Plymouth United Church of Christ

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“Jesus is Lord, So We Are Not” Sermon, Year B, Christ the King Sunday, November 25, 2012
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Rev 1 and John 18

This is Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday, ro Realm of God Sunday, whatever one wants to call it but historically it has been Christ the King. But we don’t have kings any more, so there has been playing around with some other words instead of king. But, no matter what we call it, we can give thanks for one thing. Many things, really, but one thing in particular we can give thanks for. And that is that Jesus is Lord, and the one in charge, therefore, by the grace of God, we are not.

We don’t have to pretend that we are in charge, we don’t have to think that we ought to pretend that we are in charge. We are free from having to take on responsibility for the entire world. We are free from pretending that we have more power than we do. We are free from thinking that anyone else has ultimate power over us. And that makes life a lot easier. Saving the world is not up to say.

Which is not to say that we are powerless. We are not powerless. And this doesn’t mean that we are retired of our obligations to our neighbors and to the world. But we aren’t responsible for everything. We don’t have to carry the burden of everything. We are responsible to be the best citizens of God’s realm that we can be.

Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is king, or whatever language you want to use. Jesus is sovereign. Not you. Not me. Not the president or the governor or the leader of any nation or state, or the leader of a corporation, or a non-profit helping organization. Not the terrorists. Not the military. Not those who abuse, not those who are violent. Not the religious leaders. Jesus.

And Jesus only is Lord. The early Christians were executed for saying that. Numerous Caesars did not like the competition with Christians calling Jesus “The Lord” because that was Caesar’s title. Only Caesar could be the Lord, or the Son of God.

And so breathe easy. Take a deep breath, a little sigh of relief, that none of us in charge. None of are Atlases with the world on our backs. We’re not that powerful. And frankly, we’re not that important that we have to carry the burden of all the world. Certainly not that important on a world scale, or the realm of human history. But we are important, and we are powerful, where we are. In our community. In this realm. This gathered community here, this city of Eau Claire, amongst our neighbors we are important and powerful. There is much that we can do. But Jesus is still sovereign. The one at the top.

Some of you were at the Thanksgiving Eve service, and heard this already, but Dave Stratton preached and in his sermon he preached about prayer. Talked a little of the time about prayer, as he read a letter from Paul in which he said “pray for everyone”. Pray for everyone. And Dave, the preacher, preached against doing a trite kind of prayer that says “God, we pray for everyone”, or “God, I pray for everyone.”. It’s too generic, too easy. Dave suggested, and I think it’s a great suggesting, that we pray with gratitude as though God actually loves all of creation. And as he said that, my head spun out some other thoughts from that.

And I have to say, it’s so nice to hear other people preach. I joke sometimes that by the time Sunday comes around, I usually know what the preacher’s going to say. Sometimes I get surprised. The Holy Spirit moves me to say something that I hadn’t written down. But a lot of times I’ve heard the sermon a few times already. It is nice to hear others preach. I listen to podcasts of sermons, and those are fine, but it’s just not the same as listening live in the midst of a community that is listening to it.

And so as Dave was preaching, a thought came to me, since I was thinking this was Chirst the King Sunday coming up and that was on my mind. So Dave said we should pray with the gratitude that God actually loves all of creation. And I thought we could add to that, “And pray in a way that honors God’s sovereignty. Pray in a way that honors that God is in charge, not me and not someone else. Pray in a way that honors God’s sovereignty.” Pray for everyone, as Paul said to do, but do that specifically. Pray for individuals specifically. But also pray for your enemies.
Pray for your enemies. Jesus said that. Pray for them in a way that recognizes that God loves them just as much as God loves you, and that they are citizens of God’s realm just as much as you are. Citizens of God’s realm.

Or another way of thinking about this, is how Walt Breuggemann, an Old Testament scholar, has suggested to think about, is to think about it not as God’s kingdom, since we don’t have kings or emperors any more and these words don’t have a lot of meaning, he suggests we think of it as God’s dream. God’s dream for the world that God dreams about. The world that God wants. And so offer a dreamy prayer for those that you don’t get along so well with, or that you don’t care for, or that make your life difficult at times. A dreamy prayer. Not a prayer that they finally see the log in their eye and realize what a jackwagon they are. Or a prayer that “They” realize they need to be more civilized, or more moral, or other ambiguous loaded kinds of words.

Truth is, we all fall short, and they can pray the same stuff about us.

But what if we recognized God’s sovereignty by praying as though God loves them, too. Because God does. Pray for blessings of abundance for those that you despise, or fear, or don’t get along with, or that make your life rougher, whether neighbors or people you work with or other nations. Whoever it is that is causing you stress or anxiety in your life. Pray like this: “You know, God, who these people are is out of my hands. The only power I have is the power to decide how I will react. I would love it if we could figure out how to get along. But until then, help us both learn to be better citizens of your realm. And heap blessings on them. May their family love them, may their friends be abundant, may they never know sickness, grief or pain, and help me, God, to react more positively to them.”

Imagine that kind of prayer. A prayer that God’s dream be a part of their lives as much as it is of ours. Much better way to pray than that God make them better people, or be more like me. “If they were just more like me, God, the world would be a better place.”

And also to pray for our leaders. Leaders of our community, of our church, the leaders of our state and nations. For God is sovereign over all of them as well. Some of them wield incredible power on an earthly scale, but none have God’s power. None wield the kind of power that God wields. God is sovereign over them as well. There are some church traditions, especially Episcopalians and Catholics, that pray for political leaders as part of their Sunday worship prayer liturgies. I remember the first time I went to an Episcopal church and noticed this when I was in seminary. They prayed for the president, and the mayor, and the governor, and I thought, “Wow, how daring!” Because I’m thinking, “Is that a tacit approval of everything they are doing?” But then I realized that they always pray, whoever is in power. I have done that occasionally, but I wonder if it is time to do it more, to remind us that whoever we are in the power structure, we are still not an ultimate power. And that we all need God help. To pray for wisdom in our leaders and pray that they hear and remember and that their hearts and are moved by groans of the poor, week, and lonely; that they remember and hear, and that their hearts are moved by all the people, all the people, whose care has been entrusted to them. Because Jesus is Lord.

And Jesus is the chief dreamer. It’s Jesus’ dream that we live in and are living into. And because Jesus is what Jesus is, we can remember that our leaders are part of our community, imperfect as they are. And we can remember that our fellow citizens are part of our community, imperfect as they are. And we can remember that wherever our national loyalties lie, we are all citizens of God’s dream. ALL citizens of God’s dream.


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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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