Home > Worship > Sermons >
Pentecost 27 The Feast of Christ the King 8:00 a.m. November 20, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Canticle 16 or Psalm 46; Colossians 1:11-20;
Luke 23:33-43
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, November 20, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
8:00 a.m. Liturgy
The church year comes ‘round
to its close today,
The Sunday of Christ the King.
“What Child is this . . .”
we sang at Christmas
as the year was just beginning . . .
“What King is this . . .”
we might sing today
at year’s end.
An unlikely king for sure,
this Jesus . . .
at least as the world thinks of kings . . . 
son of an unmarried teenager,
born in a barn
among the livestock,
growing up in a
blue collar family . . .

surrounded not by
preening courtiers and important personages
and sycophants ready to do his every bidding . . .
but down in the trenches with
ordinary folk,
companion of those
who are poor, hungry, homeless,
          sick, sorrowing, abused,
friend of the outsider, the rejected, the vilified,
the guilty, the condemned . . .
What King is this, indeed?
There’s a different picture painted
in today’s reading from
the Letter to the Colossians . . .
a hymn of praise to
exalted offspring of Glory:
“image of the invisible God . . .”
“firstborn of all creation . . . “
“in him all things in heaven and on earth were created . . .”
“in him, all things hold together . . .”
“He is the head of the body, the Church . . .”
“he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead . . .”
“in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell . . .”

”Through him God was pleased
to reconcile to God’s self all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
          by making peace . . . “
But how suddenly
the glorious image changes,
becomes a picture
of humiliation and degradation . . .
by making peace . . .
through the blood of his cross.”
Jesus, paradoxical king,
not as the world knows kings . . .
“My kingdom is not from this world,”
he said to Pontius Pilate.
“If my kingdom were from this world,
my followers would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over . . .
But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

This is the King
who brings his kingdom
into being
not though political maneuvering,
military might,
unholy alliance,
exploitation of the poor,
domination of the powerless . . .
          but through compassion
and sacrificial love.
This is the King
who resides
not in palaces,
but in the slums,
the bus stations,
the homeless encampments,
the hospital corridors,
the food lines,
the prisons,
the refugee camps . . .
This is the King
who knows and shares
the joys and sorrows,
victories and defeats
of his people,
whom he calls
not servants or subjects,
but friends.
This is the King who reconciles
all people and all things,
making peace
not by shedding others’ blood
and taking others’ lives,
but by offering up his own.
This is the King whose power
is paradoxically most manifest
in his suffering and seeming defeat
at the hands
of the world’s powers-that-be.
This is the King who,
in his dying moments,
crushed by pain,
gasping for breath,
forgave the folly of his
ignorant executioners,
hearing the plea of the
suffering and repentant criminal
next to him
granted his request:
“Today you will be with me
          in paradise.”
This is the King whose only throne
on this earth
is in the believer’s heart.

We have been rescued
“from the power of darkness,”
says the Letter to the Colossians,
“and transferred  
into the kingdom of God’s Son . . .”
Our escape from the kingdom of darkness,
the kingdom of this world,
and our entry into the kingdom of light
has come through our baptism
into the death and resurrection
of Christ,
and the nature of that kingdom life
is defined by our baptismal vows
particularly the last three:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons,
loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being?
Will you cherish the wondrous works of God,
and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?

For this is a kingdom
not of leisured pleasure,
but of the strenuous and difficult
personal, communal, and societal work 
required by those promises –
guideposts to a kingdom
coming into being
within and around us.
Already here,
but still, oh, so far away.
Will you see with Jesus’ eyes,
listen with his ears,
love with his heart,
speak with his lips,
work with his hands . . .
serve your neighbor,
all people,
all God’s creation?
And the baptismal answer is:
“I will, with God’s help.”

Being here today
in the presence of the one we call King
and celebrating his peculiar Kingship today
is not enough . . .
even while he is here now,
among us
in Word, Sacrament and Assembly,
he stands at that door
waiting for us
to accompany him into the world.
We’re probably all familiar
with the devotional picture
of Jesus knocking at a door . . .
the conventional interpretation:
he is knocking
because he wants us to let him in.
Lutheran Bishop Kirby Un(tie) in a recent sermon*
suggested that, instead,
Jesus is knocking at the door of the church
and saying, “Are you ever going to come out?”
Now, in these angry post-election days,
these days of uncertainty and anxiety,
we stand on the foundation of Christ the King,
not on the shifting sands of the results
          of a presidential election
witnesses to the gospel of love
          in the face of bigotry and hate speech.
                                             * At the 2016 Convention of the Diocese of Olympia
“Work with me
struggle with me
suffer with me,”
says Christ the King,
“help me establish
justice, reconciliation and peace,
be, with me, God’s love for all.”
Today we’ve seen some of the pictures
in the royal portrait gallery
of the paradoxical Christ the King.
Images of divine radiance,
magnificent transcendence,
triumphant glory;
Images of lowly humility,
terrible suffering,
sacrificial self-giving.
As we will sing when Christmas
comes again this year,
in the hymn
“Once in royal David’s city,”
the one who
“feels for all our sadness
and who “shares
in all our gladness . . .”          
        (The Hymnal 1982 Hymn #104 Once in royal David’s city)
Christ the King.