Saturday, November 24, 2007

...and another!

Well, apologies that another sermon is appearing and there have been no random snippets of pointless reflection over a cuppa since the last one. Still, all praise and thanks to God for any RevGals who wander by with their wise words and valued comments again!

Sunday November 25th – Christ the King
Colossians 1: 11-20
Luke 23: 33-43

Jackie Pullinger – got on a boat and waited for God to tell her when to get off – dedicated her life to living and working in the dark streets of the lost city of Hong Kong – saw God transform lives of crime and drug addiction.

Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, rebuilding each other’s homes after the destruction and violence of the genocide. I have a video I’ve watched over and over again of Christians working together amidst ongoing hatred and suffering.

A double decker bus called ‘BarNBus’ – a group of people sitting out on the bus just to be around for, listen to and chat with young people who might wander over.

The church home group who offered what they could to pay the monthly mortgage payment of a member who’d been made redundant, until that person could find more work.

Why have I told you about these things this morning? Because they are examples and demonstrations of the kingdom of God being close at hand, being here and now and of people living according to the ways and values of that kingdom.

We know that we don’t see all the fullness of God’s kingdom in front of us yet, but we musn’t be mistaken into thinking that it’s just way off into the future – only to be seen when Jesus returns or when we die and enter his presence.

And we’re thinking of these things today because we’re remembering ‘Christ the King’. Next week is Advent Sunday when our readings start to turn our thoughts towards preparing for the coming of the Lord – that first coming – born in the earthiness of the animals’ habitation when there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn; but also his second coming, when Jesus will return in glory. Let’s make sure we give the Advent preparations their due time and attention and not leap straight into Christmas – as the shops and streets around us are doing.

[Take the opportunity to come along here on December 1st for our time of focus on Advent and how to spiritually prepare for the Christmas season. It’s just from 10 – 1 and will provide examples and opportunities of types of prayer because we will only be a strong and Christ-centred church when we take seriously our spiritual lives and commit to becoming a people of prayer, both individually and together. And I have to state that the day won’t be scary but will just give tasters and ideas for making sure this advent we don’t just join in with the shopping frenzy, but think about the really valuable preparations of the season.]

So, this last Sunday before Advent we’re reminded of the end of Jesus’ earthly journey and witness again that conversation between Jesus and the man – the criminal – being crucified next to him. This man refused to join in the mockery of the soldiers and the scoffers and the man on the other side of Jesus; instead, having rebuked the other, he said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And to that he heard the reply, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus’ reply completely blows out of the water the assertions of those who try and proclaim Jesus only a ‘good man’ or a ‘wise teacher.’ Jesus was so much more than either of these – he was, and is, as Paul in our Colossians reading declares, ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation in whom all things in heaven and on earth were created. He is before all things, in him all things hold together. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.’
These might be concepts that our weak minds struggle to get to grips with – the fullness of God in human form – but God made man, dwelling among us, is the heart of our faith, and of course the heart of the Christmas message that it’s our job to continue to proclaim as the season approaches.

Don’t let anyone tell you, or convince you that Jesus was just a very good man, an inspiring teacher, a wise prophet – he was of course, and still is, all these things, but he’s most significantly the Son of God, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. These aren’t arrogant claims we spout off, but his own revelation.

And today we remember Christ the King! That criminal dying beside him saw the truth and made a simple request, ‘Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.’ And the thing is, Jesus could say ‘yes, today you’ll be with me in paradise’ because he knew and because he was drawing near to death on that cross; and when it happened the gate of heaven would be opened for us to follow him. Not because he was a good man or a wise teacher, but because he was God’s Son – the one man who could break down sin and death and the barrier between humanity and God.

And what of the kingdom of our King? How often we pray together “your kingdom come your will be done” when we pray the Lord’s prayer, but how much expectation of seeing that kingdom before our very eyes, do we actually have?

We will ONE DAY see the kingdom in all its fullness, but it is real and it’s real now!
“The kingdom is present wherever people pray the way Jesus taught us to pray. The kingdom is present wherever Jesus nurtures certain behaviours and lifestyles that we call the fruit of the Spirit. The kingdom is present wherever people pour water over the heads of babies or take bread and wine to their lips all simply because Jesus told us that this is the way we are to act in remembrance of him.”[1]

The kingdom is present whenever a believer refuses to cut corners on their taxes, when this woman brings light into an elderly neighbour’s darkness by sitting with them, listening and sharing words of peace, or when that man gives up his Saturday to coach a football team for youngsters. The kingdom is present whenever a young person stops binge drinking along with the crowd for the sake of Jesus, or whenever someone stops in the street not only to buy a ‘Big Issue’ but to pause and chat and ask ‘how are you?’

The kingdom is present when one of us stops to pray for another and we witness the peace and presence and even the healing power of God here and now. That’s living in the kingdom. And I want to encourage you to do these things today because we’re called to be the people of God’s kingdom – not just in the future, but in the here and now. Christ is our king and it’s for us to show each other and the world out there what his kingdom is like – and give them a foretaste of heaven!

And ‘the world out there’ is not a huge sweeping ‘everything’ that seems too overwhelming to change, but it’s the people who fill your office to whom you can show honesty, integrity and patience and for whom you can pray.

It’s the people who live next door to you who you can bless with your prayers and graciousness, even when they curse you with their loud music or their badly behaved children.
It’s everyone you come into contact with in your ordinary, every, day. It’s going the extra mile because Jesus is our king.

I just want you to look around you for a moment – look at the people sitting behind you and next to you and in front of you – at the other end of the church – WE are God’s church, WE are the ones he has in this place who can demonstrate God’s kingdom in [our location], WE are God’s hands and feet and voice. WE are the ones who need to live as our king would have us live – loving one another, welcoming the visitor and the stranger, praying with commitment and conviction for God to be at work here, listening to one another and those who cross our paths, sharing the hope God’s given us with anyone who asks why we go to church, rolling up our sleeves to cook for our community when they turn out for lunch here, giving our time to nurture the faith of our children and young people and offering what we can – in time, in money, in energies to the Lord because it will be more worth it than we can possibly imagine.

Let’s give thanks to God for one another for where these things are already happening but let’s each ask God to prod us into action to be a part of the demonstration of his kingdom and keep our ears, our eyes and our hearts open so we can respond.

Amen.


[1] from “http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php”

3 Comments:

At November 25, 2007 12:33 am, Blogger PK said...

YOU GO GIRL!!!!!! Great sermon!!!! Powerful preaching!!!

 
At November 25, 2007 1:49 am, Blogger RevDrKate said...

Amen to what pk said. I especailly like that you are very specific in "these things you can do/are doing to bring about this kingdom. That does preach!

 
At November 25, 2007 2:10 am, Blogger Chelley said...

Thanks both of you!
I must give all due credit to the website I footnoted who provided they key for me and an excellent paragraph I quoted!
And now, please God, may I preach it well and you do something good and effective with it!

 

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