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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Eva Wallace-Hadrill's sermon for the Deanery Eucharist

21st November 2004

Sermon for Deanery Service Christ the King

When I heard the theme of this Sunday The Feast of Christ the King I thought this a very apt theme for the Sunday before the first of Advent. I had the picture of the risen Lord in mind; robed in splendour, face shining like the sun and hair glowing like rays of light, the latter very important to me, being a professional hairdresser. I imagine him sitting at the right hand of the living God, all-powerful, mighty and holy, being worshipped by a multitude of Saints and Angels. It's on the one hand an image I'm longing for to see and on the other fills me with dread, because it is so huge and - well - holy.

But then I read the Gospel passage for today. Firstly, in my ignorance, I thought it is the wrong passage: What is the reading of the crucifixion doing just before Advent and on the Sunday of the Feast of Christ the King? I was wondering whether we read that too back in Switzerland in our protestant Church just before Advent.

I realised the reading made me feel uncomfortable: that is not how I envisaged Christ the King at all! And of course I see in this Bible passage that I'm not alone with that feeling: we read in v35 that people, rulers and even the soldiers had rather adverse reaction of this kind of image of the King: a broken body nailed on the cross, spat at, bloody and about to die, condemned as any criminal, totally finished - - so they thought! What they have ignored is that God's saving power has nothing to do with the human image of power. The rulers were longing for the promised Messiah to come and save them from the Romans as a victorious military leader, but when that Carpenter from Nazareth proclaimed that he is the Son of God they refused to believe him - even when they saw the signs of His saving power, like the lame walking, the blind seeing and people rising from the dead, as they witnessed just a week before with Lazarus. These signs should have been very familiar to them in the prophesy by Isaiah 35:

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
And the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
And the mute tongue shout for joy.

And just as familiar should have been the Suffering Servant prophesies by Isaiah in chap 53: .

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

So the dilemma was not a new one to the contemporaries of Jesus: would the Messiah come as a victorious King, or as a Suffering Servant? When the rulers and Pharisees actually saw the Suffering Servant hanging on the cross, they totally failed to identify him with Isaiah's insight, they chose instead to be the fulfilment of the prophesy, to despise and to reject Him. It was easier for them to deny and destroy this uncomfortable image of the Messiah that Jesus was living and teaching, than to surrender and adapt to new thinking WHO God is and how HIS way is. But in so doing the fulfilment of the real purpose for the Son of God came about: becoming human and dying as a sacrifice for all and rising from death to life everlasting so that we have life everlasting through Christ, hallelujah!

You see, we should be overawed every day by the fact that this Son of the living God should have died for my sins; though often I live my life as if I had never heard of it, or I even seem to tune in to the same mocking as those back at the cross. What do I mean by that? Well, I have to say that I more than once asked the question 'how could God let such and such happen? Does he not care?' Or, 'If Christ is King, why does He permit evil?' But this is the wrong thinking. In the presence of God there is nothing evil. It is where we are that evil dwells. The miracle in all this is that God has and is choosing to stoop down and to take part in our hardship or even suffering, whatever it is; and he understands, because he has gone before us. I'm going even so far as to say that there is nothing under the sun that our Lord Jesus Christ has not gone through himself, yet without sin, and exactly there lies the hope for our future. Through His strength we can become more like Him, and strive against evil in our own lives.

Now I don't want to sound morbid, but just last Sunday - Remembrance Sunday - we were starkly reminded that one day we all are facing death. How good is it to know the presence of the risen Christ, he will assure us - like the condemned man on the cross on his right - that we shall be in Paradise with him.

In the meantime he gave us all the command to be disciples and make the Gospel known through his strengths and wisdom because he is with us always.
We are about to celebrate communion together.
Lets be moved, lets be stirred by the presence of Christ the King, and lets honour him through our worship, prayers and confession .
I want to finish with the words of an old Hymn I just heard recently:

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Saviour and my God.

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