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Today You Are Loved (Nov 24, 2019)

Luke 23:33-43

“You’re not quite good enough.”

That was the earliest message I can remember receiving.

“That was a dumb thing to do, Robbie, I wonder if you’re just not smart enough.” “You get good grades, but look at your friend Allen. His are better. I guess he just works harder.” “You practice your music, apparently not quite enough, though. Otherwise you’d be first chair all the time.”

As I grew up, that message became for me more than not being able to do enough. It became a belief that as a human being, I wasn’t good enough. It moved from a lack in what I did to a lack in who I am. That message formed a foundation of my whole identity. Not being good enough is a demon I’ve wrestled with my whole life. Striving to be seen as good enough has been a lifelong endeavor.

That’s mine. But I think everyone has some way they fall short, aren’t enough, are a failure. Most everyone has some experience of shame that’s part of their personal story, some part of their lives where they feel unworthy or disgraced.

What makes it so difficult is that everyone has been judged for it. And found lacking.

So what we tend to do is cover up those inadequacies, keep them secret. We avoid situations where they might be exposed. Sometimes we even pretend to ourselves that they aren’t even there. But they always show up. Our shortcomings find a way to sneak out and reveal themselves. Which prompts us to work even harder at covering them up. Which means that when they show up again, we feel even more like a failure.

On Christ the King Sunday, we’re reminded that we are constantly on the lookout for a king who doesn’t live with that kind of shame. One who doesn’t fail, who doesn’t have those shortcomings. One who really is good enough. And then, when we find that king, we commit to following that king—hoping that maybe we, too, can have our shortcomings, our failures, our incompetancies removed. Then we can be seen, finally, as good enough.

That’s the king we want. Someone who can overcome our failures. One who will finally make us “good enough.” That’s the king we hope for.

But it’s not the king we get.

The king we get is a shameful, powerless, weak, inglorious loser. That’s what crucifixion makes public. The king we get was betrayed, arrested, put on trial, beaten, humiliated, mocked. Finally, and publicly, the king we get was nailed to a cross in the most shameful form of death that Rome could think up. Crucifixion was more than capital punishment, it was a public display of shame. According to the standards of this world, this king didn’t measure up.

The crowds knew it; that’s why they just stood by and watched.

The leaders knew it; that’s why they scoffed at this king who couldn’t even save himself.

The soldiers knew it; that’s why they mocked him and stole his clothing.

One of the criminals being executed with Jesus knew it; that’s why he derided him as a false messiah who couldn’t save anyone, much less him.

Rather than a king who fixes all our weaknesses, we get one who shows up with even more.

“But,” we say, because we’re still looking for the king we prefer, “Jesus was innocent. He didn’t do anything wrong. Therefore, he can still fix all our shortcomings.”

But that’s not what this king is about. This king doesn’t make us worthwhile by making us good enough. The reign of this king has nothing to do with somehow becoming good enough or successful enough or likable enough or holy enough. No, the reign of this king goes a completely different direction. It starts in a completely different place.

What kind of a king do we really have? Not one who has come to make the world see us as good enough, but one for whom the only thing that matters is love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. Which this king doles out indiscriminately, constantly, unconditionally. Whether the world around us thinks we’re good enough or not doesn’t even come into the picture in the reign of this king.

Now, overcoming shame is a good thing. Learning from our failures and growing into more competent human beings is great. There is nothing wrong with being recognized by our world as good enough. But whenever we talk about overcoming our inadequacies as the goal—the purpose—of a king, we are measuring that king’s reign by the standards of this world. It doesn’t work. Look at Jesus. The prime example. He and his kingdom were measured by Rome’s standards, and fell quite short. He didn’t overcome those who killed him, he forgave them, for, as he said, “they do not know what they are doing.” He didn’t condemn the criminal being executed next to him, but promised that “today you’ll be with me in Paradise.”

What kind of a king do we really have? Not one who has come to make the world see us as good enough, but one for whom the only thing that matters is love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion.

The funny thing is, the love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion that define this king and his reign are the very things that assure us we already are good enough. Not because we’ve overcome so many inadequacies, but simply because we are loved by this king. And you are loved by this king. Christ the King. Which means that no matter what the world around you says, you are, right now, more than good enough. You are loved by Christ the King.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2019 in Sermon

 

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You are Welcomed, Valued, and Respected in the Kingdom of God (though your politics may not be)–Nov. 20, 2016

Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When we think of a king, it’s usually about power. Which is a little different perspective than what we’re talking about on Christ the King Sunday.

Christ the King has Power, that power is used to help those who have no power: those on the edges, the homeless, those on the fringes of society.

Christ the King has might, that might is used in showing mercy to the least: those who live in the shadows, in fear, believe government is not for them.

Christ the King has Strength, that strength is used to love those who are different or who disagree with him.

Christ the King—who, while being mocked, ridiculed, scoffed at, yet revealed the reign of God in the forgiveness of those who crucified him. Who, while sarcastically being made fun of as one who cannot even save himself, was in actuality saving the world. Who, when asked merely to be remembered by a criminal, gave him paradise instead.

This is how Christ is King.

This is the kingdom he has brought to this world. A kingdom of love.

This is the way he rules over us. Ruling in acceptance and mercy.

This is the kingdom he calls us to reveal in the world. A kingdom where those who live in fear are recognized and held.

You may have noticed, but we are a divided country. We have known it for a long time but haven’t done much about it. We’ve seen it happening, but have ignored it or gone along with it or even pretended it wasn’t as bad as we thought. But it is. We’ve lived it among ourselves in various ways too—drawing lines that divide us into us-and-them groups. Though we’ve been divided for our entire history, reported incidents revealing that division have increased drastically in the past year.

As a congregation we embrace Christ as King. We make it a priority to proclaim and be part of this reign in the world. Which means a few things for us in this time of escalated division.

First—all are welcomed, valued, and respected in this place. One of this congregation’s values. Period. End of discussion.

All means all. No matter how you voted, or if you didn’t vote at all, this will be a safe place for you. Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Green, Socialist, non-political, you are welcomed, valued, and respected in this place.

All means all. Which means that married, partnered, single, divorced, widowed, Lutheran, other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, agnostic, atheist, non-religious, you are welcomed, valued, and respected in this place.

All means all. Which means that gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, unsure, you are welcomed, valued, and respected in this place.All means all. That means whatever language you speak, whatever country you or your ancestors came from, whatever documentation you may or may not have, you are welcomed, valued, and respected in this place.

All means all. Because Christ is King and we reveal his kingdom in this world, you are welcomed here, valued here, respected here.

But Christ as our King means something else too. Seeking to proclaim and make real his kingdom in the world also means that although all people are valued here, not all things are held with equal value here. In the kingdom of God hatred is not valued. Exclusion is not valued. Lying, sexism, homophobia, persecution of any religious group, sexual assault, inciting violence, judging those who hold different opinions are not valued in any place where Christ is proclaimed as King.

This isn’t about politics. It’s not sour-grapes about winners and losers in an election. It’s not red vs. blue, not electoral college vs. popular vote. It’s not about patriotism or protests. Nothing that temporary or trivial.

No, this is much more significant than that. This is about who we are as baptized children of God, called by God to be a light in the world.

Christ the King has Power, that power is used to help those who have no power: those on the edges, the homeless, those on the fringes of society.

Christ the King has might, that might is used in showing mercy to the least: those who live in the shadows, in fear, believe government is not for them.

Christ the King has Strength, that strength is used to love those who are different or who disagree with him.

Christ the King—who, while being mocked, ridiculed, scoffed at, yet revealed the reign of God in the forgiveness of those who crucified him. Who, while sarcastically being made fun of as one who cannot even save himself, was in actuality saving the world. Who, when asked merely to be remembered by a criminal, gave him paradise instead.

This is how Christ is King.

This is the kingdom he has brought to this world. A kingdom of love.

This is the way he rules over us. Ruling in acceptance and mercy.

This is the kingdom he calls us to reveal in the world. A kingdom where those who live in fear are recognized and held.

Know that you are welcomed, valued, and respected in this place. But some of the things our country revealed and supported in this election are not.

Check your politics at the door. Because in this place, among us, Christ is the King. And his kingdom of forgiveness and love will be proclaimed among us and by us. His kingdom of compassion and mercy will be revealed through us in this divided country.

Christ is the king. And thanks be to God for that.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in Sermon

 

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