A Specific Kind of King

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Colossians 1:11-20

It seems that human beings have a love-hate relationship with monarchies, often intensely disliking the sovereign power of Kings and Queens as they set the rules and direction for their country, communities, and families, while at the same time, romanticizing the grandeur and pomp and circumstance that comes with being a prince or princess, King or Queen.

The Israelites were led by religious leaders for years, but begged God for a King, asking Samuel to “appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.”[1]   Samuel prays to the Lord about their pleas and the Lord tells Samuel,

“Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

Samuel does as the Lord instructs, laying out the consequences of an earthy King reigning over them:

The King will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;

 He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.

He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers.

15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The facts were laid out in terms they could understand.  They knew the consequences and costs of moving from God as King and their only sovereign, to a leader from among them.  This earthly King would benefit from their work and resources, determine their quality of life, control their economy, and yet they pleaded for a leader as other nations had, and we know from history that didn’t turn out so well.

Kings are no longer the leaders other nations have.  Of 196 countries in the world only 26 of them have monarchs.  Twenty-four of those are male: kings, sultans, emperors, sheihs, princes or grand dukes.  Two are queens.  However, twenty-three of all of these are constitutional government with varying degrees of democracy.  Only three are absolute monarchs.[2]

Once a colony ruled by a monarchy, our country fought valiantly to oust a King so the People of the United States, could form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity by establishing a Constitution for the United States of America.  All the wars of which our country has been a part were called for by our leaders in the name of liberty, justice, and our general welfare.

Yet we are a country which continues a fascination with following the royal families of the world, particularly Queen Elizabeth and her family.  Our magazines, newspapers, news programs, and internet often feature something they are doing.  Millions of us watched a few years ago as Prince William and Kate were married, and watch with interest when photos of their children surface.

We often lift our leaders to the culturally defined status of King.  President and Jacqueline Kennedy’s rule  named “Camelot.”  We are enamored with all of the Disney Princesses and as a country tune in to watch “red-carpet” events in droves.

We are often drawn to the power and prestige of this world and those who seem to have it.  In many ways we, like Israel are clamoring for a King with the power of legions and all the glitz of Hollywood.  We have all of the admonishments shared by Samuel as well as many from prophets, disciples, and Jesus as to what God’s kingdom and Kingship looks like, and yet our actions often indicate we think an earthly King is the answer.  That, if just the right leader gets put in place all our problems will be solved.

The Kings we choose over God can come in following misleading leaders as well as in the form of temptations and habits that take us to kingdoms separate from God; that keep us from becoming more and more like Christ, that misalign our priorities.

We look to Kings who can make us richer, prettier, more popular and those who we think will help make sure that all our plans work out for the best. Those Kings often lead us to accept elitism, racism, indifference, and intolerance.

The Jeremiah passage highlights how much these Kings and other political leaders get it wrong.  How they live out the prophecies of Samuel and fail to take care of those they were called to lead.  It also lifts the hope of a righteous leader, a specific kind of king, one who will reign wisely executing justice and righteousness, providing safety.  This King is a righteous Branch.

Colossians tells us God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of which Christ is eternally King, doesn’t look anything like those led by the leaders and priorities I mentioned this morning.  God’s kingdom comes to us through Christ.  It is reflected through the healing of the sick, concern for the poor and oppressed, and raising people from the dead literally and figuratively.

It is a kingdom reflected in our God becoming human, breaking into our world, that we truly have a path of salvation.  It is a kingdom where those who follow Jesus have received citizenship, where we honor our brothers and sisters, seek to understand one another, work to mend our ways when we have harmed others.

Christ’s work on the cross enabled him, as king, to open the doors of paradise to the thief who asked to be remembered when he came into his kingdom[3]  In recognizing his own unworthiness, and the blameless life of Jesus, the thief recognized the one true eternal King.  Christ was full of mercy and love, giver of life in the face of tormenting, persecution, and a gory and cruel demise, and in so doing, conquering all those things that hurt us in this world and as well as death itself.

Through Christ the King, Colossians tells us we gain strength, endurance, patience, joy, and thanksgiving filled with power from the Holy Spirit to experience life, faith, hope and love in God’s kingdom here and eternally.  True peace coming through the cross.  Any time we do and say things which lift the human spirit, that makes room for human dignity for all, that reflects the King of God’s Kingdom, we honor Him.

True power, power that conquers evil and death, power that resides in the Kingdom of God is the power of a King, a Messiah, who suffers on behalf of the people, who serves those he leads, who takes up the burdens of others in the name of the Lord.

One of the examples we have of Jesus showing true leadership, helping us see what Kingship is about, came when in the upper room he got down on his knees and washed the disciples’ feet.

These earthly Kings and Queens, may seem to have power and the ability to save, but as you gather here today to thank God for the many blessings in your life, as you worship on this Christ the King Sunday you already know who has all of the power.

You know that we celebrate our King not because of his regalness, but because of his humility; not because of his military power, but because of his compassion; not because of his triumph, but because of his travail; not because he fixes our lives, but because he shows us the way to live.[4]

It is only through God’s power through Jesus Christ that lives are changed and history altered because of forgiving love.  It is only through Christ the kingdom of God breaks into our world.

Bernard a monk in the 1100s recognized Christ’s Kingship and the distractions of this world which kept him from fully living into that kingdom.  His struggle shared in these words:

“Oh that Jesus, out of the love he has for his people, may remember me, a sinner, when he comes into his kingdom!  Oh that he may deign to come and save me on the day when he delivers up his kingdom to his God and Father, so that I may see the joy of his chosen ones and rejoice in the gladness of his people.  Then I too shall be able to praise him together with his inheritance.

And now, Lord Jesus, come and remove the stumbling-blocks within the kingdom which is my soul, so that you who out to may reign in it.

Greed comes along and claims its throne in me; arrogance would dominate me; pride would be my kind.  Comfort and pleasure say: We shall reign!  Ambition, detraction, envy, anger fight win me for supremacy, and seem to have me entirely in their power.

But I resist insofar as I can; I struggle against them insofar as I receive your help.  I protest that Jesus is my Lord,  I keep myself for him since I acknowledge his rights over me.  To me he is God, to me he is the lord, and I declare: I will have no king but the Lord Jesus!

Come then, Lord, rout them by your power and you will reign in me, for you are my King and my God, who grant victories to Jacob.[5]

Christ the King reigns in all of creation throughout time.   We are welcomed into his kingdom through his love and forgiveness, his conquering of death on our behalf.  We praise and thank Him this day because it is through his gift of the Holy Spirit that we can live a Kingdom life of humility, love, and service, keeping Him King in all areas of our lives.  Christ is the specific kind of King God promises, we reign with him when we live and love the way he calls us to live and love.

 

[1] 1 Samuel 8

[2] Preachingtip.com/archives-year-c/Pentecost-year/c/proper-29

[3] Luke 23:42

[4] Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton, posted November 16, 2013 by jpcontent

[5] Hom. IV super Missus est, 1-2: PL 183, 78-80)

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