by Mick Bradley
Readings: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 1:68-79; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
Theme: A Whole ‘Nother Way to Be a King
Message: In my opinion, the most powerful way to celebrate ‘Reign of Christ’ Sunday, especially from an evangelism/Kingdom-building perspective, is to recount the execution of Jesus as recorded in the Luke passage for this week. What Jesus did, what he taught, what he stood for, who he lived and died for, and how far he was willing to go to show his love – these are the things that form the foundation of the Kingdom and the essence of the gospel that we are all called to share. And it all culminates with the cross upon which the political and religious powers of the day condemned him to die, with a sign posted over his head reading “King of the Jews”.
A passage from this week’s Lectionary aids on the UMC’s Website puts it especially well:
At the core of the conversations around the cross, as Luke records it, is a discussion about what it means to be “King of the Jews.” The crowds jeer at him to save himself. An inscription above his head simply declared him “King of the Jews,” as a cynical title for the man being executed and a sign to the Jewish people that any who dared assume such a title should expect a similar outcome.
Jesus on the cross was fully in his kingdom. The king and people of God’s kingdom are those who are regularly despised, falsely accused, rejected, and even killed unjustly. This had been the regular theme of his proclamation. God’s kingdom is present and known in power exactly where these things happen to these people. God loves and saves these people who are being scattered and destroyed by their shepherds, to use Jeremiah’s terms.
The crucified one is king. Even in all their mocking, those who rejected him were affirming this truth.
The reverse is also true. The king is the crucified one. The one who calls the shots of the universe is the one who hangs on the cross, forgiving sinners and welcoming any who ask into paradise. Mercy rules the day, not violence, not pomp, not any trappings of earthly powers.
This is what we are called to share, folks. This is the gospel. We are called to share – and emulate – the life and teachings of a man who came and turned the world upside down, toppling systems of power, dominance and privilege and showing the world what God means by the words “Kingdom” and “King”.
“It is not enough simply to disengage from the hierarchies and idolatries to which we often find ourselves subject, for we must seek to transform those systems so that they emulate the grace, mercy, and compassion we experience in the kingdom of God” – Elizabeth Barrington Forney, Feasting on the Word
The King of the Jews give you strength to endure all mocking.
The King of the Jews give you the will to walk to the cross.
The King of the Jews have mercy on you, and remember you always.
(MEN) Jesus our King, send us to bless those who curse us, and those who don’t care.
(WOMEN) Jesus our King, send us to places too dangerous for others to go.
(YOUTH) Jesus our King, challenge and forgive our hesitation.
(ALL) And by your Spirit in us,
may the compassion and strength of God
be known. Amen.
– from the UMC Worship Book