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.