Sermon The Reign of Christ November 20, 2016
Jeremiah 23:1-6 Canticle 19 Colossians 1:11-20 Luke 23:33-43
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Did you hear Paul’s words “through [Jesus Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his Cross” ?
Why was that necessary ? Well humanity has estranged itself from God. I’m not talking just about people who consciously reject God, nor those who worship other gods, nor indeed the indifferent nor those who had never heard about God, but by all of us, the whole of humanity because we have lost the basic Innocence with which we had been born and therefore have lived lives alien to the natural way that God set down on Day One, or in biblical terms, we have lost the Innocence into which Adam and Eve had been born in the Garden of Eden.
Life for most of us is a constant battle of survival, so aggression, selfishness and unethical acts creep into our daily existence. When society has had enough of that behaviour it makes and enforces laws and punishes people for serious misbehaviour. Society likes to do that because it needs a sense of vengeance to set things right. But God doesn’t act that way. God is above vengeance. God is not tempted by the lower instincts the way we sometimes are, either to do wrong or to wreak reprisals. No, God goes another way. Jesus said to us “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). How could God not follow His own advice to us ? To not do so would mean that there is inconsistency in God, a flaw, and flaws do not exist in Perfection – God is Perfect so God follows His own Commandments. God loves us even though we are from time-to-time, and some always, His enemies. We are loved !
God doesn’t have to face flaws, nor does He have to struggle to survive, the way we do. God just is and always will be. We try to be like that, imperfectly here, because we are human, but perfectly when we along with the two thieves arrive in Paradise.
Because we have become what we are, we need a helping hand to get into Paradise. God, who knows everything (being Perfect God has perfect knowledge) knew we would go off the straight and narrow, provided for us in life, even when we go wrong. Going back to Adam and Eve God gave them clothing for protection and skills so that they could fend for themselves. But that is not enough ! Accepting a lousy situation is not in God’s mindset nor is it good for us. Having provision to face corruption in life is not like living in Paradise. It’s like you living in a nice home, safe and sound, but when you go out you have to set the burglar alarm and lock the doors and windows. You get in your car and lock the doors. You drive and park carefully, get out, lock the doors and close the windows, and then when you go into a store you keep your wallet in your pocket and your purse in your hand. There is not much freedom really in our existence is there because we always have to be on guard ? In Paradise there is no need for locked doors.
One of the skills we have is being able to survive. But we won’t survive Death unless something special happens. It did ! “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his Cross”.
What does that mean ? Well there are at least two ways that this can be understood and they both are centred on the Cross. First we believe that Jesus’ death was an act of vicarious suffering on behalf of all people as in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Second, we believe that Jesus’ death was a Sin offering as were the sacrifices offered in the Temple and other religions.
We saw earlier that people like to exact revenge on people who break the ‘proper’ way of behaving and we demand that they must suffer. God cannot accept that anyone suffer so He took the suffering to Himself to appease us – to appease us – not Him! God does not hold us to ransom nor require a penalty, because we can’t forfeit or give to God anything – everything we have and are is His anyway. But we think that we owe something to God for failing His expectations of us. How can we make it up, how can we make good our deficiencies ? We can’t ! That’s why Paul tells us that we are justified by Faith alone (Romans 5:1). By becoming human Jesus suffered in our stead and became the sacrifice Himself on our behalf making obeisance for us. As the Book of Common Prayer so eloquently puts it He did that “by His one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world” and so it was and so it is. We are not worthy to do all that ourselves Jesus was the only possible one. Jesus reconciled us to God on the Cross.
Death happens but we will find Redemption and Salvation because of the Cross. We just celebrated Remembrance Day. Those who died in War are celebrated, they are heroes. They have medals to prove it. They deserve and are shown respect for the sacrifices they made in preserving our attempt at a Free World in our human condition. How much more would we respect someone who died for all, including those who died in War, in childbirth, before being born, in jail, at work, on vacation, in bed, of sickness, by human hand, by accident, by stupidity ? But not saving just our human condition alone but our souls and our eternal lives. How much more would we do for a Saviour like that ? We would surely make Jesus King, and give Him a name above all names, because He has saved us and because of that we will live forever in His Kingdom. We accept Him as Ruler and Judge of everything. God made Him King and Judge over us. Today we accept that as we celebrate the Reign of Christ. It has begun, you and I are already citizens of the Kingdom of God. And it feels good !
The Cross has been called a scandal, a scandal because the King, the Son of God, was crucified, but thanks be to God Jesus Christ reigns from the Cross for the sake of our eternal souls. That is no scandal. That’s a Victory ! Amen.