting with all the task forces of the ELCIC, whose work is around being a more inclusive and welcoming church, combatting issues around racism, ableism, and homophobia. And in this meeting we heard the work of the other task forces and their philosophy around what they do, and basically a number of them drew back on the aforementioned case and not guilty verdict, the floods, and the very clear political and social unrest in our country, our Western society, and around the world.
And so, I decided to rewrite my sermon. Granted it might not be as polished, but I do feel that it would be more faithful to the time that we’re in, and more able to perhaps catch a glimpse of whatever God might be up to in the chaos and turmoil of this current context. Because as I sat back and watched all these things unfold, from the floods of BC and the story of Sumas Lake, the police arresting the pipeline protestors for protecting their land, to this kid able to divide a nation on the definition of self-defence, and I’ve come to a bleak realisation that there are but two kinds of people in the world: those who think they’re right all the time, and those who can never see or admit when they’re wrong.
I know, that’s just one kind of person. And that is why it is bleak.
As I watched the news, read the posts, even scrolled through the comments, it was so clear to me that everyone on every side you could imagine truly believed that they were on the side of justice, decency, and righteousness. Aside from the obvious trolls that just want to get a rise out of people, those who were really vocal about these issues were speaking from their hearts, standing up for what they believe to be true, and defending themselves and their view from the opposition. And so as someone in a position privileged to speak on what we can do about this dichotomy, all I can say is “I don’t know”.
But I do know that these notions of “being right,” regardless of what your “right” is, all come from a place of entitlement. I’m not saying that everyone is just acting like spoiled brats, but what I’m saying is that everyone seems to be acting and speaking from a place where they deserve what they’re talking about. Sure, many people have worked hard to be where they are. Many people have sacrificed much. Many people literally bled to have what they have… but does that make it theirs?
At this point I’m reminded of the gospel lesson for today, a portion of the story more suitable for Good Friday than Christ the King. But then, I suppose with all that is going on, it does sort of feel like a death has occurred. The part of the story that we get today is just the short back and forth between Jesus and Pilate. Pilate, who is a Roman governor charged with watching over Judea, was trying to get to the bottom of the Jews’ problem with Jesus. Actually, I don’t know if he really cared about what the Jews even thought, it seemed more that he was trying to figure out if Jesus was a foreign and invading king in order to protect the Roman Empire. You know, the group that from Pilate’s perspective was definitely in the “right”.
I mean, Rome worked pretty hard to be Rome and to have all the power it had at the time. They had to be organized, smart, and super tough in order to conquer all the other lands and claim them as their own. Because of their determination and ability to stand on the backs of lesser people, it was in their rights to protect what was “theirs”, which in this case, was their kingdom against a potential threat.
In Pilate’s eyes, Judea belonged to Rome, and Jesus was an invader trying to take what Rome already and rightfully took. So to Pilate, all those in Rome, and any who sympathize with them would see Pilate having Jesus crucified as, you guessed it, “self defense.”
Now, I’m not trying to discount the world of the American judicial system or that particular jury from the case I spoke of earlier, I’m just saying that this is why our world is so broken now. I’m saying that the reason there even was a case to begin with was because of the hopeless fallen nature of all people regardless of what side they stand on of any issue. I’m saying that this case and frankly almost everything that has happened in the past few years has been so telling of how we are such a sinful people in desperate need of a Saviour.
A Saviour that has come, a Saviour that continues to save, but a Saviour that for whatever reason, we refuse to listen to.
“So, you are a king?” Pilate’s words here echo our confusion as we continue to wrestle with what it means that the first will be last and the last will be first, or that to come to Jesus we must be like the little children, or that to be Jesus’ followers we need to pick up our crosses and deny ourselves. Although we’ve heard and even had explain to us these words of Jesus time and again, they are still foreign and in some way, almost offensive to us. Because we have what we have and we own what we own, so we should have the right to protect and defend it.
But the thing is, Jesus as King, has a kingdom that isn’t from this world. He says that if it were, then his people and followers would have fought to keep him from being arrested. You know, like how Peter cut the ear off of that soldier, how the crusades of a thousand years ago shaped the history of our world, how we continue to this day to thump our bibles and claim we have exclusive knowledge and insight on what is right and wrong for and in the world.
I don’t think this is what Jesus meant. Rather, I think he meant that all kingdoms of the world will eventually fall. Rome did. Israel essentially did. Even our Western society, not exactly a kingdom per se, but the way of life and organization seems to be falling. And what I think Jesus is saying is that since these kingdoms will eventually fall, they aren’t what our faith should be in. They aren’t where we should hang our morals and ethics and relationships on. They aren’t really worth protecting if protecting it means that we lose our way and our sight of God’s truth.
See Jesus is saying that because his kingdom isn’t of earth, his kingdom will last forever. His kingdom of love, grace, and mercy. His rule of community, right relationship, and service. His Sovereignty over forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. These will never go away, even as the lands flood, governments fall, and basic justice is ignored, we will continue to be God’s people in this broken world, living in the hope of God’s healing and peace, strengthened by God’s promises and truth to humbly serve and be served in and around the church, the body of Christ.
So the next time we think of something as ours, let us be reminded that all we have belongs to God and we are but stewards of it all except for the one thing that has been truly given to us. And that is our unwavering identity as God’s people, forgiven and saved, redeemed and healed, cherished and loved, now and always.
As we close off this church year and move into Advent, may we always remember our position in God’s love and kingdom, that whatever might happen in the world around us, that God will always regard us as God’s people, integral and crucial parts of Christ’s own body in the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.