Sermon for November 25, 2018

FIRST READING John 18:37

33. Then Pilate entered the praetorium again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34. Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35. Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37. Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

 38. Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

 

 

GOSPEL READING Revelation 1:1-8

1. The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

3. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

4. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom—priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.

8. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

We just got over Thanksgiving and I suspect one of the things that we rarely give thanks for is OUR KING.  A King who gently leads us.  Frankly, Thanksgiving never meant much to me until I was older.  Then what I was most thankful for was the time off of work. As a child my family rarely went overboard on Thanksgiving. I vaguely remember once our extended family got together. But we did eat more formally and had a larger meal during my growing years.

I don’t even remember what it was like when I was a father and my kids were growing. I do remember we rarely had turkey, but I always baked a chicken, had mashed potatoes, corn and I probably baked a cake or bought a pumpkin pie.  I truly don’t remember; life was kind of a blur in those days.

What I do recall was that life was hard in my early adult years and, as a result, I didn’t realize how much I truly had to be thankful for.

Now that I’m old I do.  I didn’t realize when I was younger that those hard times were gifts. Now I am so grateful for not having had an easy life. Nothing prepared me for ministry more than those early years—years that I had to come to grips with and overcome—and do it with God while—at the same time—getting to know God.

Today I am extremely grateful for every trial and tribulation, as well as every blessing I ever received—some of which I didn’t recognize as blessings at the time. I hope you are too.  When my children were growing I never thought of them as gifts or blessings, but now I do. Children who, like you and I, must walk their own path, suffer their own trials, bear their own frustrations and hurts, and in so doing, become both morally stronger and wiser and hopefully, closer to God. My friend Charley used to bemoan the fact that our children can’t learn from our mistakes. But they can’t. Each person starts their own walk from scratch.

As I said last week, but with different words, life is designed so everyone has to come to grips with some types of downers—unrequited love, loss of jobs, debts, bankruptcy, health issues, death of loved ones, etc. Both the tribulations and the blessings are limitless in nature and we have been granted the opportunity to experience them all.

Our King has also given us the freedom and intelligence to exercise our own freewill judgment. What a precious gift it is to be granted the opportunity to make our own decisions and choices—and to do so without any autocratic interference.

I remember hearing once, “The government that governs least, governs best.” If that is true—and I certainly believe it is—then there is no better Kingdom than the Kingdom of Heaven, because we are allowed to do whatever it is we wish, and without any apparent interference. We can be self-centered, arrogant and greedy without any chastising. Or, we can be caring, kind and loving without any apparent reward.

In many people’s minds it doesn’t seem fair that the wicked are allowed the same freedoms that the saints are. One thing’s for sure, if every time someone did something bad or wrong there was a bolt of lightning followed by a large thunder clap as they were knocked to the ground, there would certainly be a lot more people in church on Sunday mornings. But they wouldn’t be there for the right reason…they would be there because they’re afraid not to.

But God, our King, has never operated that way because He is not an autocratic despot. Instead He is a servant and, if you really read the Gospels you learn that everything He taught was how to serve and be of service. When we don’t follow, He just lets us go our merry way all alone, doing whatever we want, and without any interference. And we can keep doing it until our world literally falls apart—as it’s doing now.  Our King came and taught, but it’s up to us to follow and to do so because we want to. And the reason we want to is because we care.

When we begin to live in accordance with the Gospels, we begin living in harmony—Harmony with God and His creation, including with the people of our world.

I’m a fan of the Tony Hillerman books about the Navajo police. He includes an awful lot of Indian lore—mostly Navajo. From Hillerman I’ve learned the Navajo word, hozho. It is loosely translated as peace, balance, beauty and harmony. I like this word because, to be “in Hozho,” is to be at one with and a part of the world around you. We cannot do that unless the Holy Spirit is in us and a part of all we are and do. And that doesn’t happen if we’re not in harmony with our neighbor, our world and our God.

Once we reach that state our lives change and we sometimes get this insane desire to do something that makes our world better. 

That’s what happened to David Timothy in 2003.  He lived comfortably as a pension consultant, but felt that something was missing.  He said that, everything in his life was pretty much focused on himself, that he was not helping fellow man. He wasn’t happy.

And then he heard the words of Jesus, “Feed my sheep”—and they struck a resonant chord, for it seems he’d been raised by a very poor single mom in Detroit and knew what it was like to be hungry.  He said, “A lot of nights, dinner was two pieces of white bread and butter, with sugar sprinkled on it.” And when we had cereal, it was with water poured on it. To this day, I still eat my cereal with water.”

 He said the problem was also fear—the fear of never knowing WHERE, WHEN, or even IF there would be a next meal.

So, taking Jesus seriously, he bought an old van that he called the SoupMobile.  He solicited restaurants and grocery stores for food donations—and began recruiting volunteers.  They took meals to the homeless, wherever they found them—on the streets—under bridges—wherever.

Today Timothy and his band of volunteers are still at it.  Several years ago, they celebrated serving their millionth meal and are now serving a quarter million meals a year.

A homeless man made this comment about Timothy.  He said:  “He don’t have to come out here, but he come out here because he got God in him.  He’s a good spiritual man.”

Yes, we have the free will to do as we please, but we’ve been taught how to live by the King of kings—an absent King who said He will return, for as we read this morning…

7. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.

8. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

We can live anyway we want, but Jesus will have the last say, for He is the King; a king whom we follow of our own free will because we want to.

Let us all rejoice and give thanks.

Amen.