Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

JOHN 18:33-38 | SO YOU ARE A KING?

 

SO YOU ARE A KING?

JOHN 18:33-38

NOVEMBER 22, 2015

 

A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK OURSELVES, AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST, IS: “WHAT DOES GOD REQUIRE?”

 

WHAT CAN WE DO AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS A CHURCH, TO BE FAITHFUL TO GOD’S CLAIM UPON US?

 

DAVID H. C. READ, FORMER PASTOR OF THE MADISON AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN NEW YORK CITY, ONCE OBSERVED, ANYONE WHO TAKES THEIR RELIGION SERIOUSLY IS INCLINED TO TAKE STOCK OF THIS QUESTION AT THE START OF A NEW YEAR.

 

HE SAID: “OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IS NEVER STATIC. WE ARE EITHER CLOSER TO GOD NOW THAN THIS TIME LAST YEAR OR WE ARE FARTHER AWAY.”

 

NOW YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY I AM BRINGING THIS UP TODAY. WE’VE GOT WEEKS TILL THE NEW YEAR; PLENTY OF TIME TO TAKE STOCK OF OUR LIFE; PLENTY OF TIME TO DECIDE WHAT OUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS WILL BE IN THE COMING YEAR.

 

“LET ME GET THROUGH THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS FIRST – THEN I’LL THINK ABOUT WHERE I AM WITH GOD, AND HOW MY LIFE’S GOING…

 

I’M TOO BUSY TO THINK ABOUT ALL THAT RIGHT NOW.”

 

BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT TODAY IS ACTUALLY THE LAST DAY OF THE YEAR?! THE END OF THE CHURCH YEAR THAT IS. THE END OF THE CHRISTIAN YEAR.

 

TODAY IS CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY. THE LAST SUNDAY IN THE CHRISTIAN YEAR.

 

YOU SEE, THE CHURCH/CHRISTIAN YEAR RUNS FROM THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (THAT’S NEXT SUNDAY, BY THE WAY) TO THE LAST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY.

 

THE CHURCH/CHRISTIAN YEAR BEGINS WITH THE EXPECTATION OF CHRIST’S BIRTH (WHAT WE CALL ADVENT), RUNS THROUGH CHRISTMAS, EPIPHANY, LENT, EASTER, PENTECOST, THEN A LONG PERIOD WE CALL ORDINARY TIME, AND THEN BACK TO CROWNING CHRIST AS THE KING OF LIFE.

 

YOU MAY EVEN HAVE BEEN WONDERING WHY I WAS READING THIS MORNING’S PASSAGE ABOUT JESUS’ TRIAL BEFORE PILATE, A LENTEN/EASTER PASSAGE AS A RULE, THIS CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS AND THE BIRTH OF JESUS.

BUT THIS IS CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, THE LAST SUNDAY IN THE CHRISTIAN YEAR BEFORE WE START ALL OVER AGAIN, AND AS SUCH, A PERFECT TIME TO TAKE STOCK OF OUR FAITH, OUR LIVES, AND WHETHER WE ARE CLOSER TO GOD OR FARTHER AWAY THAN AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR.

 

BUT WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE, REALLY, THAT THIS IS CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, AND THE LAST SUNDAY OF THIS CHRISTIAN YEAR?

 

TO ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS I’D LIKE TO GO BACK TO OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING – JESUS TRIAL BEFORE PILATE.

 

JESUS HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO PILATE, THE ROMAN GOVERNOR, BY THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES, ON CHARGES OF SEDITION AND TREASON; FOR CLAIMING TO BE THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 

SUCH CHARGES CARRY WITH THEM A DEATH SENTENCE, BUT THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS DID NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CARRY OUT SUCH A SENTENCE, ONLY ROME DID, AND SO THEY BROUGHT JESUS TO THE ROMAN RULER.

 

“ARE YOU THE KING OF THE JEWS,” PILATE ASKED JESUS.

 

“’KING’ AS YOU USE THE WORD, OR AS THE JEWS USE IT?” JESUS REPLIED.

 

“AM I A JEW?” PILATE RETORTED. “YOUR OWN PEOPLE AND THEIR CHIEF PRIESTS HAVE BROUGHT YOU HERE. WHY? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

 

“MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS EARTH. IF IT WERE, MY FOLLOWERS WOULD HAVE FOUGHT WHEN I WAS ARRESTED. BUT MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD.”

 

“SO YOU ARE A KING?” PILATE REPLIED.

 

“YES.” JESUS SAID. “I WAS BORN FOR THIS PURPOSE. AND I CAME TO BRING TRUTH TO THE WORLD. ALL WHO LOVE THE TRUTH ARE MY FOLLOWERS.”

 

“WHAT IS TRUTH?” PILATE ASKED

AND JESUS JUST STANDS THERE.

 

SO OUT OF OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING THERE ARE TWO THINGS I’D LIKE US TO CONSIDER:

 

  1. WHAT IS TRUTH?
  2. WHAT DOES JESUS MEAN WHEN HE SAYS THAT HIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD?

 

PILATE ASKS: “WHAT IS TRUTH?” FOR YEARS POETS, PROPHETS, PHILOSOPHERS, POLITICIANS, THEOLOGIANS AND ALL THE REST OF US HAVE TRIED TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION; TRIED TO FIGURE IT OUT.

 

FREDRICK BUECHNER, ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, SAYS THAT THE SOUND OF ALL OF US TRYING TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION – WHAT IS TRUTH? – “IS LIKE THE SOUND OF EMPTY PAILS FALLING DOWN THE CELLAR STAIRS.”

 

AS WE NOTED A MOMENT AGO, WHEN PILATE ASKS JESUS THIS QUESTION, JESUS DOESN’T TRY TO ANSWER IT, HE JUST STANDS THERE. HE STANDS THERE. HE STANDS THERE.

 

THE INFERENCE IS, OF COURSE, THAT JESUS IS THE TRUTH, AND HE HAS SAID AS MUCH EARLIER IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.

 

“I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.”

 

SO, ON CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, WHAT IF, AS BELIEVERS, WE TOOK JESUS AT HIS WORD, AND BELIEVED THAT HE IS THE TRUTH?

 

AND WHAT’S MORE, WHAT IF WE LIVED AS IF CHRIST IS THE TRUTH FOR OUR LIVES? WOULD WE BE DIFFERENT? WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT? OR AT LEAST OUR LITTLE CORNER OF IT?

 

WHAT IF WE STOOD, IN OUR LIVES, IN THE TRUTH, AND ON THE TRUTH, AND FOR THE TRUTH THAT IS JESUS CHRIST, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS…

 

WOULD THINGS BE DIFFERENT?

 

THE SECOND THING WE SAID WE WANTED TO CONSIDER THIS MORNING IS WHAT IT MEANS FOR JESUS TO SAY THAT “HIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD.”

 

OUR FIRST RESPONSE MIGHT BE, “WELL OF COURSE HIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD, IT IS OF THE NEXT, IN HEAVEN, IN THE HEREAFTER.

 

AND WHILE WE DO INDEED BELIEVE THAT, IT IS NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH, BECAUSE WE BELIEVE CHRIST IS THE KING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

 

GOD’S KINGDOM IS IN BOTH!

JESUS IS KING OF BOTH – HEAVEN AND EARTH!

 

SO MAYBE JESUS MEANT SOMETHING ELSE WHEN HE SAID HIS “KINGDOM WAS NOT OF THIS WORLD”…

 

MAYBE JESUS MEANT SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF WHAT HE MEANT WHEN HE SAID THAT WE ARE TO BE “IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF THE WORLD.”

 

WE HAVE NO CHOICE ABOUT BEING IN THE WORLD, IT’S WHERE WE LIVE; BUT WE DO HAVE A CHOICE ABOUT BEING OF THE WORLD, THAT IS, LIKE THE WORLD.

 

DOING THINGS LIKE THE WORLD DOES THEM – AND JESUS TELLS US NOT TO BE LIKE THAT; NOT TO THINK LIKE THAT; NOT TO ACT LIKE THAT;

 

INSTEAD, WE ARE TO THINK KINGDOM THOUGHTS; MAKE KINGDOM DECISIONS; ACT IN KINGDOM WAYS…

 

“THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN…”

 

JESUS’ KINGDOM, GOD’S KINGDOM IS IN THE WORLD; IT JUST ISN’T OF THE WORLD.

 

AND DID YOU NOTICE WHAT JESUS SAID WAS THE FIRST DISTINGUISHING FACTOR IN HIS KINGDOM NOT BEING OF THIS WORLD?

 

“MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD. IF IT WERE, MY FOLLOWERS WOULD HAVE FOUGHT WHEN I WAS ARRESTED…”

 

THE FIRST MARK OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM IS THE LACK OF FIGHTING; THE LACK OF VIOLENCE; OF KILLING AND DESTROYING OTHERS;

 

O THAT HIS KINGDOM WOULD COME FULLY!

 

IF YOU REMEMBER, JESUS ACTUALLY TALKS A LOT ABOUT WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE; IN FACT, IT IS THE THING HE TALKS ABOUT MOST.

 

IT IS WHAT ALL OF HIS PARABLES ARE ABOUT; AND MOST OF HIS MIRACLES; AND WHAT ALL OF HIS COMMANDMENTS, COMMISSIONING, AND HIS CALLING OF US, ARE MEANT TO CONVEY.

 

WE ARE TO LIVE OUT THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST, HIS KINGSHIP OVER OUR LIVES AND OVER THE LIFE TO THE WORLD – IN THE WORLD, JUST NOT OF IT.

 

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE A LOST SHEEP, A LOST COIN, A LOST CHILD, THAT WHEN FOUND, IS A CAUSE FOR GREAT REJOICING!

 

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED, OR OTHER SEED SCATTERED ON THE GROUND, STARTING OUT SMALL, GROWING AMONG THE WEEDS, BUT GROWING AND GROWING AND GROWING – PRODUCING A GREAT HARVEST OF GOODNESS!

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE A CHILD WHO IS BORN DEAF HEARING FOR THE FIRST TIME; LIKE SOMEONE WHO HAS LOST THEIR SIGHT SEEING AGAIN; LIKE SOMEONE WHO CANNOT WALK WALKING AGAIN!

 

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE MULTIPLYING THE FISH AND LOAVES TO FEED MANY; IT’S LIKE FEEDING THE HUNGRY, CLOTHING THE NAKED, HEALING THE SICK, COMFORTING THE LONELY, WELCOMING THE STRANGER, VISITING A PRISONER.

 

YOU SEE, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT SO MUCH A PLACE, BUT A CONDITION, A WAY OF BEING, A WAY OF LIVING, A WAY OF DOING KINGDOM THINGS.

 

“IT IS ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN;”

 

AND INSOFAR AS IT IS HERE AND THERE, NOW AND THEN, BELOW AND ABOVE, THE KINGDOM HAS ALREADY COME, JUST NOT COMPLETELY;

 

AND IT COMES FROM GOD, AND BY CHRIST, AND SOMEWHERE IN THE MIX OF IT ALL, CHRIST WANTS US TO HAVE A HAND IN IT.

 

“IN THE WORLD, JUST NOT OF IT….”

 

WHEN OUR SON BRETT WAS YOUNGER HE LOVED LEGO BUILDING BLOCKS. HE WOULD SPEND HOURS BUILDING THINGS, TAKING THEM APART, AND BUILDING SOMETHING ELSE.

 

SOMETIMES, HE BUILT THINGS PURELY OUT OF HIS OWN IMAGINATION, CREATING THINGS FROM SCRATCH. SOMETIMES, THE LEGOS CAME IN SETS – CASTLES, PIRATE SHIPS, AND MILLENNIAL FALCONS FROM STAR WARS.

 

WHETHER BRETT WAS BUILDING PURELY FROM HIS IMAGINATION, CREATING SOMETHING NEW, OR FROM A PRE-DESIGNED SET, HE WOULD LOOK AT EACH BLOCK, STUDY WHERE IT WOULD GO, PLACE IT JUST SO, BEFORE MOVING ON TO THE NEXT BUILDING BLOCK.

 

YOU COULD USUALLY BEGIN TO TELL WHAT IT WAS GOING TO BE, EVEN BEFORE IT WAS FINISHED; WITH EACH BLOCK HE ADDED IT CAME CLOSER TO COMPLETION, CLOSER TO REALITY.

 

AND SO IT IS WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE WORLD.

 

WITH EACH BUILDING BLOCK WE ADD FROM OUR FAITH, FROM OUR LIVES, IN HOW WE RELATE TO OTHERS, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF IT, COMES A LITTLE CLOSER TO REALITY.

 

EVERY TIME A SPOUSE LOVES THEIR SPOUSE A BLOCK GETS ADDED TO BUILDING UP THE KINGDOM.

 

EVERY TIME A PARENT DOES SOMETHING RIGHT IN RAISING THEIR CHILD, ANOTHER BLOCK IS ADDED.

 

EVERY KIND THOUGHT, EVERY LOVING WORD, EVERY HELPFUL ACT, MORE BLOCKS ARE ADDED.

 

EVERY COMMANDMENT FULFILLED, EVERY COMMISSION OF CHRIST CARRIED OUT, EVERY CALLING ANSWERED, ANOTHER BLOCK GETS ADDED.

 

THE BEATITUDES, THE GOLDEN RULE, THE GREAT COMMISSION, LOVING GOD AND OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES, MORE AND MORE BLOCKS.

 

EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO REPAY GOOD WITH GOOD, OR EVEN EVIL WITH GOOD; EVERY CHANCE WE GET TO PAY IT FORWARD, ANOTHER BLOCK IS ADDED;

 

EVERY TIME WE TURN THE OTHER CHEEK, GO THE EXTRA MILE; OFFER OUR COAT AND OUR CLOAK BOTH, THE KINGDOM GETS BUILT A LITTLE HIGHER.

 

EVERY PARABLE RE-ENACTED; EVERY MIRACLE PERFORMED; EVERY TEACHING PUT INTO ACTION, EVERY BELIEF TRANSLATED INTO HELPING ANOTHER, BLOCK UPON BLOCK UPON BLOCK…

 

OF COURSE, AND UNFORTUNATELY, THE OPPOSITE IS ALSO TRUE.

 

WITH EVERY NEGATIVE THOUGHT, EVERY SNIDE COMMENT, EVERY ACT OF THOUGHTLESSNESS, A BLOCK IS TORN AWAY FROM THE KINGDOM.

 

EVERY ACT OF VIOLENCE, EVERY TERRORIST PLOT CARRIED OUT, EVERY MASS SHOOTING, AND THE WALLS OF THE KINGDOM COME TUMBLING DOWN.

 

EVERY ACT OF SPOUSAL ABUSE, EVERY INSTANCE OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, EVERY TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD, THE GREATER THE GAPS GROW IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

 

WHENEVER WE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ANOTHER’S MISFORTUNE, PERPETUATE A RUMOR OR LIE, FAIL TO TAKE THE HIGH ROAD, BE THE BETTER PERSON, WE MISS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR KINGDOM BUILDING.

 

THE GOOD NEWS IS: HOWEVER HALF-BAKED AND HALF-HEARTED OUR EFFORTS MAY BE; NO MATTER HOW FAR OFF THE KINGDOM OF GOD MAY BE, AND IT’S STILL A WAYS OFF, CHRIST IS KING!

 

AND AS HIS SUBJECTS, THERE IS PLENTY FOR US TO BE DOING;

WHETHER PURELY FROM OUR IMAGINATIONS, BUILDING UP THE KINGDOM FROM SCRATCH, OR PIECE BY PIECE ACCORDING TO CHRIST’S PLANS, WE WOULD BE A’BUILDIN…

 

HAPPY CHRIST THE KING DAY! HAPPY END OF THE CHRISTIAN YEAR! HAPPY ADVENT!

 

MY HOPE AND PRAYER FOR ALL OF US IS THAT WE ARE CLOSER TO GOD THIS YEAR THAN WE WERE LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME.

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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