Monday, November 23, 2015

When, Where, and How is the Kingdom?; II Samuel 23:1-7, Ps. 132, John 18:33-38a, Rev. 1:4-8

On Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate that Christ is King, that is in the present tense. Christ is King! Not Christ will be King. If Christ is King, where is the Kingdom, when is the Kingdom, and how is the Kingdom? Obviously, Christ is the King. But we often forget that, don’t we? Campaign season, ISIS. In 1981 after the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, Father Paul Washington, rector of the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia rose to the pulpit. He said, “I attended a banquet last week and the speaker declared that with the election of President our destiny is now in the hands of a madman.” Many in the congregation nodded in assent and waited for the good rector to elaborate on his thesis, and elaborate he did, but not on the so-called “madness” of Reagan. Instead, the word he chose to focus on was “destiny”. “It is a repudiation of the resurrection,” thundered Father Washington, his voice rising, “to suggest that my destiny is in the hands of anyone other than the risen Christ!” We do forget, where our destiny lies, don’t we? We do forget Christ is King. We give in to fear and the promises of men instead of the sure promises of our God. In our II Samuel passage, David describes what a godly king is like—just, ruling in the fear of God. And if one is so, one is like the light of morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, tender grass out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Then we get to verse 5—there are two different translations for the first part of this verse: the majority translations: “Truly, is my house not so with God, for He has made with me an everlasting covenant.” The Textus Receptus, King James, “Although this is not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant.” Both are valid translations of the Greek text. Obviously, the King James reading makes sense. David was far from an ideal king. He ignored justice often, yet God did make an everlasting covenant with the house of David. Our Psalm confirms that: READ Psalm 132:10-11. But good translation theory says that the more difficult reading is probably the most correct reading. Certainly, the reading “Is not my house so with God,” is more difficult. When we think of David, the answer is, “No! Your house is a mess!” Even though we acknowledge that David tried hard to follow God, just as many of us do, he and we still fail miserably. But God is still gracious to us. But David says at the beginning of this passage that he is speaking as an oracle. He is speaking the words of God. And perhaps this description of this ideal king goes far beyond David. I believe it does. The ideal is King is Christ. He is the one who rules justly, He rules in the fear of God—in the position of God, in the name of God. If the covenant had been made to David, David and his descendants did a poor job of keeping the covenant. By their actions, they forfeited the promise of the covenant. But the everlasting covenant was made with Christ. Christ is the only King who lives and rules fully and completely the decree, power & will of Yahweh. It is Christ’s salvation that will increase. It is Christ’s reign that is ordered and secure. The New Testament tells us that all the promises belong to, are in, the Seed, which is Christ. He is the everlasting King of the line of David. Though promises were made to Abraham and to David, these promises were about Christ to Christ. If we understand this, then we can be at peace with whatever translation we use. Even Psalm 132:10 says, “Do not turn away from the face of Your Anointed.” The Anointed is Christ and by the time we get to the end of the psalm, verses 17-18, it is obvious that Christ is the King being talked about. Where is Christ’s kingdom? In our gospel lesson, Jesus tells Pilate, “Yes, I am King, but My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus goes on to say that His cause is to bear witness to the truth and that everyone who is of the truth hears Jesus’s voice. And Pilate asks that profound question, “What is truth?” The truth is Jesus. He said before, “I am the Way, the Truth, and Life.” Christ’s subjects are those who are on the side of truth. They follow Jesus. Our Revelation passage says that Jesus’s subjects have been freed from their sins by His blood. They are a kingdom of priests serving God. Psalm 132 says that Christ’s Kingdom is located on Mt. Zion. That is where the Lord dwells. The Kingdom is made of priests because the Lord dwells in a temple. David had set out to build this temple but was not permitted to do so by God. Though David was passionate about it, he wouldn’t rest until he found the habitation of the Lord, this was not his job. His son Solomon built a temple. But that temple has long since been destroyed. So where is the kingdom? Where are his priests? Mount Zion is not simply a mountain in Jerusalem. As Bernhard Anderson writes, “Mt. Zion is a symbol whose meaning transcends the politics of David and the geography of Palestine.” It is a “thin place,” a place where earth and heaven meet. It is called in Revelation, the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all. The source of His Kingdom is from above. It is from God. But it is not just above for Jesus declared that the Kingdom is here. The Kingdom of Christ is wherever Christ is, and Christ is everywhere. When is Christ’s kingdom? Christ’s kingdom is not limited to time & space. It is eternal. Christ is King forever. We don’t have to wait for the kingdom to come. The kingdom is now. It is all around us. Christ IS king—present tense, therefore His kingdom is. How is Christ’s kingdom? Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, but it is in this world. Someone said that Christ’s kingdom is a KIN-DOM. Christ’s kingdom is a people, just like Revelation says. The real habitation of the Lord is within His people. It is among us and within us. We represent the kingdom, because we are the kin-dom. We are the priests and servants of God. Our job is to worship and as we worship, we witness to Truth to the world. We witness of this greater reality. Someone said, “The kingdom of God is a condition. Its symptoms are love, justice, and peace.” “If we call ourselves people of the kingdom,” says Kathryn Huey, “then our total allegiance, loyalty, love and devotion must be given to Christ. This kind of love is the opposite of idolatry.” It is this kind of devotion that counters fear. Truly Jesus is all we need for everything comes from Him, everything good is in Him. He is the giver of grace and peace. As Ray Jones, of our office of Evangelism and Church Growth, said to live fully in Christ’s kingdom is to “have all [one’s eggs] in the Jesus basket.” Are all your eggs in the Jesus basket, or are you trusting something or someone else besides Jesus? One cannot remain neutral in the presence of Jesus. Pilate tried and was left empty and rejected. Though he made friends with Herod, the Jews didn’t love him anymore. He didn’t gain any kudos with his Roman superiors. And he did not embrace the kingdom of Christ. Our Revelation passage says that when Christ returns, every eye will see Him, whom we have pierced. And all the people groups on earth will mourn because of Him. Will this be a last opportunity for repentance? Perhaps, but it is far better to trust in Jesus while it is still called today. How is Christ’s kingdom really now when this world seems so messed up, and Christ’s kingdom is described as perfect? Time and space are not eternal things. Christ’s kingdom is. We enter eternity when we believe in Christ in us and us in Christ. It helps to realize from our John passage, that Christ declares that He is king even as He is about to be crucified. His crucifixion did not change nor negate His kingship. Rather, it created an opportunity for the kingdom to expand and only become more visible. The final chapter is written. The evils of this world cannot thwart the kingdom of our Lord. Though we do not yet see the kingdom in full, it is here. Scripture says that all things have been placed under Christ’s feet. Though we do not yet see all things under Him, we see Jesus. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We still await to see all things put under Christ’s feet. We await for Christ’s return, which is why we have Advent as a time of preparation for Christ’s return. The ascended Christ is the ruling Christ, who will come again to judge the living and the dead. When Christ returns, His kingship and kingdom will be evident to all. Realizing the glory of the King, the splendor of His kingdom, we long for home while we serve as those ambassadors in a foreign land. We too must be in this world but not of it. The truth of Christ’s reign is always knowable for those who have ears to hear, to those who would belong to the Truth.

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