Christ the King Sunday, 11.24.19

Don’t we all like to be remembered at our high points?

 At wakes and funerals, we mention the achievements of someone who’s passed on.

At the end of our lives, we want to be remembered at our peak moments, not for when things went terribly wrong.

Here we are, on Christ the King Sunday, so why don’t we have Jesus’ peak moment?

Why isn’t today’s gospel the Transfiguration?

That’s when he’s bathed in light and talking with Moses and Elijah, and God the Father SPEAKS like thunder.

THAT had to be a high point of his life.

Why isn’t THAT the gospel for today?


Why isn’t today’s gospel when Jesus fed the five thousand?

That is a MIGHTY deed!

Why isn’t today’s gospel when Jesus brought his friend, Lazarus back from the dead?

            OR – why isn’t today’s gospel the one for Easter Sunday – when Jesus is resurrected?

It doesn’t get better than THAT.

            Instead, today’s gospel, Jesus’ body is torn by the Roman soldiers, and humiliated over and over, and he is DYING.


Yet, today’s gospel doesn’t focus on the torture.

Today’s gospel focuses on the SHAME.

 Jesus, Son of God, Lord of Light, Prince of PEACE, is SHAMED before all the world he came to save.

He is shamed by “the leaders [who] scoffed.” “The soldiers also mocked.”

Then the lowest of the low, as if in descending order of hierarchy – leaders, then soldiers, then the scum of humanity – one of the two criminals . . . “kept deriding him.”

This low form of life, still has a mouth, and he uses it in his last few moments to mock Our Savior, Christ our King.

It’s as if a virus or a speck of bacteria could speak and it mocks the source of its life – Our Lord of Life.


But here is where we see this event overturned in Jesus fashion.

Evil sees Jesus dying on the cruel cross and thinks it’s as a victory for EVIL. Aha!

Evil crows!

Almost dead!

Evil lacks the imagination to see that it is LOVE, PURE love nailed to the cross and LOVE is NOT conquered by death and EVIL.

Evil, by its nature, cannot SEE as WE see., with the eyes of grace.

Evil is an empty void within which God’s VOICE does not speak.

Evil lacks GRACE, so how CAN it SEE?

We flawed, broken, imperfect people receive GRACE and see that EVIL always is ultimately EMPTY. 


Evil sees Jesus on the cross and thinks this is the END.

That he is at last SILENCED.

No more sermons on the mount.

No more head pounding parables.

Evil thinks it’s over.


WE see Jesus on the cross as the BEGINNING.

Jesus on the cross, is like a key turned into a lock, setting us free.

Ushering us into greater freedom that we could never give ourselves.    

This is a COSMIC event.

It’s an event not just between GOD and humanity.[1]

NO! This is a cosmic event that SHAKES ALL of creation, everything that is on the earth and UNDER the earth, the PRINCIPALITIES and the POWERS are SHAKEN.


EVIL underestimated LOVE.

Evil cannot comprehend that LOVE would take on death AND shame.

That LOVE would take on the absolute LOWEST point of life that a human can endure.

That LOVE would join US in our agonies of shame.


Jesus takes on the WORST that humans can do to him, and he is STILL the VICTOR.

Remember how in the gospel of John, it says how the LIGHT came into the world, and the darkness, the obscuria in Spanish, could NOT GRASP it.

Evil cannot grasp love.

Evil cannot comprehend it.

And ultimately, evil loses.


When I was at Union Theological Seminary, I witnessed the many young African American students who grappled with racism in ways that echoed their grandparents had.

We were all horrified thinking that racism had raised its head.

How could this be?

We thought it was eradicated.

There’s a cosmic dimension to racism.

This EVIL is more than just about individuals; the Powers and Principalities OCCUPY it, and we do battle with evil on a cosmic level when we battle RACISM.


            Evil cannot see beyond the facts of Calvary.

By its nature, EVIL has NO imagination and cannot see with the eyes of love that this is NOT THE END.

What God is doing on the cross is HIDDEN from Evil’s eyes.

God’s power is HIDDEN in the cross.

God’s power is HIDDEN and only those with GRACE to see can see who is granting grace and favors from this cross-turned-throne. “This day will you be in paradise.” “Father forgive them, they do not know what they do.”


By its nature, EVIL is short-sighted. It sees only defeat.

            So, we hear EVIL’S voice through that of one of the criminals: “Save yourself and us.”


So, we need to ask ourselves, where is the power here? Who is doing the saving?

It would appear that Jesus is powerless that is held by the cross and dying.


Or IS Jesus powerless?

Look. See how Jesus has turned the cross into a throne and like any king, grants forgiveness, grants favor and clemency to the other thief.


From the cross which Jesus has turned into a throne, Jesus the King grants entry into heaven to the other thief.


            Where’s the power?

WHO has the power?

Today’s gospel keeps asking that question. “Save yourself. Save yourself.”


Shepherds don’t save themselves!

Jesus, our good shepherd is taking care of his flock, even now, from the cross.

He has found ONE more lost lamb, and it’s the thief, and he had to go to the cross to FIND that lost lamb.


This GOOD shepherd doesn’t run away, he stays and fights the wolves.

It would be shocking to us, if before these events, Jesus turns to his apostles and says, ‘Let’s get out of town. I’ve preached, I’ve taught, I’ve healed, I’ve fed 5000+.

That’s plenty.

I’ve done enough. Guys, we’re going to run and hide in the hills.’

We know he didn’t do that.

We would have been SHOCKED if he had.

Two thousand years later, we would have never HEARD of him, if Jesus had RUN.


Jesus stands firm.

Jesus stands with his flock.

Remember how in the gospel of John, he says the hired hand runs when the wolves appear.

Well, the wolves surround Jesus, and he stands FIRM, defending the flock.

The flock is HIS.

The religious leaders have been terrible shepherds, and tragically have not recognized the ultimate GOOD SHEPHERD among them.

They have no eyes to truly SEE him.


            In Jeremiah today, we read, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Says the LORD . . . I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands . . . and I will bring them back to their fold.”


Our King is also our shepherd, and here on this cross-turned-throne Christ gathers his flock: forgiving them (US!) and granting them (US!) clemency.

Entry into heaven.


We have to pause here and ask, what kind of LOVE IS this?

What kind of love is this, O my soul.



            Where are WE in this gospel?

When I was a young adult, I remember looking at a cross with another young adult, and we were trying to grasp the meaning of the cross with our minds.

We tried, but we just couldn’t.

The cross is a lived experience.

The cross is a walk of faith WITH CHRIST who gives us the eyes to see the cross and the strength to carry it.

Carrying the cross is ultimately a creative act, which defeats COSMIC evil.


Only when we ABIDE in Christ and pick up the cross, can we begin to grasp its meaning with our minds.

Because CHRIST is abiding with us as we carry it: Christ carries it WITH us.

We are able to carry the cross when we are in a relationship with Christ.

When we pick up the cross on behalf of perhaps a loved one – we don’t run (although we could) we STAY just like Jesus stays with us.

THEIR ordeal is OUR ordeal.

Christ gives us the strength to persevere.

Christ gives us the patience to see our ordeals to the end.

            Where are we in this gospel?

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber says we are to fall on our knees, like the song, O Holy Night says to do.[2] Fall on your knees before this true king.

Fall on your knees before this shepherd-king whose love transforms us.

Fall on your knees before the One who does not meet violence with violence.

Fall on your knees before the shepherd who cares for his flock with his arms and feet nailed to the cross even as with his last dying breaths.

Fall on your knees before this shepherd king who has found a lamb in his last breaths.


I thank you Lord for your breath-taking LOVE. What kind of love IS this O my soul?

Hold us close when we carry our cross.

Give us your strength as we fight evil of a cosmic dimension.

We pray this in the name of YOUR SON, Jesus Christ.



[1] Bill Wylie-Kellermann.

[2] Nadia Bolz-Weber.