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O, For A King!
November 20, 1994

REVELATION 1:4b-8; JOHN 18:33-37

One of the best returns on Election Day is the end of political advertising! At least, for a while, no more TV, radio and newspaper political ads; no more direct mailings. What a way to run a country! Spend millions of dollars on half-truths, innuendos, accusations, and mud slinging! O, for a king! With a king there would be no elections, no smearing, no campaigning, no lobbyists, no special interest groups, no filibustering. O, for a king to get some action. The problems that beset us are so great, so seemingly insoluble--thinning ozone layer, national debt, crumbling cities, rise of crime and violence, eroding values. O, for a king to take matters in hand, overrule congress, banish lobbyists, and solve our problems.

Somehow I get the feeling I'm not convincing you! No Fergie or Di, no polo-playing kings or pocket-book-clutching queens, you say. Is not our political system, with all its weaknesses, the best the world has seen?

But, wouldn't you like to have a king? A king to tell you what to do, so all you have to do is obey. A king to tell you what to think, so there's no deciding, no choosing, no agonizing. A king to tell you what to believe, what to support. It's lonely making up your mind. It's difficult deciding what is right and what is wrong. It's so much easier being told, being led, being governed by a king. Some folk are so desperate in their longing for a king they are willing to sell their soul to a preacher, or cult, or group, or cause. Many people want the security that comes from having a king, having someone in charge.

A new pastor called at the home of an inactive member. Some said he had left the church because of the United Methodist stand on South Africa. Others said he was angry over the church's advocating of homosexual rights. "I'm your new preacher," said the pastor amiably at the front door. The man obviously didn't want a new preacher, or even an old one, but he agreed to talk. The pastor asked him why he didn't come to church anymore. Well, it wasn't any one thing; it was a bunch of things. He began to talk. He spoke of his fears, fears that this country was falling apart. Crime was rising. People were being murdered, right in their own beds. The man, getting agitated, said, "A few years ago, I didn't even own a gun. But now I own a dozen of them. I sleep with two by my bed. And when they come up here to try to take what's mine, I'll be ready for them. I tell you," he screamed, "Nobody is in control. Everything is cut loose. Nobody's in charge!"

O, for a king! O, for someone to take charge. But, we don't have a king. Lots of people want God to be a king! They want God to be in charge. They want God to take control. They want God to tell them what to do, what to believe. They want God to handle all the problems. They want God to control the violence, eliminate the bad guys, and reward the good. This Sunday is called Christ, the King Sunday, but Jesus refused to be the kind of king they thought they wanted, so they crucified him. They wanted a Messiah, a conquering king, to mount his white horse and lead victorious armies. They wanted the Roman army defeated. They wanted their country freed. They wanted the bad guys punished. They wanted someone to be in control. They wanted someone to be in charge!

But, Jesus refused to be king. Pilate tried to get a straight answer out of Jesus, a yes or no answer. But, Pilate had no clue what Jesus was talking about. Pilate tried to get Jesus to admit he was a king, or attempting to be a king. But, Jesus wouldn't play the game. Pilate, big powerful Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, was a pitiful, weak, inept man who couldn't run his own marriage much less Judea. Pilate called Jesus a king, in a sneering, incredulous fashion. Jesus answered, "You wouldn't understand." Pilate thought he was putting Jesus on trial when, in reality, Jesus had Pilate and the entire Roman Empire on trial. Pilate had power, but the bedraggled, half-naked Jew with his back bloody from a nasty whipping, was the stronger--quiet, unassuming, assured, clear-eyed strength.

But, Jesus' strength was not like a king, not like a despot. Christ is not some king sitting on a throne up in the air somewhere, decreeing this, decreeing that, snapping his fingers, directing traffic. God is not a despot sitting on a throne, pointing his finger, decreeing: You shall have cancer. You shall be hurt in an accident. You shall lose your job. God is not a king decreeing that little children shall become sick, or live on the streets, or be abused, neglected, abandoned. God is not a king telling you what to do, or what to believe, or how to act. God is not in complete control. Is that heresy? Or truth? Because, if God is king, if God is in complete control of all that happens, then God is not very fair, or just, or kind!

You're right. I'm describing a different kind of God than the one you were probably taught. I'm describing a different kind of king than the one we ordinarily picture. Where is God? Not on some throne somewhere, decreeing. God is present in every moment of your life, in every event of your experience. God is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. God is and has always been present, doing what? Creating, redeeming, loving, influencing for good. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, In whatever happens, God works for good with those who love him. Notice the cooperation required. God works with us for good. God does not overrule. God is not a king. Nor does God act alone. God cooperates with us, with those who love him. There is an element of choice in every event. In every moment, in every event, you can choose to love or hate, the good or bad, constructive or destructive. God is present to influence you, to help you choose the better. God is always with you. God will never leave you, abandon you, forsake you. God is luring you, enticing you, powering you to choose the best, do the best, and make the best of whatever happens.

How you respond to God's grace in one moment determines the nature of the gracious invitation that can be extended to you in the next moment. To the degree that you respond positively to God's invitation, to God's influence, to God's luring and wooing, higher divine possibilities can be presented. In other words, you are either growing spiritually, or declining spiritually. God cannot call you to something that is beyond you, but as you respond to God in small ways, in little ways, you can grow and be able to achieve more. You are able to become more like Jesus. You are able to grow closer to God. You are able to become more loving and graceful.

God is not a king, decreeing, mandating, ruling and overruling. God is present in every event, prodding, pulling, pushing, luring, enticing, wooing, calling you to love, to goodness and beauty.

The feast of Christ the king, which we celebrate today, was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925. In 1925, with chaos reigning in many European countries, European colonialism at its worst, and serpents' eggs ready to hatch in the thirties, the pope proclaimed that Jesus Christ is King. Tonight we see the movie, The King of Kings. The pope rightly defined the kingship of Christ as "the goal of human history, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfillment of all aspirations." In Jesus Christ we see where history is going, the fulfillment of all aspirations. In Jesus, we see what God is pushing, calling us to do and be. In Jesus Christ we experience the joy all hearts desire.

O, for a king! Rejoice, we have one! Hardly the kind of king who rules and overrules, who dictates and decrees; but a king who serves and saves, a king who struggles along with you, who makes good out of bad, who cooperates with you and influences you to love, goodness, and beauty.

© 1994 Douglas I. Norris