GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year - the Sunday named on our Church Year Calendar CHRIST THE KING.
When we face CHRIST THE KING on Judgment Day and prepare to enter into the full glory of the Kingdom He has prepared for us, there are two questions everyone must answer.
“Is Jesus The King?”
The first question is “Are you The King of the Judeans?” A low level Roman political appointee stands face to face with CHRIST THE KING Who reigns now and eternally over the entire universe and asks “Are you The King of the Judeans?”
Jesus replied “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus was not saying He does not have authority over Judea or even over this entire worldand beyond. He was saying that The Source of His Authority is not of this world but is a much higher Authority. “If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Judeans.” If Jesus had come seeking some temporal authority concerned only with the ever-changing things of this world, His conquest would have been far different – and, sadly, of little value to any of us. “But His Kingdom – eternally established and beyond conquest - is not of this world.”
We all know this King’s name is Jesus – the name given to Him by His heavenly Father, through the angel Gabriel who said to Mary, “You will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus” – Ìησους in Greek and Yeshua or Joshua in Hebrew, that name means “God saves”? Jesus is the only King Who can use that name to explain Who He is – God – and what He has come to do – save all the people of His Kingdom eternally.
JESUS is The Christ. Ὺριστοςin Greek and Messias in Hebrew means The Anointed One. In the Holy Land, kings and prophets were anointed. Called to service by God, they were anointed with, blessed, and empowered to serve.
CHRIST THE KING is THE ULTIMATE ANOINTED ONE Who has come to save us from sin, death, and the devil - anointed to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross - anointed to reconcile us with God –anointed to establish His Eternal Kingdom and to grant us citizenship in it.
When the true God was here as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ, the world was ruled by Caesar with the iron hand of the legions of Rome. Jesus replied to Pilate, “My Kingship is not from the world.”The Source of Jesus’ Authority was and is divine and His Reign eternal.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.
As we approach the end of the year on our church year calendar, our lectionary focuses our attention toward Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the temporal world as we know it.
Rather than reading the texts as a novel passage, we must read them like a verbal landscape painting with a vast multitude of scenes – God’s Landscape texts show numerous events sharing neither time nor space. By God’s Grace, they provide a kaleidoscope of images telling us of the horrors preceding the end and comforting us in the knowledge that God Who knows all about them wins for us in the end.
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
How horrified the people who had not heard Jesus’ words of warning – as His disciples had – would have been to experience the total destruction of their temple and their holy city. Still God had warned of what was coming and God is still in charge.
In 40 years, the magnificent temple itself would be totally destroyed by a heathen power and across the centuries would be replaced by a temple dedicated by a heretical power. Only Jesus remains to carry us through the end times. The disciples would live to see this part of Jesus’ prophetic words fulfilled – but there was more to come on the way to end times.
And they asked Jesus, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
There’s that question about the dates – the chronology.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR...JESUS THE CHRIST...THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.
"I lay my sins on Jesus
The spotless Lamb of God;
He takes them all and frees us from the accursed load.
I bring my guilt to Jesus
To wash my crimson stains.
Clean in His Blood most precious
Till not a spot remains.”
That hymn provides such a blessed response to the greatest invitation any human being can ever receive - an invitation to come just as we are - lost and condemned sinners - to the foot of the cross where the Lamb of God suffered and died to wash away our sins in His Blood and to restore our eternal relationship with God.
Many who inhabit our nation and world are figuratively "up a tree" - an expression used to describe someone with a problem too big to handle. Feelings of guilt over some thoughtless act - hurt and angry feelings over some real or imagined slight - sorrow over the loss of a loved one - a feeling of helplessness over a financial set-back - covetous and greedy or lustful feelings which we wish we could conquer -- there are so many things that can put a person or a nation figuratively "up a tree".
Nothing in life puts us higher and more painfully up a tree than when we find ourselves enslaved by temptation and sin which alienate us from our Creator. It is then more than ever that we need Jesus – coming just as we are to be redeemed and changed for now and eternity by our Savior Who suffered and died on the cross for that redemption and that temporal and eternal lifestyle change.
In this morning's Gospel text, Zacchaeus was both literally and figuratively up a tree and some residents of Jericho were no doubt whispering "It couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy."
By some standards, Zacchaeus could have been described as "Mr. Success in Jericho". He had wealth, position, and power. He was truly intelligent, cultured, and a "self-made man". Why then was this successful, well-positioned man both literally and figuratively up a tree?
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR...JESUS THE CHRIST.
In MARK 2, Jesus and His disciples were walking through the grain fields on their way to the synagogue for the Sabbath services. The disciples were picking the heads of the grain off the plants, crushing them in their hands, and licking the grain. The Pharisees challenged Jesus for allowing His disciples to violate the Sabbath by harvesting a crop (picking the heads) and preparing a meal (crushing the grain in their hands). Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for people, and not people for the Sabbath. Therefore, The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
The Sabbath – today celebrated each week on the anniversary of Easter as The Lord’s Day - is a Divine Gift which God has made for people. As the rabbinical teachings remind us, the beginning of thankfulness is in the using of the gift. We need to spend that wonderful TIME OF SACRED REST which God has so generously given us in communion with The Lord of the Sabbath – Jesus.
Several years ago, I heard a pastor begin his sermon on our text with a question, "How many of you lovely folks out here have spoken with The Lord this morning?" Of course, we all raised our hands. We were all in church. Wouldn't our response here this morning be the same? We've all been praying - in our spoken prayers, in our hymns ... We'd all say, "Yes, I have spoken with The Lord this morning."
Then, the pastor went on to ask, "Please tell me, what did He say?"
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR - JESUS THE CHRIST
Each year Reformation Sunday loudly proclaims the very Foundation of Christ’s Church. It celebrates the 16th Century Reformation that completely reshaped the Christian Church by taking it back to its 1st Century roots in God’s Word – but Reformation Sunday is far more than that – it shines the Light of Faith on those sacred roots in the three cardinal doctrines of Christian Faith and Life.
Totally undeserved and unearned by us, God created us in His Own Image for no other reason than that God wants to love us and live in a relationship of perfect Love and Faith with us – now and eternally.
What a wondrous gift that God - without any knowledge, say, or earning on our part - should have created us in His Own Image and breathed into us His breath of life - our soul.
It didn’t take long for humanity to minimize the Divine Gift.
With the eating of the forbidden fruit, they showed they had more important agendas than appreciating God’s Love and Faithfulness and more to do than believe in and love God in return.
Thank God Who did not take back the gifts –but even increased them. What a wondrous gift that God - when we allowed sin and
temptation to enter our lives, tarnishing God's Own Image which He had lovingly placed in us, fracturing that soul breath of life communication line which God had so lovingly breathed into us - that God still brings us that ultimate gift God offers and celebrates in our Epistle text. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God; we are now justified by God’s Grace as a Gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
SOLA GRATIA - GRACE ALONE - calls us to that Divine Gift which we receive totally undeserved and which we can in no way earn.