By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
November 25, 2007
Read: Colossians 1:11-20 and Luke 22:33-43
I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. I was personally grateful for some time; for some quiet time; different time. It seems appropriate at this time in our church year. It’s the last Sunday in this season we call Pentecost—it is Christ the King Sunday—and the season of Advent begins next week. So, today is the last Sunday of the church year and Advent marks the beginning of a new church year. It is transition time. So what gospel are we given for this Christ the King Celebration day? It’s one of Jesus dying on the cross. So what does Jesus’ death on the cross have to do with Christ the King. Apparently a great deal.
Our reading today from Jeremiah reminds us that Israel was waiting for a special king. A righteous branch who shall ‘reign as king and deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness in the land’. The hope was that Jesus was that Messiah, that King. But here he is hanging on the cross. Dying a criminal’s death.
Jesus was on that cross and three times Jesus was taunted with variations of an important question. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” “If you are the king of the Jews, why don’t you save yourself? If you are really King of the Jews, why don’t you save yourself from the cross.” Notice that it is the leaders who direct this taunt at the crucified. They assume that the messiah will be privileged by virtue of his status. Before anyone else, they think, surely the leader’s life will be preserved. He will make saving himself a priority. That’s one of the ways in which we’ll be able to tell he’s the boss. However, this is a serious flaw in their understanding of what it means to lead.
And finally came the last one, the big one from a criminal on the cross beside him, “If you are the King, why don’t you save yourself…and us from the cross?” And it is the “and us” from the cross that rings through the centuries and into our hearts.
Then we hear the words from Colossians, “You, Christ, are the visible likeness of the invisible God. You, Christ, created the heavens and the earth. You, Christ, are the head of the church. You, Christ, are the first born of the dead. Jesus, if you are all these things, if you are the visible presence of the invisible God, if you are the creator of the all the galaxies, if you are the first born of the dead, certainly you should be able to save yourself from the cross. Certainly, you should be able to save us from the crosses we bear.”
Isn’t that our question as well? Jesus Christ, if you are the Son of God, why didn’t you save yourself from the cross? Jesus Christ, why didn’t you save us from our crosses? Jesus, if you are the Son of God, why didn’t you save that friend of mine who is thirty five years old, who has two children, and was dying of cancer, and now just died and left the two children and a wife. Jesus, if you are the Son of God, why didn’t you save him from his cross? And why didn’t you save my father? Why didn’t you save my mother from the pain from her kind of cancer? God, if you are really God, why don’t you intervene. And how about that woman whose husband died at the age of forty three, and she has had a horrible life for the past twenty years. Jesus, if you are the Son of God, why don’t you take those crosses off those peoples’ backs? Off of our backs? And if you can’t save these people from the cross, perhaps you aren’t the Son of God after all.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. Today is the day that we celebrate Christ as the King. Today is the day we celebrate Christ as the creator of the galaxies, the first born of the dead, the head of the church. What kind of king is this anyhow? What kind of king is this who does not use his power, who does not use his divine connections, to get himself off the cross? What kind of king is this who does not use his connections, influences, and resources to get you and me off the cross? What kind of a king is this who allows so much suffering on this planet earth?
Today we are at the very mystery of God, the mystery of the universe, at the very heart of the mystery of love. God chose to experience the place of the greatest pain, the cross. In the cross, we are met with the very mystery of God, where God chose not to avoid the suffering of this world. He came into this world. And we hear the statement, “where suffering is, love is. And where love is, God is.” We are at the very heart of the incomprehensible mystery of God which is symbolized by the cross.
Barbara Brown Taylor talks about the clusters of 3 crosses you see along the interstates especially in the southeast, and the striking image of the 3. Why the 3, and not just a single cross? They could’ve erected 3 times as many crosses if they’d just gone with a single one. She suggests that 3 crosses make a church. Jesus, the man in the middle (which is the title of her sermon), and those of us, dying sinners, around him trying to make out what to do with this “king”.
Christ the King is the One who forgives our sins. Christ the King is the One who grants us new life. Christ the King is the One who died on the cross and rose again for us. For you and for me. Thank God, that His idea of King, that His idea of what it means to be a leader, is so different from ours. Thank God that He sent his only Son to save us. Amen.
The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.