Thankful for the King
Christ the King; November 25, 2018
"…and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." Pretty strong words about an executed carpenter, don't you think? Still, today is Christ the King, a day to look at that executed carpenter and call him King, to enjoy the absurdity of a holiday coming up that looks at a peasant baby sleeping in a feed trough and calls him King, to read exalted words from Revelation, and to consider again the picture of that carpenter standing in front of the Governor of Judea and to wonder which one of them really has power (John 18:33-37, the Gospel reading for the day).
Thanksgiving Day always falls near Christ the King, either the Thursday before or the Thursday after. That inspires me to stand before you as your Pastor and tell you a few things I'm thankful for this Christ the King.
I am thankful for the children of our Church. I am thankful for their singing this morning, for pictures, for readings, for questions, for answers, for laughter, for tears. I am thankful you come to worship, even though sometimes you are bored – maybe often you are bored – because you are learning something that will be important when you are a grownup. I am thankful for handshakes and hugs and fist-bumps and jokes and songs and scowls and all the things that annoy your parents or make them proud.
I am thankful for parents, who struggle to worship God while also keeping watch over their brood, who deal with difficult questions about God and who are committed to passing on their own faith to their children. I am thankful for parents who think salvation is more important than soccer, who believe Jesus matters more than the gym, and so get their children to church no matter what else is going on.
I am thankful for the leaders of our Church. We have struggled through some difficult times and difficult decisions and your leaders do so faithfully. Serving on the Session and the Board of Deacons and Church committees and the Board of Presbyterian Women can be fun and spiritually nourishing, but it can also be a burden. Your Session met this week, as we do every month at this time, and talked about difficult things and struggled with difficult questions and your leaders do so faithfully and consistently and humbly. I see that attitude and that faithfulness also in Presbyterian Women, in the Board of Deacons, in the many committees and other activities of leadership.
I am thankful for all of you who embrace the absurdity of a king sleeping in a feed trough, of a king enthroned upon a Cross, and who live as though Christ is your King. John the Revelator called Christ the "ruler of the kings of the earth," but there are precious few of them who act as though Christ is their King. But you do. You faithfully participate in the worship of God. You don't like everything we do, but you participate. You aren't always comfortable, but you participate. You have other things you could be doing, but you participate. You participate in worship, you come on Wednesday evenings to have dinner together and to learn something or have fun together; you read the Bible to your children; you pray at dinner time. This crazy season where the whole world lives by the motto, "Buy more stuff!" you try, as best you can, to live by the motto, "Love one another as I have loved you." I am thankful that you have decided that Christ is your King, whether governments go along with him or not, and that your daily activities and your priorities align with that decision.
I am thankful for the Bible and for poetry and for music and for everything that reinforces faith and gives me a vehicle to express my deepest longings. I am thankful for all of you who are moved by the Holy Spirit to find creative and joyful ways to express faith, to make fellowship, to bring joy to people. I am thankful for the Puppet Ministry, for those who gather gloves and caps and mittens for Edison School, for those who provide, package, and distribute goods for the Benson Area Refugee Task Force, who wield a hammer or make lunch for Habitat for Humanity, who sponsor Galloping Gourmet, and for so much else that I'm neglecting to mention. And I'm thankful that you who were not mentioned in this list will forgive me, because you understand that I too am a frail and forgetful human. And I am thankful for everyone who has believed in our future as a Church and have made your financial pledge for 2019, who have contributed to our Capital Campaign, whether your contribution is large or small in the eyes of others, because in the eyes of God amounts matter less than faithfulness.
And I am thankful that Christ is the King. Life constantly presents you and me with the need to choose who or what we are going to follow. Who is my King? My own instincts and desires? The government of my nation? We could list quite a number of competitors for our commitment, couldn't we? So I ask myself, what sort of King inspires me, makes me want to be better than I have been, and brings me into friendship with the people I want to be with?
The King who starts life in a feed trough and who ends it as an executed carpenter, strange enough to say. For two reasons, I think: first, because that King's priorities and that King's orders give life and hope and peace to a world that is bent on self-destruction. You and I know that we can help save that world by turning our own thoughts and decisions and priorities toward Christ the King. The rulers of this world may never do more than pay lip-service to the lordship of Christ, but as long as we are faithful, then Christ the King will triumph. And the second thing is that although his life ended on a Cross, that was not the end: "firstborn of the dead," John called him. His life was renewed, restored, and so God showed us and showed the world that the life of this executed carpenter is the life that saves the world.
I am thankful that Christ is King and that Christ continues to have loving and faithful subjects in his kingdom and I am thankful that many of those subjects gather in this room today.
Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master