Sermon 26th November - Christ the King
I don’t know what picture is conjured up for you when you hear the word king? Throughout the ages notions of kingship and despotism haven’t been far apart. Although he wasn’t a king, Robert Mugabe this week stands out as the last in a line of tyrants who have sought to rule over their people with absolute authority using all means at his disposal to subjugate his people. Monarchs, kings, despots seem also to be extremely keen on their own personal aggrandisement; on getting ever wealthier. Think again of Mugabe.
But Christ the King is a very different form of king. This morning I have one simple aim: to stir you up and renew your fascination in Jesus Christ, the man who on his cross was described, with irony and sarcasm, as the King of the Jews.
Let’s just look at the kingship of Jesus:
- Born in a stable not a palace.
- A man who worked for his living as a carpenter.
- A man who threw off all monarchical luxury and went into the desert to face all of his own temptations. Temptations which if he had ceded to them would have made him just like any other despotic ruler.
- He was a king who seemed oblivious to human constructs and artificial boundaries. He was a man who scandalously included women, tax collectors & Samaritans in his group of followers and friends. He was concerned for the epileptic, ‘demonic,’ and paralytic.
- He touched lepers and, women with serious gynaecological problems. He wasn’t too concerned about humanly constructed notions of purity because for Jesus purity was located in, and flowed from, the heart. Jesus was a king who got a serious amount of muck under his finger nails as he did the dirty work of holiness.
- He cared about the young, the old, the widow and the orphan, the outcast, migrant and refugee. It’s all in the gospel stories.
- He sought to challenge each and every taboo, social, economic, ethnic or religious that had been imposed on society through kings, emperors, and priests.
His style of kingship was concerned – always - with liberation and not subjugation.
Yes, he cared about standards, but not protocols. He cared about how we relate to each other, how we care for each other and how we love each other. These were Jesus’ standards for kingship.
Let them be our standards too. Let our concern be liberation not subjugation.
Over the next week can I invite you to do one thing only:
- To renew a sense of fascination in the upside down and liberating kingship of Jesus Christ and to let his kingship penetrate your very soul. If you do this it will make all the difference in the world both to you and to others.
Give it a go! Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown
Third Sunday before Advent: Amos 5, 18-24, 1 Thessalonians 4, 13-end & Matthew 25, 1-13
Has anyone ever accused you of being blunt: perhaps even a bit too blunt? Well, I suspect we could accuse the writers of today’s readings, especially Amos and Matthew, of being blunt, stark and to the point. And, their subject matter is not a nice wishy washy one for what they are talking about is judgement, ultimate judgement.
In the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids it is made clear that not everyone will be welcomed to the eternal banquet; not even those who say ‘Lord, Lord.’ In the reading from the prophet Amos we hear that God ‘despises’ the people’s religious ‘festivals’ and ‘solemn assemblies.’ These are hard words, blunt words. It is an incredible thought, is it not, that God may despise our worship? We need to unpack this because worship is an integral part of our life and witness as a church. We are a church because we are a worshipping community.
So, what on earth are these passages about? I think that they are about God’s priorities and about learning the art of Godly living. They are about integrity and the throwing off hypocrisy. They are about the values that we bring to worship; values that are tried and tested not in church but through our daily living. And of course the values that we should prize above all others are God’s values, or kingdom values. We do after all pray the words ‘thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven.’ So what values are we talking about?
For the prophet Amos, justice was the biggy. Amongst the prophets Amos towers as the defender of the downtrodden and poor. He also accuses the powerful and rich of using God’s very name to legitimize their sin. In many ways Amos is an angry prophet. But his anger in the face of the abuse of power is both righteous and just. Maybe we, as a church, should appropriate a little of Amos’ anger?
Jesus always exercised compassion towards the poor, the sick, and the excluded. He always sought out the outsider and integrated them. There is an absolute consistency between the prophetic words of Amos and the life of Jesus. You would expect there to be given that Jesus is the ‘the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.’
If we are serious about holiness, we the church need to offer the hand of friendship and love to all. We need to be fired up by notions of justice. We need to be as angry as Amos in the face of injustice. We need to be seen to be deeply committed to God’s values.
In 1991 the then Bishop of Kingston, Peter Selby, challenged the church with this question: ‘What is the shape of the community of women and men that you long for, and for which the Church is a preparation? ‘ He was writing just ahead of the vote to opening up the priesthood to men and women alike. But, his question can also be used more generally. We must always ask ourselves what should the church look like in this town especially to the poor and the marginalised? What values are we living out? And we should do so in the sure and certain knowledge that the church here on earth, is nothing other than a preparation for the church perfect in heaven. Saying ‘Lord, Lord’ is never enough. Seeking to live lives of holiness animated through a commitment to the rules of love, justice, hospitality and equality, by contrast, will always be enough. Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown
In Loving Memory: Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13
You are all here today because you have lost someone dear to you. Someone you cared about and loved. That person is of course no longer here with you, at least in the physical sense. And, of course, that is both sad and painful. Today is an opportunity to own and hold that pain.
But, it is also an opportunity to reflect and remember. All lives are a gift from God and all lives leave us with a gift. We are nurtured and matured partly through other people. We learn to love because we have been loved. We learn of those wonderful and divine qualities that the 23rd Psalm recounts: loving-mercy, goodness, restoration of the soul because we have experienced them through those who have loved us. We learn to live and live well because others have lived and lived well, and that’s what makes death so painful.
However although death is painful we must also learn the arts of remembrance and thanksgiving. It is through remembering that we keep the spirit of our loved ones alive within us and it is through thanksgiving that we keep love alive within us.
The reading from 1 Corinthians 13 comes to the most amazing conclusion: ‘and now faith, hope and love, these three abide and the greatest of these is love. What this one short verse is saying is simply this: that love cannot be extinguished. Love always has the last word. Love wins out.
I would like to finish by offering you two certainties and one hope. The certainties are that you loved the person you have come here to remember today and that they loved you. Let the certainty of love be enough. Let the certainty of love sustain you and keep you moving ahead. The hope is that death is not the end of the story, even if and when it feels like it. Take to heart the last words of the Psalm:
‘and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,’
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