Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Seeing Jesus, Our King


November 25, 2012
Christ the King Sunday
Fr. Philip D. Eberhart


Seeing Jesus, The King

Our culture, and especially our Christian church culture in America – evangelical culture in particular – have so often emphasized the humanity and identification of Jesus with our weakness, that we forget WHO HE IS.  We have a kind of amnesia when it comes to the real power and the real position of Jesus Christ in the universe.  He is our big brother; He is our advocate;  He is the lover of my soul – no mistaking that, BUT … He is soooo much more that JUST those things.

To be sure Jesus Christ came to be incarnate – en-fleshed – among us.  John is very clear in chapter 1 of his gospel:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 

Equally so, in his first letter, John writes,  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

Jesus was made like us in every way, except in sin:  He hungered,  He thirsted,  He got tired,  He slept, prayed, cried, suffered.  Just like us.  When you include what He went through on the cross, he suffered way more than almost any of us will ever suffer.  All for our sake – for you and for me! 

The Suffering Servant and the Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild, are pictures that we see when we look at the Jesus record in scripture; how he was with the children, how he was with the weak, the lepers, the blind, the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Neither to I condemn you – go and sin no more!”

But if we only see this earthly Jesus – the savior of humankind, who relates to us as servant and elder brother, first-born from among the dead, who is touched with our weakness and a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  If we look only at those things, we begin to lose some of the power of the message.

So we have put in the Christian Year a Sunday – this Sunday – Christ the King Sunday, to ponder and remind ourselves, before we start the contemplation of His coming as a babe, and of His soon returning, of WHO IT IS THAT WE WORSHIP!

 Turn with me to the 1st chapter of The Revelation of St. John:

I want you to travel with me to a cave on Patmos and like the wardrobe of CS Lewis, through it, to another place – a Kingdom place.

What we have in the reading from Revelation this morning is the prologue to the letter that John the Apostle wrote out of the vision he had.  Let me read the vision

here in the 1st chapter and then we will come back to the prologue that we have in our bulletin.  (beginning at V. 10) close your eyes…

Rev 1:10  I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet …

Rev 1:12-18  Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Are you there yet?

With John we are standing not in a cave on an island in the Mediterranean ocean, but in the very throne room of God – and the description is of the risen Christ, the King of the Universe and Lord of all.  Now I would be overwhelmed, like John was as he fell down at Jesus feet.  And I believe that falling down at Jesus feet is entirely appropriate worship, at any time and in any place.

Want a further glimpse of this room?  Come with me to the 4th chapter: 

Rev 4:2-11

      At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.  From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"  And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

Do you hear the echoes from heaven?  Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Do you hear the echoes in our own worship here? 

Are you there yet?  Here from the next chapter:

Rev 5:5 – 14

… behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.

I just want you to be there!

I want you to get a grasp – TO GASP!!! – to have your breath taken away, with the glory and grandeur of heaven and the worship that is constantly going on there and the place that Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’, has in that worship!

Now let’s come back to our prologue to the letter of Revelation… 

The One whom we worship is Three –

            The Eternal Father:  “Him who is and who was and who is to come”
            The Holy Spirit:       “and from the seven spirits who are before his throne.”
            The Only-begotten Son: “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

Then John adds more about Jesus:

            To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!

Are you there yet?

The danger we are in, friends, is that of trivializing the God of the Universe and the Son whom He sent on our behalf, to testify to the truth, as Jesus said to Pilate.

We get so wrapped up in our own lives and in the things of this life, this world, that we get amnesia, we stop remembering WHO it is we worship and the position that He has in heaven – in the very throne room of God. 

As Paul puts it in Philippians 2: 9-10

“Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
Our response in worship and in the Eucharist is to remember with thanksgiving the mercies of God -  in fact that very word we use in our Eucharistic liturgy and each time we do, we at the altar bow:  “Do this in remembrance of me.”

The $50 word that goes with this phrase is from the Greek word “to remember”:

Anamnesis.

Isn’t it interesting how similar its opposite sounds:   AMNESIA  to not remember!

Which is it for us?  Which is it most often for us in our day-to-day lives?

Are we remembering or are we forgetting, Who it is we worship and why?  Who we are and What has happened to us in Christ?  Why we are here and What we have been sent to do?

Listen to that last phrase about Jesus from John’s Revelation again:

            To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!

Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me!

Are you there yet?

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Let’s pray:

 

Join me once again in our opening collect for today:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords:  Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule;  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.   Amen

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:  Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation;  let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, you Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.    Amen.

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