Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Our Gospel reading, which you heard a few minutes ago, will serve as the basis for this morning’s message. And what an interesting text for Christ the King Sunday! If we didn’t know better it’d make sense to visualize this story and reach the logical conclusion that this didn’t seem to be much of a picture of royalty. “When they came to the place that is called the Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals.” Yes, if we didn’t know better we’d say that Jesus did not look like much of a king.

He was wearing a crown… of sorts. A crown of thorns had been forcibly set upon (set into, really) the head of this passive king. No fighting to defend himself, and, with the exception of one heart-broken and heart-breaking expression of abandonment by his father, no crying out against the injustice of it all. What an odd kind of king!

One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus joined the crowds in mocking and deriding him. "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" Really! If this Jesus is truly a king, isn’t it about time for him to do something kingly?

It is about time. We soon hear of what made this particular King particularly unusual. When the other criminal went against the flow, he not only recognized that Jesus was suffering unjustly, he also recognized that Jesus was indeed a King, and he made a request of the King: “When you come into your kingdom… remember me.” Done!

That’s all it took. Jesus took upon himself what the criminal deserved, what we deserve, and granted to him, and to all who believe, forgiveness and life eternal. All he had to do is look to King Jesus and he was granted a place in His eternal kingdom. A different kind of King indeed!

And it was about time. It was about time for the King of kings to announce his victory over the most notorious and lethal enemies of all… sin, death, and the devil. He announced his victory with three simple words: “It is finished!” Mission accomplished.

Christ the King. Christ is King. He is a King who served, who sacrificed, who saved the world by laying down His life. Now, it’s about time for us to give our full attention to what it means for us to proclaim that Jesus is our King. For us to proclaim that Jesus is our King, is to commit ourselves to following him. Jesus gave His life for us, now we do our best to return the favor.

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul wrote: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” What does that look like? It looks like Jesus! To be a disciple is to be dedicated to becoming more and more like our Teacher. For us, our gratitude-based desire is to be like Christ, which means, as Philippians points out, that we are to become the kind of people who, empowered by the Spirit of Jesus, “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than ourselves… who look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others.”

That’s the mind of Christ. We really should not be shocked that Jesus demonstrated such an odd kind of kingship upon the cross. After all, consider what this Messiah/King did the evening before, when he took upon Himself one of the dirtiest, most disgusting tasks of His time. Hear again the story that I have come to believe is one of the most important and underappreciated stories in the Bible, as recorded in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, selected verses:

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end... And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him… After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Ah, yes, a different kind of King for sure. And a King who came to establish a different kind of Kingdom, one comprised of exceedingly grateful people who are seeking to emulate the King who they love so much, a King who loved and loves them with a nearly incomprehensible kind of love. A King willing to wash feet, a King willing to lay down His very life, to suffer incredibly and to die a most miserable and humiliating death. What a King!

And now this King comes to us, having cleansed and healed us with His grace, and He bids us follow Him, bids us to follow His example of sacrificial love and service. Our King has given us a new commandment: to love as He has loved. We are called to have the mind of Christ, the mindset of servanthood. And with the calling comes His promise: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

I had an extraordinarily blessed day on Thursday. It began with watching kids at our local schools get out of their cars that morning loaded down with turkeys and others gifts of food. Child after child, family after family, demonstrating generosity, all with big smiles on their faces. They were experiencing the truth that it is truly better to give than to receive.

Later on we were given a gift to be used to carry on this very important ministry of Zion, a gift of over $5000 from the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, along with a few other donations. This was presented by people with big smiles on their faces, experiencing that same truth: it truly is better to give than to receive. And then I jumped in with dozens of other volunteers, all with big smiles on our faces, experiencing that same truth: that it truly is better to give than to receive.

As I watched somewhere around 100 families receiving boxes full of food, along with those donated turkeys and all of the necessary fixings, I had to fight back the tears. That is what it is all about. That is the joyful duty of God’s children, to love in action. “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Yep! To care for those whose lives have been impacted by tragedy and sickness, those who are a physically disabled, those whose lives have somewhere along the line gotten off course, as well as seniors who simply do not have enough financial resources… that’s a very important part of our calling.

We are here to receive from our King, blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace. We are here to be touched by His love. We are here to be blessed to be blessings, to share the abundant grace we have received, and to love as we have been loved. “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Amen.

   April 2019   
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