11/26/2000, P23, Year B
s our hearts turn toward Christmas, the invasion of God into our lives, our Bible stories today focus on the nature of this Kingdom that the Babe of Bethlehem came to establish. Some will ask: "If we have a Kingdom then who is the King?" Or, "How is the Kingdom related to the many political governments around the world?" And we also need to ask. "How am I related to this notion of a Spiritual Kingdom?"
America is having a great civics education during this ongoing Presidential Election Month. Many skipped Civics in high school and few of us learned much about it elsewhere. Some had never heard of the Electoral College; one interviewee on the street asked, "Does that college have a football team?"
Governor Pilate was also confused. He asked Jesus if he were the King of the Jews, perhaps thinking that he was a political threat to the occupying Roman forces; but Jesus had a much larger purpose: the Father sent Him to capture souls not votes. In the bloodline of Israel's King David, Jesus became the extension of God's "everlasting covenant" with the Jews and later the New Covenant with all people. Jesus' Kingdom is not a political government, but an invisible empire, a world wide movement, over which He reigns as King.
The Apostle John introduces his Book of Revelation with images of Jesus' throne and of his reigning as the ruler of all of the earthly kings (and presidents) of this present world. Most of today's royal families see themselves as bearing the mantel of Christ; at least they have some shape of the Cross on their official coat of Arms. However, in our Republican Democracy (or if you prefer Democratic Republic) we feel that the governed choose those who govern through prayerfully cast votes. We have heard a lot lately about "The will of the people!" We basically feel that the Kingdom of Christ connects us to our federal, state and local governments at the point where we believers exercise our biblical values in voting and serving in elected positions. I believe that we should always find out, as much as is possible, the spiritual beliefs of those who are candidates for public office. We have to look deeper than denominational membership for typically every candidate claims some church affiliation.
Methodists have always encouraged voting and serving in government. It was the Methodist Pastor in Plains, Georgia who first encouraged Jimmy Carter to run for the State Senate. Others told him not to get involved because politics was corrupt and dirty. If the Bush/Chaney ticket prevails (and that's a big "if" still), our President, Vice President, Governor, both Georgia Senators, and my U.S. Congressman will all be United Methodists. They all will take their oath of office with their hand on the Bible. Hopefully, all will seek the guidance of their Spiritual King, Jesus, in their positions of leadership.
However, this Church and State relationship has often caused disharmony. It was never more evident than during our mission to Poland in May-June, 1989. Our purpose was to preach and restore an abandoned Methidisto Church. I had the honor of preaching there at the first publicly advertised worship service in many years. The government had attempted to ignore the Church, especially the Protestant denominations. All the while we were there our small group was aware that on the day after we left Poland was to have their first free election in 44 years. For the first time, advertisements for noncommunist candidates were allowed in government newspapers as this impoverished nation was primed to overthrow totalitarian rule.
Although the Roman Church was forbidden to be outwardly involved in politics, Catholics made up 97% of the population. Their own Cardinal had been made Pope John-Paul and was calling for liberty in his homeland. One Freedom Party poster depicted the conflict between communism and the Church with a subtle photo of the beloved Pope with his arm embracing Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. Faces were not shown in the rear vantage point but the implication was unmistakable. This poster was placarded in every church we visited. It exemplified that the Spiritual Kingdom was influential in a different way than the government.
In John's Gospel Jesus responded to Pilate's question by saying that his mission was "..to bring truth to the world. And all who love the truth recognize that what I say is true." (John 18: 37, NLT). Our mission is to proclaim truth and capture the hearts of everyone we can encourage to respond. The hope of the world is that truth will eventually triumph over evil.
Notice that this sermon is entitled, "Christ Our King," not "Christ the King." The Kingdom becomes "Ours" when we decide to make it so. Jesus said, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (18:37,NRSV).
Only you know if you are a part of what the Book of Revelation calls, "A Kingdom of Priests." (1:6, KJV). All of us were born citizens of some nation. Most of us were birthed in this "Nation Under God." However, citizenship in the Heavenly Kingdom is a matter of the heart and a choice we each must make. It requires more than mere lip service. God wants our first loyalty.
I have known many veterans of World War II. All have shared that their sustaining motivation was a heartfelt desire to make the world free from tyranny. My college President, Dr. Claude Rickman, would annually dress in his Naval officer's uniform, complete with Purple Heart and Normandy Invasion ribbons, and lead a chapel service with the theme of freedom and liberty. We would salute the flag and sing the patriotic hymns, and Dr. Rickman would always remind us that our hearts belonged to Jesus Christ, our ultimate King and Master. In this time of uncertainty let us take hope in that.
As spiritual subjects of Christ our King, and as citizens of this great United States let us all pray for God's Will to somehow come out of this boiling political divisiveness. Pray also that we will be able to rally around our new President, whoever ultimately wins.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor