Year B Reign of Christ – 21 November 2021
We have come to the end of our Church Calendar year. Today is the Reign of Christ Sunday. It was placed on the calendar in 1925. That means for nearly 100 years, this Sunday has been set aside to celebrate the reason for Advent.
“Advent” means coming or arrival. This word has a double significance, as in Advent we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world and look with longing for his coming again. The season of Advent begins with an emphasis on final things (eschatology). We watch and pray with expectant hope for the establishment of God’s justice and the return of the Prince of Peace.
As the weeks of Advent progress, the focus shifts to thanks and praise for the birth of the one who has already come—Jesus Christ our Savior. That is when the Calendar progresses into the 12 Days of Christmas, ending with the Epiphany.
The origin of the season of Advent is uncertain. It may have been patterned after the season of Lent as a period of penitence before Christmas, or as a time of preparation for baptism at Epiphany.
The duration of Advent was, in some times and places, as long as six or seven weeks. The Revised Common Lectionary still anticipates the themes of Advent in the final three weeks of the Christian year, including today, Reign of Christ Sunday.
Our readings today combine to celebrate Christ’s future reign on earth while explaining how he reigns today in Spirit. The Reign of Christ is summarised in one word: TRUTH.
That term today has lost its power. It has been watered down by the vices of human rebellion. The very name of “post-modern” era that we describe as the overarching philosophy in our time; that name is the antithesis of TRUTH.
Today, we are taught that truth is relative. It is believed that no one can possess absolute truth. It is taught that truth is merely an expression or interpretation of ones culture. However, Christian scriptures are adamant that truth is absolute and it is manifested in the very person of Jesus Christ.
From our text in Revelation, you cannot help but say, “Look! He is Coming!”
Here in Auckland we are accustomed to large numbers of students in our high schools. I grew up on a farm 11 kilometres from the village where we sold our grain. That village High School had, at that time, around 500 students in equivalent of Years 9-13. It was the largest ever in its history! It was small. But it was big in spirit.
I remember being invited to one of the high school plays. By then I shifted to a Christian High School. Visiting the state school was an opportunity to see some of the children I grew up with.
It was a brand new high school building. They created a special theatre for plays and musical concerts. For a farming community, it was quite posh!
I sat myself into one of the seats and waited for the programme to start. I’m not sure what I was expecting? The lights went dim. We sat in the dark. You could feel the excited buzz of audience chatter quickly subside. Soon it was very dark. Music began to play! I was not expecting that! It was soft and mysterious at first, but soon building up, swelling and rising. Just as it reached its climax, heavy curtains were pulled back. Suddenly, there was singing that I felt deep down into my soul.
It was my first musical I ever attended. I had never seen anything like that before. The reason for the story is that it reminds me how the Book of Revelation begins. It pulls off a powerful score and grabs the readers attention with the message,
Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.Revelation 1:7-8
Let me back up to the Old Testament reading a explain how I came to that conclusion. I want us to see Jesus as:
- The Prophet of Truth
- The Priest in Truth
- The King for Truth
Prophet of Truth
Firstly, Jesus was a Prophet of Truth. He was born in the lineage of David. David’s last words are preserved for us in 2 Samuel 23:1-7. Scripture preserves for us the reality that David was a prophet. His last words are called an oracle.
An oracle is defined today as a medium – person between God and humanity – someone in the middle – a medium who gives advice or prophecy. David was an anointed prophet whose writings – a especially the Psalms – point the reader into the future at Jesus Christ.
The favoured writer exalted by God admitted:
The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,2 Samuel 23:2
his word is upon my tongue.
David, at the end of his days of reigning as a king over God’s covenant people; David pointed out that God spoke to him and said to him this lesson:
One who rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God,
is like the light of morning,2 Samuel 23:3-4
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.
Jesus Christ is a king. He will return to set up his kingdom on earth. His reign will be noted as a place for the people to find justice. Justice is administered when truth is understood as something that supersedes individual interpretation and cultural expectation.
The last words of David end by comparing the just rule with the godless one. A reign without justice is worthless. Nothing blossoms. You are left with “thorns that are thrown away.” You cannot pick them up with your bare hand without getting hurt.
Justice and Truth are two sides to the same coin in the hand of Jesus Christ.
Priest in Truth
Jesus WAS not only a Prophet of Truth, he currently IS the Priest of Truth. Psalm 132 is one of the royal psalms. It is about when David moved the ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem. Although he was the king, he put off his royal garments and put on those of a priest. He shamelessly danced before God’s people in celebration of God’s presence being in their nation’s capitol.
The king is the caretaker and champion of the ark. David’s dynasty – his lineage – became linked to God’s presence among God’s covenant people. Jesus was born in David’s lineage. He serves today as the High Priest of Heaven.
Our last two Sunday’s have focused much on the Book of Hebrew’s explaining the Priestly role of our Lord. Today, Jesus sits on the heavenly throne ruling God’s people in Spirit and in Truth. That dimension has not yet come to earth physically, but it exists in reality through our hearts, minds, and acting out of the Gospel message.
The Book of Revelation’s text that inspired today’s sermon was written with the ancient Jewish belief that “God’s sphere of being and operation (‘heaven’) and our sphere (‘earth’) are not after all separated by a great gulf. They meet and merge and meld into one another in all kinds of ways.”
Under the Old Testament, the two spheres merged with the Ark of the Covenant. In the New Testament, the two spheres merge with Jesus Christ. Most humans seem blind to seeing the heavenly side of the earthly story. Especially today when materialistic evolution has capture the textbooks given students to study.
The 2021 Book of the Year awarded by World news organisation came from the Accessible Science category. They elected Stephen Meyer’s latest work: Return of the God Hypothesis. The work expands on three scientific discoveries that reveal the mind behind behind the universe. Meyer builds the case that live in a world where God is considered a “null hypothesis” – God doesn’t exist – because of philosophical and historical figures in history, not scientific facts.
He convincing paints a picture of a secular-scientific model on the brink of collapse under the weigh of anomalies and unacceptable conclusions that – to any unbiased party- strongly imply theism.Rachel Lynn Aldrich, Seeing God in the Cosmos (World, December 4, 2021).
Do you realise how simple of a task we have been given? The Hebrews text says we have
The early Christians understood that Jesus became, in person, the place where heaven and earth met. Looking at him, and contemplating his death and resurrection in particular, they believed they could see right into God’s own world. They could then understand things about his purpose which nobody had imagined before.
Our scriptures are clear to point out that Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, the leads to eternal life. To worship God, one must worship in TRUTH otherwise religious deeds are vain. Jesus is the High Priest of Heaven reigning from above over our lives, guiding us in Spirit and in TRUTH.
King for Truth
Let us return one final time to John’s writings. He promotes Jesus as the coming king. In his Gospel, John records the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, the Roman Government representative who carried out the crucifixion.
In their conversation, Pilate asks Jesus outright, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus, in his typical fashion, eludes the question while answering it outright. Jesus put the responsibility back onto Pilate who dismissed the implication but realised Jesus was innocent.
Jesus claimed to be a king. Today’s sermon might bother you with this concept of kingship. In our times, kings and princes are merely figureheads. They evoke criticism more than poetic praise if they think about ruling our livelihoods. We have all been raised under a new phenomenon in human history: world-wide democracy.
We associate past monarchy with power. Power is deemed evil in the hands of a singular person.
In the West especially, we have rightly grown suspicious of the use of power by democratic powers to initiative regime change. We grow weary of lives lost for new world orders that re just other world orders in the favour of some at the expense of many.Paul Scott Wilson, Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary
In my introduction, I mentioned Reign of Christ Sunday commenced in 1925. The Feast of Christ the King was instituted under Pope Pius XI. The case was put forward that Jesus’ dominion I s not gained by violence. He doesn’t seize the reigns of power by usurpation or imposition. The timeliness is what I want to point out to you: it was a protest against the regime of Mussolini.
For our younger generation, Mussolini was the dictator over Italy who partnered with Hitler’s Germany to create an Axis of Power that terrorised Europe. Many of you have relatives who fought to overcome that evil.
Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian who lived during that era and passed away in many of our lifetime, “recognised the temptation we have today to ascribe to God a supreme power that is characteristic of evil rather than of God.” This is how he explained the modern paradox.
God almighty who lives and reigns with the Son has power, but God’s power is the power for order and not chaotic imposition. God’s omnipotence is God’s power for love, power ‘as saving, righteous power’. The one who stands with Pilate and speaks of kingdoms established his own kingdom through the power of self-giving love, a possibility that isn’t rooted in the royal repertoire of this world. His kingdom is inaugurated fro us at his expense, not ours.Barth, 1949
Barth wrote a work titled, Church Dogmatics. He entitled the volume about the office of Christ as King as “The Servant as Lord.”
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”John 18:37
The historic Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) is one of the subordinate standards of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, along with the contemporary Kupu Whakapono (2010). I close this message by citing its opening paragraph Of Christ the Mediator.
It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man; the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom He did from all eternity give a people, to be His seed, and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, glorified.Westminster Confession 8.1
Are you a citizen in God’s kingdom? Do you worship Jesus as King over your soul? Are you in subjection to Christ’s scripture? Come to Jesus today and bow before Christ the King.
You can watch the sermon as part of worship service on our YouTube Channel here.