Sunday, November 23, 2008
Stir up Sunday Sermon - preached by The Reverend Charles Royden
I was given a copy of the Metro newspaper this week. It had ideas for Christmas presents. One was a T Shirt with a picture of Jesus, very like the Turing Shroud image. Underneath the picture it said, ‘Jesus is coming,’ ‘Look busy. ’
Today is the last Sunday in the church calendar, next week we begin Advent. The special theme for today in the church year is a celebration of Jesus as King. Of course today is also named a special Sunday after the collect which we use. We are on that special Sunday before Christmas which we call stir up Sunday. The collect uses those beautiful words
‘Stir up O Lord the will of thy faithful people. ’
Today is a day when we are meant to encourage each other, when we remind ourselves that Christ is our King. It is a day when we draw close to Advent, that season in which we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. And as we think of King Jesus coming at Christmas, so we welcome him into our own hearts.
But what does Kingship mean?
This would have been a lot easier to answer once, when kings were great and celebrated figures. They held high honour and were seen as having God’s seal upon them. Kings had a divine Right, they were chosen by God to do be kings and they were accountable to no person except God.
Now we often regard kings with contempt, instead of them demanding taxes of us we demand that they pay taxes. But once kings were figures of power.
No wonder Pilate must have laughed when Jesus was referred to as a king. For Pilate, Jesus could not be a king, because he did not fit the mould of a king. Kings are powerful figures, they demand respect and get it. When Pilate put ‘King of the Jews’ over Jesus, it was not in recognition of the kingship of Jesus, it was rather a mockery, Kings did not belong on crosses.
Do we take the kingship of Jesus seriously?
Do we think of Jesus as our King? Or do we think that his kingship is something for the future and so no of much concern to us now? Today we ask the question of ourselves to whom or what do we give our allegiance? Who holds dominion over us? What are we living for? What energizes and gives meaning to our lives each day?
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer ‘thy kingdom come. ’ This prayer is not supposed to be a prayer asking God to bring the world to an end. Rather it is asking that God’s kingdom would be established in our lives. The kingship of Christ is something which Jesus expects us to be able to share now. This will happen if we let our lives be the place where God’s reign extends. Today, above all days perhaps, is the day when we are encouraged to own Christ in our hearts.
Many people do not think that Jesus should be king. Politicians think that Jesus does not belong in affairs of state and government. Many leading businessmen think that Jesus should not be king in matters of economy and business. Often we do not think that Jesus should be king in a whole range of ways that concern what we do out of church.
Today we stir one another up and we remind ourselves that Jesus should be king of every part of our lives, our manners, our behaviour towards other people, are decisions about important life choices.
The kingship of Jesus is not recognised by many of this world, Jesus is King, yet he is not a king who demands obedience. Jesus is a different kind of king. He is a king who leads by example to show us the way that we should behave. This is a new kind of kingship, and one not of the worlds standards. The kingship of Jesus is a radically different kind of kingship. While human kings gain power in order reign over us, Jesus in his kingship demonstrates his authority by showing his love for his people, so much so that he gave his life for us.
What the Kingship of Jesus means
I was watching a film last week, a good film called ‘We Were Soldiers. ’ The main character was played by Mel Gibson, it was adapted from Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway's 1992 book "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young." Moore was the lieutenant colonel who in 1965 led the First Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry (ominously, the same regiment headed by Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Big Horn) in the battle of Landing Zone X-Ray in Vietnam's Ia Drang valley.
Moore lost more than 70 men from his regiment alone at Ia Drang, and a total of more than 300 died during the Pleiku campaign of which it was a part.
Mel Gibson plays Moore, a devout Catholic family man with a wife, Julie (Madeleine Stowe), and five children.
One the best scenes involves Moore warning his troops before they go into battle. He uses the following speech.
"We are moving into the Valley of the Shadow of Death where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours, and you won't care what colour he is, or by what name he calls God. We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can't promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear... when we go into battle, I will be the first to step on the field and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind... dead or alive. We will all come home together."
A man of his word, Lt. Col. Moore set foot on the field of battle first only to find himself and approximately 400 of his men surrounded by roughly 2000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The ensuing battle was one of the most savage in U. S. history, and the first major encounter between the soldiers of North Vietnam and America.
The film shows the two scenes where he lands first and leaves last. He was in the words of Revelation this morning the Alpha and the Omega.
Now that is the kind of a leader that a soldier wants, somebody who will not tell them what to do, like an earthly king, but rather who will lead with his own life and if necessary lay his life down first.
That is exactly what Jesus did with his kingship. He warned the disciples that they would face death and horror, but he said that he did not expect them to do anything which he was not prepared to do himself first.
When Revelation was written the Christians faced horrors, the real horror of martyrdom. Contrary to what so many Christians have mistakenly thought, Revelation is not a prediction of some horror some time in the future, for which we are still waiting. Revelation described for the Christians the very real and present danger which they faced in their daily lives. This is significant because throughout history many faithful Christians have considered that their own times were the most dreadful things which had ever happened and that an end to the world must be nigh. This happened to Martin Luther who believed that the Pope was the antichrist and he saw the end time near. .... It has happened with the American revolution and the Crusaders
Many have wrongly interpreted Revelation as a prophecy about the end of the world. Actually it is a type of writing (apocalyptic writing), a genre that used to be around, just like soap operas are a type of writing today. That type of writing does not describe actual future events any more than we are supposed to believe that the actors of Eastenders or Friends are real.
The purpose of the apocalyptic writing of Revelation is to tell us that real evil exists, that it wins battles, but that ultimately good will conquer evil and that whilst that fight is going on we have Christ at our side.
Alpha and Omega, he is the first one over the trenches and he will be the last one to leave. Christ is in this battle with us, we are not alone. When we have Christian work to do Christ will be with us. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, Jesus is the beginning of all that we do and the end of all that we do. Are we the last generation? That question which Kate challenged us with last week. The message this week is that it doesn’t matter because in Christ all shall be made alive!