I'm pleased to tell you that this was the first sermon I've given that involved absolutely no panicking. In fact, I even finished it before midnight Saturday-- a miracle indeed.
In the church calendar, today, the last Sunday before Advent, is the celebration of Christ the King. We’re celebrating the Kingdom of God, and adoring Christ, the ruler of all.
When I think of a kingdom, I think of rulers through the ages who have been very different from Jesus. Monarchies have not always been a great system for average people. One person making decisions for an entire nation can easily bring corruption, abuse, and oppression. This morning I’d like to invite you to explore a radically different Kingdom.
One way to learn about a kingdom is to notice which of its citizens are considered important. For that reason, it’s very appropriate that we’re celebrating several baptisms this morning. Evan, Ethan, Mikayla, Natalie, and Summer are all reminders of Jesus’ admonition in the gospels that unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. As we promise to guide them in their walks with Christ, it might be a good idea to also look to them as guides. In God’s kingdom these young people are precious. They are not powerful, they are not strong, they are not influential—but they are deeply valued.
In fact, Jesus our King gives honor to some very surprising citizens. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor and those who are persecuted. The people with the least power, those who are not heard or valued in earthly nations—these are the people who matter most in God’s Kingdom. Prestige and wealth are not important to God. God doesn’t cherish us because of who we know, or how impressive other people think our job is. God cherishes us because we belong to God.
Even the ways that citizenship affects relationships is different in the Kingdom of God. Citizenship here in this world ties people together, but it also builds walls between us. Most of us observed Thanksgiving last week, a distinctly American holiday. A few weeks before that, I would guess that many of us exercised our right as citizens to vote. These are a couple of opportunities that we have in common, but that set us apart from people in other parts of the world. The passage in the book of Daniel this morning tells us of a kingdom where “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” In Jesus’ kingdom, we will lose the sense of “us” and “them” that earthly nations have, and will find unity in serving one King together. The focus is on including as many as possible, not excluding them.
In our reading from Revelation, we hear Jesus described as a sort of King we’ve never heard of—one who “loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom.” This is not a king who binds us to demonstrate his power, but one who liberates us. It’s an astonishing thing to have a loving, generous king who sets his people free, but Jesus is that King for us. Kingdoms are generally not about freedom, but about maintaining control and power. Jesus is different. Jesus rules with absolute power, but also with absolute love.
In the gospel of John, Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king. Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly. Instead he says, “My kingdom is not from here.” So where is Jesus’ kingdom? All through the gospels, the apostles were saying, “The Kingdom of God is near, the kingdom of God is at hand.” Where is it? The kingdom of God is ahead of us in heaven, but it’s also among us now. Wherever God is working in and among us, we’re seeing pieces of Jesus’ Kingdom. Where there is kindness towards those in need, the kingdom of heaven is present. When we strive to treat every person as our equal, as our brother or sister, we’re seeing a little part of the Kingdom of God. When we are forgiven, cared for, loved even when we feel unlovable, we’ve been blessed with a portion of Jesus’ Kingdom.
Each week during the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God’s kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven. We are all a part of God’s kingdom, cherished by Christ our King, and instructed by God to make the kingdom more visible to those around us. This week, I’d like to encourage you to look for the Kingdom in your lives. How are you being shown God’s grace? Where are you finding opportunities to extend God’s grace to others? As we renew our Baptismal Covenant today, we’re committing to extending the Kingdom of God. Watch for the Kingdom this week, and celebrate with joy the glimpses that you find of our King.
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