The Rev. Leslie Mazzacano
Trinity Episcopal Church
Moorestown, New Jersey
November 25, 2018
This shall be my resting place forever; here will I dwell, for I delight in the Lord. AMEN
When you “imagine” Christ – when you think of Jesus – what image or metaphor comes to mind?
I have an image of Jesus as my brother and my friend. I think of him as one who walks the journey of life with me, sometimes beside me – sometimes ahead of me and always as someone who talks with me. Jesus counsels me on the way. Jesus is someone with whom I am comfortable to be with – at least most of the time.
I would wager that the image of Jesus as a King is not one that would win the most votes as the most common image among us here today — or as a favorite image we have.
Yet it is for claiming to be a “King” that Jesus is brought before Pilate in today’s scripture reading. Jesus makes it clear to Pilate that his Kingship is not from this world and that the Kingdom which he claims does not function like the kingdoms of this world. Even though Pilate believes Jesus’ claim and finds no fault in Jesus- or should we say he finds in Jesus no direct threat to his power. For political reasons he ultimately condemns Jesus to death and places over his head the record of the charge that was brought against him -that he had claimed to be the King of the Jews – a charge that Jesus never denies.
When you think of a king what do you think of? What does the word “king” conjure up for you?
I came up with a few images:
From my childhood:
- Fairy-tale kings: kind & generous, some with a wicked queen
- King of the hill: the game I played with my brothers where the strongest pushes everyone else off the hill
- “King me”: checkers king jumps in all directions, taking over and winning
From my adult years:
- “The” King – Elvis Presley – of which no more needs to be said
- The King in the “Wizard of Id” – a self-centered bumbling dictator
- King o’ the road – a wanderer with no cares
- A chess king – one of limited movement and power to protect
- Queen Elizabeth – a woman of great fortitude who has been ruling England for over 50 years
What about you? What do you think of when you think of the word King? Or Kingdom? Do you, like some, think of folk like Pilate? Like Caesar Augustus? Or George the III, or Louis XIV? Or figures like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro or the President of the United States? Men of immense power who are unafraid to issue orders and compel obedience. Unafraid to ask others, to die for their causes, makers of Law whether democratically or by Order of Cabinet or Council or Decree and enforcers of their own wills and the will of the State they command?
Sometimes they have popular approval, but often they don’t. The simple fact is that lots of people have difficulty with the concept of Jesus as a King and difficulty with the whole idea of the Kingdom of God. It is not an idea that we can easily relate to – or appreciate; no matter how often we read the words that Jesus uttered to Pilate – “my kingdom is not of this world” Or perhaps because it is not of this world.
It is not so easy to see the realm of God, to see the Kingdom of God. When we think of Jesus -our favorite image of him, despite Sundays like this one in the church year, is not likely to be that of Jesus as King: more likely it is Jesus as a shepherd, Jesus as a teacher, Jesus sitting with the children gathered around him.
And when we do declare Jesus is King – when we declare he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God, I think we have a hard time wrapping our mind around what it is we truly are confessing.
I think that the real problem with talk about Jesus as King is not so much that the metaphor is obscure but that Kings are people who issue commands that others are supposed to obey – that they are people that their subjects are supposed to be loyal to and whom they are supposed to serve – no matter how they might feel about it. And we, in this age, perhaps even more than in some other, do not like that.
We do not like the idea of obedience. We do not like the idea that someone can “command us” to do something that someone has authority over us. The real issue behind the image of Jesus as King is this: Do I want someone other than myself to be Lord of my life?
When we imagine Jesus as our friend, as our shepherd as our brother, as one who comes to us a healer and a teacher, we accentuate in our minds the love and the grace and the goodness that he had and still has. It makes Jesus – “user friendly.” It makes Jesus first among equals.
And so, Jesus is.
Jesus states to Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world and that, in effect, his kingship is not like that of the kings of this world. As our King, Jesus is not in our face. He gives us our freedom. He treats us as equals. Jesus treats us as his friends. And so, we lose track of the fact that doing what he wants us to do really might be good for us, and of the fact that not doing what we want might be good for us. We lose track of the fact that obeying his commandments might be helpful to us and our world and not obeying them might be harmful to us and to our world.
In other words, we sometimes grow too comfortable with our images of Christ. We sometimes resist too much the full consequences of calling him, as we do at Christmas, while thinking of him as a baby, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And I keep on remembering that we are called to be like him, to be like the one who came not to be served, but to serve, to be like the one who listened to his Father and kept his commandments. Our faith is indeed based in relationship – a relationship of love and obedience really does seem to be a part of what we should be about.
I had two women come into the office at the beginning of November. They stop by often to get food from our pantry. One of the women asked if we give out help for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I told her that we do a food drive for Thanksgiving and donate it to the Christian Caring Center but that we could help her for Christmas. I took their names, their children’s names and information and added them to my Christmas Adoption list. The next day I received an email from a parishioner who wanted to let me know that they would like to adopt a family again for Christmas. I related to them what had transpired the day before and gave them the one woman and her family to adopt. The parishioner emailed back that they would help the family for Thanksgiving too and would drop off an envelope for me to give to that family. That is the image of Christ for me.
That is the issue at the heart of Jesus is King. That is at the heart of the Kingdom of God that Jesus employed. Sometimes being faithful is a difficult thing. Sometimes loving someone or being dedicated to them means doing things we do not want to do, a kind of tough love approach, but when we trust in God and believe that God will be faithful to us, when we try to do what is right then, as Jesus says over and over again in the gospels, the Kingdom of God is not far from us. Indeed, it is at hand. It is over us, and in us….
Blessed be the name of Jesus – who is our friend, our brother, our shepherd, our Lord, and our King, now and evermore. AMEN
Resources: Sermons.com, Synthesis