Christ the King whose Throne is the Cross

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Biblical Text: Luke 23:27-43
Full Draft of Sermon

The last Sunday of the Church year (today) is often called Christ the King Sunday. The appointed reading from Luke is the crucifixion. I usually dodge preaching directly on this text. For those who have been around Holy Week at St. Mark’s, Good Friday has been our collective reading of the passion text. We let the gospel preach itself in our midst. If you can’t be moved by the text itself…what am I going to say. I couldn’t dodge it today, but today compared to Good Friday the purpose is slightly different. Good Friday is more about the lens of atonement – the cross as what buys our salvation. Christ the King is about the revelation of the God. When we say Jesus is Lord, what kind of King or Lord do we have. It is that word – King – that the text can tell us about. “There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews’”. It is here, at the place of the skull, we are to see most clearly, to learn the type of King we have.

This sermon looks at the text and application to our knowledge and lives through looking at three pictures that are concluded by memorable phrases of the gospel.
1) For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry.
2) The mocking contrasted with the criminal’s – “remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
3) And Jesus’ words from the cross – “today, you will be with me in paradise.”
So, what what this sermon does is invite you to ponder three pictures or three phrases.

Hymns We Sing – At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing

This coming weekend on the Church calendar and the secular calendar covers a bunch of ground. This is the last Sunday of the church year often called Christ the King Sunday. The Sunday is set to ponder the last judgement, the coming of Christ with full authority displayed before all. At St. Mark’s it is a communion Sunday. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper on 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays. The following Sunday, being the start of Advent, starts a penitential season of the church year or a season of preparation. Taking on that more somber tone, the Alleluias are removed. And bleeding over from the secular calendar is Thanksgiving. We have a Thanksgiving service on Wednesday evening, but it usually gets at least a nod in the Sunday prior.

We won’t be singing this hymn (tune, text) – #633 in the Lutheran Service Book – as the Hymn of the Day. Instead it is going to be after the Supper. But it really brings together all three threads of the service.

Verse One picks up the Scriptural Theme of the day – Christ the King.
At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing
Praise to our victorious King
Who has washed us in the tide
Flowing from His pierced Side
Alleluia!

This is not just a king or a pretender but the victorious king. The image of the final feast – the wedding feast of the bride (the church) and the bridegroom (Christ) – is put front and center. We have the foretaste of that feast in the Lord’s supper. The church has His presence flowing from His pierced side which verse two picks up on make explicit.

Praise we Him whose love divine
Gives His sacred blood for wine
Gives His body for the feast
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.
Alleluia!

I hope you noticed the Alleluias at the end. As a congregation we celebrate the feast with Alleluia one last time before we put them away for a season. In the past I’ve tried to pack as many into a service as possible. This Sunday just these, but still for a purpose.

What about Thanksgiving? Two things. Isn’t a feast the central element of American Thanksgiving? The other part is acknowledging where our bounty comes from and asking for providence to continue the blessings. The last verse we will sing does that. The last verse is a doxology – a hymn of recognition and praise of the Trinity. And this doxology contains that sense of providence – Spirit guide us.

Father, who the crown shall give
Savior, by whose death we live
Spirit, guide us through all our days
Three in one, Your name we praise.
Alleluia.

(Note, the pictures are some of the windows in our sanctuary)

Christ the King – one rule, not multiple


Full Text

Text: Luke 23:27-43

Christ the King is the last Sunday of the church year. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent or the church’s new year. The emphasis of Christ the King is the pretty simple – the ascended Christ is Lord of All – hidden now, revealed at times, revealed for all times on the last day. The lectionary specified the crucifixion reading from Luke, which is different. The Matthew (Year A) and Mark (Year B) readings are the sheep and the goats and the the lesson of the fig tree. Year C with Luke focuses on the thief on the cross. Do you see the world aligned with the priests, and soldiers and skeptical thief? Or do you see it from the position of the other thief? Is the cross just a scandalous death, or is it a coronation. Is the one on it, The King of the Jews?

If you side with the thief in paradise – it has all kinds of implications. The world today really wants us to separate ourselves into separate little fiefdoms – this is my private life, this is my public life, this is my work life, this is my life life, this is my financial life, and this is my spiritual life. And the world wants us to act differently in each – to act as if they are all disconnected, as if we could isolate things in one life from things in another. That path just leads to broken selves. Harry Potter’s Voldemort is a great example. He divides himself into multiple horcruxes. It allows him to go on living, but he misses the entire point of being human, in fact in that very act he gives up his humanity.

Instead, God made us Body and Spirit. He made us whole and wants us healed and restored. Restored under the one rule of Christ the King – coronated on a cross. If Christ is King over the heights of heaven and the depths of the pit, then there is nothing mundane or secular. Whether that is money or holiday celebrations or the clothes we wear, it has all been redeemed by the divine. And how we use it, how we live, reflects our king. Do we live as if we have split ourselves – barely human? Or do we live as if Jesus, true man also true God is one Christ – King?