Tuesday, 11 December 2018

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Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

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King and Kingdom Talk For Jesus Followers

November 25, 2018

KING AND KINGDOM TALK FOR JESUS FOLLOWERS

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Arkansas

November 25, 2018 (Christ the King Sunday)

 

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14


9 As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
   and an Ancient One* took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
   and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
   and its wheels were burning fire. 
10 A stream of fire issued
   and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousand served him,
   and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgement,
   and the books were opened. 

13As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being*
   coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One*
   and was presented before him. 
14 To him was given dominion
   and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
   should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
   that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
   that shall never be destroyed.


Revelation 1:4b-8

 

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, 5and 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, 6and made* us to be a kingdom, priests serving* his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever 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. 

Most High God, majestic and almighty,
our beginning and our end:
rule in our hearts
and guide us to be faithful in our daily actions,
worshiping the one who comes
as Savior and Sovereign,
and who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

The last Lord’s Day before the start of Advent is observed by many followers of Jesus as Christ the King Sunday.  Perhaps you noticed the play on words when I said “Lord’s Day” and “Christ the King.”    Let us meditate about the meaning of “king” and “kingdom” today.

 

 

The word “lord” identifies someone as a ruler, master, or sovereign.  The word “king” refers to a man who is the supreme ruler of an independent country by right of succession to the throne, while “queen” refers to a woman who holds and exercises that authority.  Followers of Jesus refer to Sunday as “the Lord’s day.”  Sometimes people refer to a church or cathedral as “the Lord’s house.”  

 

We do not often hear the words “lord” and “king” used in this society – or even in many other places around the world.  I suspect that may be a by-product of democracy, government by the masses rather than by a monarch.  

 

However, the world of the Bible is largely the world of monarchy.  Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. has said that the entire Bible canon was written in the shadow of the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires.  

 

The Bible is literature imagined, recorded, and written about life and living in the face of empire.  From Genesis to Revelation, the people we read about in the Bible and had to contend with human rulers who claimed supreme authority over life, relationships, and interactions.  A person who claimed to be “lord” or “king” claimed to be the source of all privileges and rights held and enjoyed by others in the realm – meaning the empire - that person ruled.  

  

So, Genesis can be understood as accounts about human efforts to achieve notions of empire.  The Garden story about Adam and Eve reveals how humans claim the power of empire even when confronted with the fact that our very existence comes from God, not ourselves. The Cain and Abel story and later lessons in Genesis show how personal claims of empire can harm family and other social relationships.  Beginning at Exodus with the Egyptian Empire, we read how claims of national empire can work to oppress immigrants, women, children, needy persons, ethnic and racial minority groups, and workers.  

 

In the New Testament Gospels, we read how Jesus tried to teach his followers about the dangers of lusting for empire, and we read how agents of religious empire conspired and colluded with agents of commercial and national empire to oppose and eventually lynch Jesus.  Acts and the rest of the New Testament provide insights about how early followers of Jesus responded to persecution from agents of religious empire, and how followers of Jesus wrestled among themselves with the temptation to create silos of empire within the community of Jesus.  

 

The book of Daniel contains stories and visions by a Jewish exile who pondered the meaning of life, faith, and justice in the Babylonian and Persian Empires.  The book of Revelation contains messages and visions by a Palestinian Jewish follower of Jesus named John who was exiled on Patmos (a small island in the Aegean Sea about 55 miles southwest of Ephesus) during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE).  

 

Although Daniel and John lived under different political and social conditions and situations shaped by the political empires of their times and locations, their message runs throughout the Bible:  no matter where human rulers are or what empires they claim to rule, all human rulers are inferior to God!.  

So at Daniel 7:13-14 we read:   

 

13As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being*
   coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One*
   and was presented before him. 
14 To him was given dominion
   and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
   should serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion
   that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
   that shall never be destroyed. (Italics added)

 

And at Revelation 1:4b-6 we read:

 

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, 5and 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, 6and made* us to be a kingdom, priests serving* his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Italics added)
  

The message we read about in these passages – and which runs throughout the Bible – is that the claims of empire that humans make, quarrel about, and lord over are inferior to God, described by Daniel as “the Ancient One," and inferior to the one who received from “the Ancient One” dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.  

   

Likewise, at Revelation 1, John declared blessings of “grace” 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.  

 

Daniel was exiled under Babylonian and Persian kings who claimed they held supreme authority.  John was exiled when a Roman emperor claimed he held supreme authority, so much so that the Romans would say “Caesar is Lord.”  But Daniel and John knew better.  

 

Despite the trials of their respective situations, Daniel and John knew that rulers in Babylon and Rome did not rule over the kingdoms of their souls.  Their soulful allegiance belonged to God!  John said it best when he described Jesus Christ as “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”  I often heard my childhood elders say that in Jesus, God rules and “super-rules.” 

 

Well, what does this have to do with you and me in the 21st Century on the final Sunday (Lord’s Day) of this church year?  What does this talk about kings and kingdoms, rulers and empires have to do with us?  What does the “ruler of the kings of the earth” have to do with us, expect from us, deserve from us, and promise us?

 

Every person is part of God’s kingdom.  Every nation is part of God’s kingdom.  Every culture operates within God’s kingdom.  No other kingdom has lasted longer.  No other kingdom will last longer.      

 

There is a fundamental difference between the kingdom of God and human kingdoms.  Human kingdoms focus on creating, building, and protecting empire.  God’s kingdom focuses on creating, building, and protecting community. 

 

Human kingdoms seek to create empire through conquest.  God’s kingdom is created through sacrificial love.  Human kingdoms and the competition among and within them produce chaos.  God’s kingdom and the spirit are defined by “kinship.”  God’s King – Jesus Christ – kin to God, and kin to us because Jesus Christ is God’s Servant.  

 

Our “kinship” to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and to one another in the kingdom of God is based servanthood, not domination.  Jesus is Lord (King) because Jesus is Chief Servant to God, and Chief Servant from God to the world.  

 

We are loyal to God’s “kingdom” when we embrace one another in the spirit and example of “kinship” as servants in God’s community under the lordship of Jesus.  This requires us to refuse the temptation to become competitors for the perks and trinkets passed out by human despots and tyrants of empire.  In the kingdom of God, we are not conquered into kinship and the kingdom.  We are loved into kinship and the kingdom.  

 

Finally, consider what the reality of God’s kingdom, Jesus Christ as our king, and our living in “kinship” with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the rest of creation mean for our living as followers of Jesus.  Should it not cause us to question every notion of human empire?  

 

Should we not, as followers of the One who came from God to expose the idolatries of personal, social, cultural, commercial, political, national, and religious empire, be prophetic agents of the sacrificial love and servanthood of Jesus?  

 

Should we not, as followers of Jesus, challenge people who have been blessed with comforts, privileges, and opportunities to live as kinfolk to others who are needy, suffering, and vulnerable?  

 

Should we not, as followers of Jesus, challenge how people use power as weapons, rather than as ways to serve others?  

 

Should we not, as followers of King Jesus, be living as active servants?  

 

These questions are not only fitting for us to ponder today – Christ the King Sunday?  They are fitting for us every day.  Every day, we should be following Jesus in the kingdom of “kinship servanthood” for God.  Every day, we should be resisting and challenging the idolatries of empire.  Every day, the world should see us following Jesus, “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” as agents of God’s “grace and peace.”

 

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom [of kinfolk], priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.



©Wendell Griffen, 2018