Sermon for Christ the King Sunday, Yr B

Christ the King Sunday Yr B, 21/11/2021

Ps 93; Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; Rev 1:4b-8; Jn 18:33-37 

Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

“Christ is King”

Today marks the last Sunday of the church calendar year, when we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. Next Sunday we begin a new church calendar year, with the first Sunday in Advent. Today Psalm 93 compliments all of our other biblical passages, highlighting the theme of God the Creator as King and Jesus as King. There are similar threads woven within each of these passages. 

Psalm 93 does not have a superscription. The NRSV Lutheran Study Bible identifies it as an enthronement psalm and hymn of praise (p. 849). So it celebrates God as King. The Lutheran Study Bible gives Psalm 93 the following title: “The Majesty of God’s Rule,” and the CEV has this title: “The LORD is King.” 

I like the CEV rendering of verse 1: “Our LORD, you are King! Majesty and power are your royal robes.” It is interesting that unlike earthly kings, who usually are identified by wearing expensive, elaborate robes made out of some kind of fabric; our psalmist describes God’s royal robe differently by associating it with God’s attributes of majesty and power. Majesty is regarded as sovereign power; and, of course, God’s power as King is far greater than even the most powerful earthly king. God’s power is eternal, and governs the universe. 

Daniel 7, in his vision of God, says God’s clothing was white as snow. And in Isaiah’s vision in chapter 6, according to the NRSV translation, he describes the hem of God’s royal robe filling the temple. Just as earthly kings and other authority figures such as, for example, judges, and us pastors during worship wear robes; so too in all of these descriptions of God the King’s robe, they all symbolize and point to God as our highest, greatest and most powerful authority and ruler.

The psalmist then goes on to describe God the Creator and King’s power in the CEV: “You put the world in place, and it will never be moved. You have always ruled, and you are eternal” (verses 1b-2); and in verses 3-4 in The Message: “See storms are up, GOD, See storms wild and roaring, Sea storms with thunderous breakers. Stronger than wild sea storms, Mightier than sea-storm breakers, Mighty GOD rules from High Heaven.” 

Recently in a conversation with a retired pastor friend of ours, who lives on Haida Gwaii Island, in B.C., she said they had a storm with 125 km an hour winds, and one of her trees was banging against the roof of her house like a hammer, and she was afraid that the house would be blown off its foundation. She also mentioned how high the Pacific Ocean waves get in storms like these. Yet, as our psalmist states, God is Mightier than such storms, because he is the King and Creator who rules from High Heaven. 

Standing alone on a clifftop overlooking the sea on a stormy day is, strangely enough, a lot like sleeping under the open sky on a starlit night. The perpetual pounding and perpetual silence have quite a bit in common. 

The horizonless expanse of roiling water and the infinite expanse of galaxied space have much the same effect on a captivated mortal. They make you feel very small. And very grateful to be where you are rather than where you are looking. They make you realize that the Creator has provided a safe place for you in an otherwise very unsafe universe. 

Between you and ruin stands the love of your Maker, stronger than winds and waves and tides and breakers, more powerful than comets and asteroids and suns and black-holes. 

On a clifftop overlooking the sea you can stand a few feet away from certain destruction and be perfectly safe. You can turn around and walk away from the winds howling in your face and the waves pounding far below you and in a few moments you can be standing in the middle of a herd of cattle chewing their cud in supreme contentment or be sitting in the comfort of a cosy cottage by a crackling fire. 

Our all-powerful Creator and King has fashioned safe places for us at the very edge and in the very heart of a universe of deadly perils. Every time we are caught unawares by a tempest at sea or by a hurricane on land or by a blizzard out in the open we are reminded of just how much our life depends on those protected places.1

In the final, verse 5 of our psalm, the theme of God as all-powerful King continues, this time emphasising the power and authority of his word. The Message renders it like this: “What you say goes—it always has.” In Daniel’s vision, he sees God the Creator-King giving to the one like a human being, also translated as son of man—the one whom we believe refers to Jesus, who is given dominion and glory and kingship. Jesus’s dominion, Daniel tells us, is an everlasting dominion, unlike the dominions of this world. Jesus as King is also given glory. The Hebrew word is “kabod,” and it means “weight” or “importance.” The glory of King Jesus is weightiest and most important because it is eternal, he is eternal. Jesus’s dominion, glory and kingship is not like earthly ones that rise and fall and are all too imperfect and are limited by particular places and times. Rather, Jesus’s dominion, glory and kingship is, according to Daniel and our passage from Revelation, over all peoples, nations, and languages, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. He is King of kings. 

And that leads us to our gospel, where, ironically, Pilate believes he has the power and authority to determine Jesus’s destiny. Jesus tells him if his kingship and kingdom were of this world, then he would have ordered military forces to fight for him. However, Jesus tells Pilate that he is a different kind of King and his kingdom is not of this world. Rather, his kingdom is one of the truth, and everyone who listens to Jesus belongs to the truth. How we need his truth in today’s world that is filled with lies, fake news, and bizarre conspiracy theories! His truth sets us free and gives our lives peace, good-will and order. As King of truth, he exposes all evil and hatred that is falsely presented as goodness and love. In the end, his word of truth will reveal everything; nothing sinful, evil and filled with hatred will be able to survive. They will be defeated by the power of Jesus the King’s Word. The same Word that spoke creation into existence. The same Word that is able to overcome the chaotic storm-waters of the sea, by bringing peace and calm. The same Word that governs every single detail of the universe. 

Jesus painted no pictures; yet some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from him.

Jesus wrote no poetry; but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by him.

Jesus composed no music; still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratorios they composed in his praise.2

Jesus only taught for at most three years, yet his teachings still are followed by millions upon millions of people today—and are far greater than the teachings of the great philosophers and theologians, some of whom taught for four or five decades. 

The teachings of Jesus, accompanied by the Holy Spirit working within our hearts, and minds, has the power to change us personally and collectively, as each day we conform our lives to Jesus and his kingship over us. May it be so for each one of us as we praise and thank Christ our King, now and always! 

1 J. Robert Jacobson, All Nature Sings: Creation and New Creation Through The Eyes of Scripture (Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 2002), pp. 50-51. 

2 David E. Leininger, Lectionary Tales For The Pulpit: Series VI Cycle B (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc., 2008), pp. 281-282. 

Sermon for 25 Pentecost Yr B

25 Pentecost Yr B, 14/11/2021

Ps 16 

Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson 

“Trusting God”

The superscription of Psalm 16 is: “A Miktam of David.” Some think that the word Miktam refers to an instruction or rubric for musicians. Martin Luther referred to it as a golden jewel—perhaps as a metaphor for a golden or highly valued teaching. Yet others think it means a mystery poem referring to mysterious aspects of life, like a mystical relationship with God. In truth, most likely the word remains uncertain. 

The Lutheran Study Bible gives Psalm 16 the following title: “Song of Trust and Security in God.” The Good News Bible has a similar title: “A Prayer of Confidence.” Indeed, trust and confidence definitely describe Psalm 16, as it seems to be a commentary on the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God…you shall have no other gods besides me.” Psalm 16 is a very upbeat psalm, and reflects David’s trust in God. 

Starting with verse 1, the psalmist’s trust and confidence in God comes through, especially in the REB translation: “Keep me, God, for in you have I found refuge.” Notice that in this rendering the psalmist has already found refuge, therefore he is confident that God will keep him. 

Verse 2, adds to this trust and confidence, which comes across quite clearly in the Good News Bible rendering: “I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;, all the good things I have come from you.” This verse then, once again emphasizes the blessing of trusting God and keeping the first commandment. 

In verse 3, the psalmist turns to God’s faithful people and compliments them with an expression of gratitude in the Good News rendering: “How excellent are the LORD’s faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them.” This is often true in your life and mine. We look forward to being with one another to encourage and receive encouragement in our faith journey. We are a blessing for one another. This verse is also a reminder of the joy we have in “the communion of saints” as we confess in our creed; as well as what the writer of the Letter to Hebrews says in our second lesson today, exhorting God’s people: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Heb 10:24-25).

Then, in verse 4, the psalmist contrasts God’s faithful people who keep the first commandment with people who commit the sin of idolatry and worship other gods. The REB renders verse 4 like this: “Those who run after other gods, find endless trouble; I shall never offer libations of blood to such gods, never take their names on my lips.” The reference to “libations of blood” may possibly be to human sacrifice. In any case, whenever Israel was guilty of violating the first commandment, they did have, as the psalmist says, endless trouble. When they fell into the temptation to worship other gods, the consequences were tragic—famines, destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, exiles into Assyria and Babylonia, and so on. 

Verse 5 once again contrasts the psalmist’s trust and confidence in God with those guilty of idolatry in verse 4. The Message renders it like this, once again emphasizing the first commandment: “My choice is you, GOD, first and only. And now I find I’m your choice!”

Once again verse 6 underscores the blessings of trust and confidence in God, as the NRSV translates it: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” “The boundary lines” here may refer to the dividing up of the promised land when the Israelites settled in Canaan. However, it can have additional meanings too. For example, those of us who have children know how important it is for them to learn boundaries. Even as adults boundaries are important for our own protection and well-being. In being faithful to God’s ways and accepting our place and calling in life can certainly bring us many blessings within the boundaries in which we live. Such boundaries in life can indeed bepleasant places.

There is a story told by Israel ben Eliezer of a Jewish man who loved God and rejoiced in serving God. This man was so devoted to God that, it was believed he learned the Torah from the lips of the Almighty. He was so pious that he could do anything he wanted. The archangels became offended that a mere mortal had such power, and they decided to try him for impinging upon their territory. He was found guilty, and an angel was sent to deliver the sentence: he was to be deprived of the world to come. When the man heard this, he was ecstatic. The angel asked him if he understood the seriousness of his sentence, and the man replied: “Yes, I’ve always wanted to love God without hope of reward, but everything I’ve always done was rewarded so greatly. Now I can love God with the knowledge of no reward. I’m free!” Of course, the decree had to be revoked because it had no power over him.1 The joy of loving and trusting God is its own reward, which results in blessings exceeding any of our expectations. 

Turning to verses 7 and 8, a careful reading indicates that they are an affirmation of verses 2, 4, and 6. I like the way The Message renders these verses, which once again emphasise trusting and confidence in God: “The wise counsel GOD gives when I’m awake is confirmed in my sleeping heart. Day and night I’ll stick with GOD; I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.” 

I also like the colourful language of The Message in rendering verses 9 and 10: “I’m happy from the inside out and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed. You cancelled my ticket to hell—that’s not my destination!” In other words, faith and faithfulness blesses one’s whole being—body, mind, and spirit. 

Medical studies have suggested that all cholesterol is not the same. There is “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.”

Good cholesterol consists of high-density lipoproteins, or HDLs. Bad cholesterol consists of low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs.

Bad cholesterol clogs arteries and leads to heart attacks.

“Good cholesterol,” writes Rita Rubin, “seems to carry cholesterol out of the coronary-artery walls, thus preventing blockages. Studies show the rate of coronary heart disease falls as HDL levels rise.”

Just as all cholesterol is not the same, the Bible says all pleasure is not the same. There is good pleasure and bad pleasure. Good pleasure is healthful, self-controlled, and obedient to God’s commands. Bad pleasure is self-indulgent, addictive, and disobedient to God’s commands.2

The closing verse of Psalm 16 also emphasizes confidence and trust in God, that God will lead and guide us where we need to be in our lives. The NRSV translation puts it like this: “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The phrase “In your presence” reminds me of Eric Clapton’s song, “Presence of the Lord.” Here are some of the words: “I have finally found a place to live/Just like I never could before/And I know I don’t have much to give/But soon I’ll open any door/Everybody knows the secret/Everybody knows the score/I have finally found a place to live/In the presence of the Lord/In the presence of the Lord.” 

Eric Clapton wrote this song, which is a testimony of faith. Clapton called this a “song of gratitude.” It was one of his first songs to explore spirituality, which he did on some of his solo tracks in the ‘70s. He said the message of this song was to “say ‘thank you’ to God for whatever happens.” 

Clapton has hosted the Crossroads Guitar Festival over the years, to raise money for his substance abuse centre in Antigua.

But his road has seldom been smooth. From the age of 9 when he learned that he was born out of wedlock to his “auntie” and an unknown Canadian soldier, he struggled to find a safe place. Feelings of isolation and insecurity haunted him throughout life, drawing him to the gritty alienation of the blues. But there is a spiritual side of Clapton that was scarcely known. It almost always influenced what he thought and did, and the kind of music he wrote and played.3

So, may we like David, Eric Clapton, and a host of God’s faithful people down through the ages, right up to our day, have confidence in God, always trusting him for everything in life, and finding our greatest joy in his presence. 

1 Stephen Homer, “Upholders of the Faith,” in Equinox, March/April 1986, pp. 46-47. 

2 Craig Brian Larson, Editor, Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Co., 1996), p. 176. 

3 <> and John Powell, “Eric Clapton, In the Presence of the Lord,” at: <>.