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Christ the King 2015
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132: 1-12
King David, the great King who becomes a model for every King that follows him, is dying. He has been anointed by God, to be King, he is the favourite of the Strong One of Israel, and the spirit of the Lord speaks through him. The Spirit of the Lord speaks of an everlasting covenant. A kingship, which will continue on with justice, like the light of the morning and the rain on a grassy land. David is speaking of a King that will come in his house, in other words of his family. David may not know it but this is a reference to the Christ, who is the King. He is the one who will reign with justice over us.
The writer of the Revelation knows this as well, Christ is the one who was and who is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, and we will be his kingdom. The whole of Revelation is concerned with the kingdom of God on a kind of cosmic plane- but because of its metaphorical language and apocalyptic vision, its hard for us to get a picture of what the reign of Christ looks like. And, as we are to BE the Kingdom we should know. So, let us consider what the person of Jesus can tell us about the reign of Christ.
In the reading we had from the Gospel of John, Pilate was asking Jesus some difficult questions. Pilate asks,“Are you the King of the Jews?” and the answer to this question is far from straight forward, “Yes and No!” Jesus might have said. But instead he asks Pilate a question in return- “do you ask this on your own or did others tell you about me?” Jesus, it seems to me, wants to know the motivation for the question before he decides how to answer it. But, in turn, Pilate doesn’t answer, except indirectly, and asks a question in return, “What have you done?”- Now Jesus could have told Pilate a whole list of things he had done from healings to miracles, or signs in John. The hymn writer, Samuel Crossman, answers the question for Jesus,
“Why, what has my Lord done? /What makes this rage and spite? /He made the lame to run,/he gave the blind their sight./ Sweet injuries!/ Yet they at these/ themselves displease,/ and ‘gainst him rise.” Jesus, however, replies with an oblique answer to the first question, “My kingdom is not from this world.” So if Jesus is not an earthly King, a King like David who rushed about fighting battles, what kind of a King is he? Jesus says he is a ruler characterised by “truth”, and that those who belong to his Kingdom are those who listen to his voice.
The type of king that Jesus is, is exemplified in the cross itself. Jesus is the suffering servant portrayed by Isaiah, who is prepared to give his life for his people, the great shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. And it is this King, who lays down his life for his people, that calls to us from the cross. We have received grace through Christ. In his incarnation and the example that he is to us we know the kind of kingdom of which we are called to be part. Revelation tells us that, doesn’t it? That we are made to be part of the Kingdom, we are the Kingdom. The cross and resurrection is the culmination of Jesus’ work on earth- that is something that the great King has done for his people, but how we are to be in the kingdom is illustrated for us in the gospels.
David, the great King as he was dying said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” and last week we heard what Hannah said when the Spirit of the Lord was upon her, and that Mary echoed when her turn for proclamation came about. It was all about the lowly being raised up and the poor being fed. When Jesus says these words he is quoting from the great prophet Isaiah. This moment occurs right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and is recorded for us in the synoptic gospels. Jesus goes into the synagogue and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to him and he reads:
‘ “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”’
This is Jesus’ agenda, taken from the prophetic writings of Isaiah hundreds of years before, because as the Revelation says he is the Alpha and the Omega, God’s agenda doesn’t change. Jesus dies on the cross and then rises to new life to enable us to be the people of his kingdom. The reign of Christ the King is over a Kingdom where the blind recover their sight, where the poor receive good news, where the captives are released and where the oppressed go free. This is the kingdom that we are called to be part of, this place of freedom and joy, where God proclaims his Jubilee.
This is good news for all the oppressed, isn’t it? This place where there will be no more mourning, as it tells us both in Isaiah and in Revelation, is good news for all those this week who are mourning the loss of people in the many different terrorist attacks of the last days. These words about God’s kingdom are in stark contrast to the kind of state that the Islamic extremists are calling for- a state where some religious and racial minorities are eliminated altogether, and a state where men and women are enslaved, where education is denied, where hatred and discrimination is entrenched. No, we are called to a very different kingdom. A kingdom of freedom and justice where all people are honoured and valued. This morning we are thinking of a specific group of people who need to be released from their oppression, and exploitation. These are the slaves who labour, in quite a few different countries, to produce the goods that we consume. When we go to the shops and buy things for ourselves we seldom think of who has produced them and how they are paid, or even IF they are paid, we are just glad to get the coffee or chocolate that we crave at a reasonable price. And these are just two of the commodities that are regularly produced by slave labour, or very poorly paid workers who are exploited. People are regularly trafficked to produce goods that we take for granted. There are more slaves, in the 21st Century, than there have ever been before. By actually realising this, by being made to understand the impact of our consumption we can begin to change the way that we behave which in turn changes the situation at a world level. If everyone in Australia refused to buy goods that had been produced by slave labour, things would change and people would be paid for their work. We can be part of bringing the kingdom in. By taking responsibility for our own consumption we can be with Christ, in bringing in the kingdom. It is such a small thing for us to do, we who are among the wealthiest people in the world but if you knew that it would make a difference to a child being forced to work, or a woman being exploited, it would be well within our capacities, wouldn’t it? Of course, this is only one of the many problems that beset our world, but it is one that we can actively engage with, and by a small change, and a small sacrifice we can make a difference. I am going to ask the people who do the purchasing of the things we consume, here as a church, to get together and examine our purchases and we will change to ethically produced goods where ever we can. I am asking all of us to think about our private shopping and consuming and change where needed and together we can make a difference. The other exciting thing about this End Exploitation Sunday is that as we do this we are joining with churches all around Australia in many denominations. And as we take action together it begins to look as if the Kingdom of God is here, in our midst.
This is the kingdom that Christ has begun, that we are joints heirs of. Let us all ask the Holy Spirit to transform us into people who are ready and willing to be part of Christ’s great Kingdom.