Christ the King
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Colossians 1:13-20 Sermon
November 25, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
426 "All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name"
434 "Beautiful Saviour"
--- "Lift High The Cross"
431 "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
WHO IS OUR KING?
TEXT: (vs. 18-20) “And [Jesus Christ] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Do you like being bullied? Do you like it when other people push you around? Do you like being ridiculed for who and what you are? Do you like it when other people always insist on having their own way? Do you like being strong-armed to the point where you feel almost helpless?
I know I don’t, and I’m almost sure that you don’t either. But yet our society is full of bullies, and we get bullied all the time in one way or another.
I think it is especially difficult for Christians in the secular world. Time and time again, Christians have stepped aside either voluntarily or by force to allow those with a conflicting agenda to take the lead. Where Christian morals and virtues were the norm a couple generations ago, they seem almost foreign by today’s standards.
A good example would be the pro-life movement of today, which protests the current right of abortion on demand in the United States. It has been reported that if the American people were to decide this issue at the ballot box, abortion on demand would be soundly defeated.
When people take a stand against abortion, one of the most heard criticisms is, “You’re preaching religion to me! You’re trying to push your religion down my throat!”
Of course abortion goes against what God has said in the Bible. However people often forget that abortion also goes against the United States Constitution, which guarantees the right to life, hence the reason the anti-abortion movement is also called “right to life.” The pro-choice people would rather give Christianity the black eye.
As we are approaching Christmas, we are reminded how much bullying actually goes on. The phrase “Merry Christmas” is now politically incorrect because it might offend someone who isn’t Christian. Children in the public schools can’t have Christmas oriented activities any more. Even their time off school during Christmas isn’t the Christmas break anymore; it is called the “winter holiday.”
It seems that the ACLU takes great pride in bullying Christians and Christianity at every turn. They openly try to remove any reference to it from all aspects of the public sector. However if you were to suggest that they shouldn’t get Christmas as a paid holiday, or if they are working on Christmas and they don’t get their “time and a half,” then you would really hear them scream. But it stands to reason, that if they don’t believe in Christ or Christmas, why should they get any special consideration for it?
It has been said that Christian churches outnumber the non-Christian assemblies about 200 to 1 in the phone book. Others have reported that roughly 85% of the American population claim Christianity as their religion. Someone pointed out that if this is the case, and if the majority rules in America, why don’t the 85% tell the other 15% to simply sit down and shut up?
But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, we find more and more people buying into this “politically correct” mindset of secular society. This translates into the majority being bullied by the few. The 15% are telling the 85% to sit down and shut up; and sad to say, it’s working.
Today on the Church calendar is the Sunday which has come to be known as “Christ the King” Sunday, which is the final Sunday in the Church year. It might interest you to know why this is. It isn’t one of the ancient festivals either; in fact it is less than a hundred years old. So allow me to share a bit of history with you.
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, a feast established by Pope Pius XI in an edict dated December 11, 1925, because the people of the day had “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” and “these had no place in public affairs or in politics.” The pope went on to claim “that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.” This critique of the situation of the world could have been written today, over 80 years later. One has to wonder how believing people could have failed so miserably to make a change in the world. Have we really accepted Christ as our king?
Pope Pius XI introduced this festival in 1925 to emphasize the supreme authority of Christ and his church over against what he perceived to be the increasing atheism and secularization of society. The reason this day was introduced in the first place is what we see so much of today. A handful of bullies are trying to eliminate the influence of Christianity from the secular world.
Our text for today is the opening verses from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colossae, which is a city in what is now southwest Turkey. Colossae had a very brisk economy, and was a center for trade and commerce, especially in the area of wool and textiles. Even though the area had a significant Jewish population, the Christians to whom Paul was writing were largely from a Gentile background.
In this epistle, Paul focuses his attention on what God had accomplished through Jesus Christ. Jesus was indeed true God, the creator of all things, and was to be worshipped as such. Jesus was the king over all things, with full divine authority and sovereignty. Therefore the people’s allegiance needed to be devoted to Jesus Christ, the King of creation.
But like it happens so much, the people’s loyalty had been divided. False teaching had crept in, and numerous deities were being acknowledged. Plus secular society also had its influence among the people. So they needed to be reminded exactly what God had done for them. In verses 13 and 14 we read: “For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
No other deity could make that claim. No other god devised by man had ever been known to condescend to the people on earth to save them and give them forgiveness of sins. This is something uniquely characteristic of the one true God, who accomplished this through Jesus Christ.
Secular society of course had its influence on these people. Those having a Gentile background could possibly be more easily swayed to return to the culture and practices they had previously followed. God’s ways and practices could be seen as being unpopular amongst the general population. Society had its share of bullies back then as well.
In our society today, some of the bullies are easy to spot. However Satan likes to work in more subtle ways amongst us. Just this past Wednesday at our Thanksgiving service, I lamented how society has misplaced our loyalty and redirected our thoughts on religious holidays. Christ certainly isn’t regarded as our king when wrapping presents replaces the Christ child at Christmas. Christ certainly isn’t regarded as our king when Cadbury chocolate eggs and marshmallow peeps replace the risen Christ and the empty tomb. And most definitely Christ’s place in our lives has been usurped when a huge meal becomes our focal point on Thanksgiving, instead of returning to God’s house to give him thanks as he has asked us to do. We have so often allowed those various bullies in our lives to dethrone Christ from his rightful place as our king.
I’ve heard criticisms leveled from other Christians who will point the finger and say, “Well, you have Jesus Christ as your Saviour, but not your Lord.” That criticism might sound puzzling at first, but what it means is that people will often profess the faith, but then aren’t willing to follow. They want all the benefits, but none of the responsibilities. They don’t want a leader; they just want someone to pick up the pieces.
Might this describe the likes of you and me? Have we allowed those various and sundry bullies in society and within our very selves to take control and usurp Christ as our king? Do we heed voices that are contrary to God’s will when we make decisions in our lives?
Sad to say, that describes us all. This brings us right back to the first commandment which says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Luther further explains this by saying, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” And this is a commandment that is so often and easily broken.
When we see our sinful selves, then we need to pay special attention to our text for today. Verses 13-14 say, “For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” And then verses 19-20 go on to say, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Christ Jesus our Lord and King took all of our sins upon himself and carried them to the cross. Even all those times that we have allowed other people and other things to usurp his rightful place in our lives, he took away that sin as well. He has taken away each and every sin, and it is completely removed from our record. Through faith alone, all of what Christ has done becomes ours.
As Paul writes to the Colossians, so he writes to us as well. He focuses upon what God has done for us through Christ Jesus. He wants us to never forget what Jesus did to take away our sins, and how he needs to have that rightful place as king in our lives.
Back on December 11, 1925 when Pope Pius XI issued his edict establishing this Christ the King festival, he did so because he felt the people of the day had “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives.” This concerned him, and he had good reason for his concern.
As Lutherans, papal decrees since the Reformation haven’t concerned us all that much. In fact, some Lutherans have felt this Christ the King festival to be unnecessary, since Christ’s kingship is also emphasized on such occasions as Transfiguration, Palm Sunday, and Ascension Day.
I tend to differ with this opinion; in fact I think it is well in place, and I could care less as to whose idea it was in the first place. It sits squarely between two holidays, viz. Thanksgiving and Christmas, in which the bullies of society have sought to rip Christ from his kingship in people’s lives, and replace him with some flimsy and unimportant things.
In our lives, we’ll always be contending with those who try to bully us for being Christians with Christian principles and values. There will always be those who will try to usurp our king from his throne.
When this happens, may we all the more firmly establish Christ’s reign in our hearts, and as the hymn writer says, “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, ‘till all the world adore his sacred Name.”