The Crown – Pastor Donna Doutt – 11/24/19 – Luke 23:33-43
For those of you who love and appreciate these kinds of shows, I was so excited to hear that the third season of the Netflix series, “The Crown” was starting up again on November 19th. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
I’m a big fan of “Downton Abbey,” “Victoria” on PBS, and the Netflix series, "The Crown.” The romantic palace intrigues and beautiful homes and costumery are a feast for the eyes, especially in high definition. Sometimes I stand close to the television so I can get a close look at the details of the costumes. The fine lace and beadwork are breathtaking. I love all things “royal,” especially the fascinating monarchy of the United Kingdom.
Of course, they are not the only monarchy in the world. A quick “Google” search presented me with a Washington Post article that says, “In reality, there are 26 monarchies in the world, a fascinating network of kings, queens, sultans, emperors and emirs who rule or reign over 43 countries in all.
It goes without saying, of course, that most royal families have a considerably lower international profile than the Windsors. That has a lot to do with Britain’s imperial history: Sixteen countries, including Canada and Australia, are still technically subjects of the British monarchy, which also once ruled much of the world.
Beyond Queen Elizabeth II, the other monarchies vary widely in how much power they hold, how they're seen, how their family got there and even in what they're called.”
Be that as it may, there is only one true King. No matter how many other kings there, only one is King of all! Can anyone tell me who that is? Of course! It’s Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. King of all Kings! And today is Christ the King Sunday. The purpose of this religious recognition is to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the “King of all kings” and it was originally intended as a way to bring God back into a secular world.
The history of this holiday can be traced back to 1925 when Pope Pius XI added the holiday. ”He instituted the holiday as a balance against what he saw as an ever growing secularism and to introduce Christ into the hearts of followers. From 1925 through the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969, this holiday was celebrated on the last Sunday of October and is still celebrated on that day by many traditional Catholics. Today, Christ the King Day is celebrated by many denominations on the Sunday that falls before the First Sunday of Advent.”
This Sunday is sometimes is also called Stir-up Sunday. It got that name for two reasons:
First, the Anglican prayer for the Book of Common Prayer for the day begins with the words, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…” Second, some old pudding recipes require the pudding to sit for several weeks before being cooked. This Sunday became a day that people would traditionally begin preparing pudding for Christmas, which includes “stirring it up.” These two things came together in people’s minds, as Wikipedia explains: “Supposedly, cooks, wives and their servants would go to church, hear the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…’, and be reminded, by association of ideas, that it was about time to start stirring up the puddings for Christmas.”
So here we are on this Christ the King Sunday, standing on the doorway of the first Sunday of Advent, a season when we will celebrate the birth of our truest King, and our lectionary reading this week presents a heart wrenching vision that brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it. It’s those final moments in Christ’s life as he struggles on the cross.
Our scripture tells us, “The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”
36-37 The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!”
38 Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the Jews.” But scriptures tells us that Jesus, with some of his last breaths, “… prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Let us use this idea of Christ the King Sunday to stir up our senses and emotions to feel what Jesus was feeling. Jesus, in his last few breaths, forgives the people who have brought about this moment.
Knowing this scripture, what might we consider when we celebrate the festival of the Reign of Christ today? Perhaps the words “Reign of Christ” suggest to us the high and magnificent power and pomp of a glorious king whose rules constraints with others above whom he is to be exalted. This lectionary text makes clear to us something quite different. The majesty of THIS king is revealed, not when we look up, but when we look down.”
Here we have our Jesus, scourged and beaten nearly to death, hanging on a cross between two criminals. How many of you think that Jesus was humiliated? No, I don’t think so! Jesus was fulfilling the prophesy that he knew was meant for him. He may have been down in spirit, but he wasn’t humiliated. He knew his death carried a purpose.
Just as he did in his ministries, up until this final moment, Jesus is considering others. Remember in John 19:26, Jesus gives his mother to John for safekeeping, “Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her. He said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
And now, here he is surrounded by tormentors and criminals. Our scripture tells us, 39 One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
40-41 But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.” How did the criminal on one side of him know this, and the one on the other didn’t? Had they been talking while in prison? Had he heard about Jesus’ ministry before this day? Did he know that Jesus had the power and the love to forgive the unforgivable?
These next few words bear witness to Jesus’ compassion and concern for others, because when the criminal asks him, 42 …“Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” Jesus said, 43 …“Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
The ruler of this kingdom does not help himself, but he helps other who need his help.
Author Nancy Lynne Westfield writes about this scripture, “ Who among us is worthy of grace? We are more like the thieves who hung next to Jesus than we are like Jesus. We don’t know what happened to the thief who hung on the other side of Jesus’ cross – the one who, rather than asking for mercy, spoke chiding words, challenging Jesus to show his might and power by savings himself and the criminals who surrounded him. Yet the Grace of God as revealed in the incarnate Jesus is a word of forgiveness and deep abiding love. “
Our Epistle lesson this morning from Colossians tells us, “15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
We Methodists sing that wonderful hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” Well, that’s because there IS something about that name! We sing, “Crown Him, Lord of all!”
No matter how many monarchies, kings and queens think they rule their countries, this world, this earth; there is truly only one King and that is Christ our King! If you agree with me, all of you as God’s children can say….
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
 Busch. Eberhard.. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P.332
 Westfield, Nancy Lynne. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P.334