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Sermon for Christ the King

2010 November 22

My sermon for Christ the King Sunday yesterday.

Lectionary Readings – Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20 and Luke 1:68-79

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1: 68-79

God has raised up for us a might savior in the house of his servant David. On this Christ the King Sunday we are reminded that the gospels announced the kingship and reign of Christ through this connection to David. For even amidst all his foibles and flaws David defined for Israel what it means to have a leader who serves the people not just in the name of God but in the way of God. We understand David through the ideal image of the king God called him to be, and we have access to what it means for Christ to be our king through the narratives told about David.

And amidst those stories of kingship that reveal to us what it means to be a king we find a somewhat surprising thread running throughout – that to be a king is to be a healer. Yes, some kings rule or conquer, but in the biblical text a king after God’s own heart is a king who heals.

Now if you are an extreme sci-fi/fantasy geek like me this idea that kings are by nature healers will come as no surprise to you. Just read some of the medieval legends or the Arthurian tales and you will repeatedly encounter the theme that the health of the people and the land depends on the king. If the king is wounded or not serving the land as needed, his country becomes a wasteland that can only be healed by the king choosing the right path.

I think the story of king as healer is probably most well known as it is presented in the Lord of the Rings through the tale of Elessar. It’s a story that I found so meaningful that I actually gave my son the middle name Elessar (I did mention that I am a huge fantasy geek, right?). If you don’t remember the story, in Middle Earth during the period the books describe there was no king of men and the land around Gondor had become a wasteland. Aragorn was the rightful heir to that throne and the tale is in part about the return of the king to heal the land. Interestingly, all throughout the stories we see Aragorn healing others. He has knowledge of herbs for healing, and constantly presses people to restore the use of the lost healing herb (the aptly named) Kingsfoil. It is in fact his use of this herb in the houses of healing that allows the old and the wise people of the land to recognize that the king has in fact returned. It is simply part of his nature to heal. To that end the elves in the world gave him the name Elessar, which is also the name he uses once he becomes King. The term elessar actually refers to a green jewel (in a ring of course) that contained the light of the sun. Anyone who looked through the stone would see things that were withered or burned healed again, and anyone who wore it would bring healing to whatever they touched. The person who had the right to wear the stone is also referred to as the elessar – in other words, a healer. But the idea behind this type of healer is not just one who can heal physical wounds, but one who can look at any person or situation and see the good underneath. The healing occurs by the elessar being able to see things as they should be (not as they are) and bring forth that inherent good in people and in the world. I personally loved that concept and so gave my son that name, praying that he could be (to use another Lord of the Rings quote) one of those people who see that “there’s good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.”

But this concept of the king as the one who heals the world has its roots in the biblical conception of King. The world is not as it should be and it is to the king that one should look to make things right. In the tales of David we often hear of him presented as one who has the ability to heal troubled situations and calm tormented hearts. As a young man he was the one called into play the lyre for King Saul whenever Saul was troubled – David’s presence and song would bring healing.

It was this memory of a good king being one who can heal that prompted people when they encountered Jesus to refer to his position as an heir of David when they came to him for healing. For instance, once when Jesus was leaving Jericho two blind men shouted out to him “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David” and Jesus healed them. Or when the Canaanite woman approached Jesus to beg him to deliver her daughter from a demon she too asked “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.” The people knew that to be a king in the royal line of David was to be a healer.

The passage in Jeremiah today states, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jesus was the ideal king that David served as prototype for. I think though we can often get bogged down in trying to understand our idea of a king as one who rules and dominates alongside our other conceptions of Jesus as one who brings love and justice. For me though it is in remembering that to be a king is to be a healer that helps reconcile the two. For what our hurting world needs now is not fear and dominion, but healing. When people in Haiti are still living in tent cities amidst the rubble of the earthquake, being flooded by recent storms, starving because they have no food, and falling ill to cholera – there is serious healing that needs to be done.

To celebrate the reign of Christ means to embrace the mission of Christ our King to heal the world. It means not being afraid to put an end to injustice no matter how uncomfortable or counter-cultural it may feel. It means letting Christ reign in our hearts in ways that push us out beyond ourselves into the place where we are full of compassion for others. It means ensuring that the world around us is not a wasteland plagued with the horrors of sex trafficking, or child labor, or abusive sweatshops, or environmental degradation. It means joining in on this work of healing – of recognizing that there is some good in this world and it is worth fighting for.

It means being like the people at International Justice Mission who not only rescue women and children out of slavery and bonded labor, but who work to help them build new lives. They heal the whole person. It means being like the groups that instead of seeing immigration as a divisive wedge, see it as an opportunity to help people by eliminating the need for people to flee to another country so that they can help their family survive. So they start fair trade companies that treat people with dignity and respect and allow them to live with their families farming their own lands. They heal the root causes not just the symptoms. It means responding to places in this world where fear and extremism have taken hold, not with more fear and extremism, but with offers of healing. With microloans that help people provide for their families and schools for children so that people will no longer have to turn to just the extremist for the basic necessities of life. We can choose to heal a culture instead of destroy it. We can join in with the work of the king who executes justice in the land through these healing acts.

Christ the King is a healer. To be part of his kingdom where all things are being reconciled through him is an invitation to join in on this work of healing the world. So as we acknowledge the reign of Christ today, I encourage you to reflect on what it means to serve not a king who dominates or conquers, but a king whose heart yearns for the healing of the land and who desires us as faithful subjects of his kingdom to join in on that mission. For in acknowledging the reign of Christ our healer we can help justice flow out to all.


2 Responses leave one →
  1. December 10, 2015

    SleepyKing’s little aniamls are adorable. She has had such great success in a litte amount of time~ working very hard and it shows. Good for her!

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