sermon: christ the king

November 20, 2016

 

 

Have you ever been out for a walk in the woods or maybe a drive out in the country and you get that uneasy feeling that maybe, just maybe you don’t know where you are?

In other words, you’re lost?

I read this great article in Outside magazine this month about an American tourist who always wanted to visit the volcanoes of Iceland. 

 

He touched down at the Keflavik National Airport , went to the rental car checkout, got a little sedan that was equipped with GPS navigation, punched in the address and set off driving. 

 

Eight hours later, he figured he was lost. The GPS in the car had failed him. 

 

The article describes that this man — his name is Noel Santillan — was trying to drive from the airport to his hotel in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik last February, but he thought the drive should only take an hour. 

 

He was right. Then why did he keep going? 

 

He kept going as the land flattened out, then the mountains erupted around him.

 

He recalls going on highway after highway, following the GPS instructions, as it led him into territories in which there were no more signs written in English. 

 

Then no more signs. 

 

No more houses. 

 

No more gas stations.

 

No more farms…

 

Eventually, the radio stations seemed to talk only in Icelandic.

 

And then the roads became nothing but ice. 

 

Santillan knew he was lost. Very, very lost. 

 

When he finally figured out what had happened, he was 320 kilometers north of where he was supposed to be. 

 

The error was that he spelled the name of his destination incorrectly. 

 

He typed in an extra R in the name of the hotel — Laugavegur —  and the GPS brought him to the tiny fishing village of the name he incorrectly punched in. 

 

It seems that village had the extra R in it, Laurgavegur.

 

 

 

 

 

Get lost

 

Have you been here before?

 

I mean, I sure hope none of you have made an 8-hour, 320 kilometer mistake — most of the male drivers I know who know EVERYTHING would eventually pull over and ask for directions long before that!

 

But have you been lost? Really lost?

 

Like Noel Santillan, we later recall the stories — if we’re still alive to tell them — and in that hindsight, we can so clearly see exactly where it was that we went wrong. 

 

“I think we go that way…”

 

Famous last words.

 

Later, we say, “What was I thinking?”

 

And even following a GPS device, we get that pit-in-our-stomach feeling when the voice on the device tells us to turn left down that dirt road, then a right onto that farm trail, then a left into that forest path… 

 

Why do we keep following that voice? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah 

 

In our Old Testament reading today, we heard the voice of the prophet Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 23.1-6).

 

And like Isaiah, who we heard from last week telling the exiled Israelites that God is going to create a new Jerusalem for them, Jeremiah prophesies that the Israelites will be returning. 

 

He opens by saying that the Israelites have been led astray by the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! (Verse 1). 

 

The shepherds, as God calls them, are the people responsible for the sheep. The sheep are God’s people. So the shepherds are the nation’s leaders. 

 

God is calling out the national leaders for not leading the people as God had commanded. 

 

Remember here, God was the king up until First Kings. The Israelites asked Samuel, who had a direct line to God — as a Judge —  to tell God that they wanted a king of their own. A human king. A king like all of the other successful nations. (1 Kings 8).

 

I’m not preaching First Kings today, but the gist of this is that the Israelites REJECT God for a Human.

 

And they begin to follow this human voice. 

 

And what happens next? Just as God knows they’ll do, they begin to stray. They begin worshipping other gods. They marry outside of Israel and allow new cultures, beliefs and religions to infiltrate their lives. 

 

Because they followed this voice. 

 

In other words, they sin. And in their sinning, the start arguing, then warring, and eventually, there are fights over power, sides are taken, and God’s chosen land is split into two kingdoms — the Southern Kingdom, which is now Judah, and the Northern Kingdom, which is still called Israel. 

 

The Northern Kingdom contains Jerusalem. 

 

All because of the voice they chose to follow. 

 

And these kings got greedy. They burdened the people with taxes and did injustices to them. They preyed on the vulnerable and placed their own interests above the interests of God. 

 

Jeremiah tells us that these shepherds didn’t simply neglect the sheep; they devoured them. 

 

 Where was God’s voice?

 

They traded it for a human king’s voice.

 

And God blames those human kings, or shepherds. 

 

And adds “And I will attend to you for your evil doings…” Verse 3.

 

And he blames the sheep for following the errant shepherds. 

 

But God loves his people, amen?

 

Yes, he surely does. And he tells Jeremiah to deliver this message that not only will the Israelites return home, but God loves them. 

 

AND God loves them so much, that he will appoint a new king over them. A righteous king. 

 

A “Branch, meaning a king, from the bloodline of David. 

 

And, Verse 6, he will be named “The Lord is our righteousness.”

 

 

 

Who are we talking about here? Who is “The Lord is our righteousness?”

 

Jesus Christ, yes. 

 

It’s important that God establishes and maintains this bloodline, because through that bloodline will come the Messiah, Christ Our Lord. 

 

If you want proof, check out Matthew 1 verses 1-16 for the exact genealogy. 

 

And God fiercely protects that bloodline. Because a little more than 500 years later, a baby would be born in a tiny manager in Bethlehem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ the King

 

Beginning next Sunday, we commence the first week of Advent. 

 

We begin the journey back to Bethlehem to remember the amazing gift that’s coming a mere four weeks later.

 

God’s appointed king. 

 

Christ the King! 

 

Christ the King! 

 

What did that mean for the people of Jeremiah’s day? 

 

The return to Israel — a new Jerusalem — was amazing. 

 

That God had not abandoned his people was amazing. 

 

And now, God will deliver a new King. A Messiah. The Christ. 

 

And so the world that Christ was born into, it was one dominated by the Romans. By Herod. The took over Israel, and now the Roman Empire ruled. 

 

And God’s children again were persecuted, taxed, devoured. 

 

The hope in a Messiah kept the Israelites going. 

 

And so when that little baby was born to a peasant, unwed mother and an older man in a lowly manger on the outskirts of a backwoods town, well, the world changed. 

 

The people were changed. 

 

Here was the king. What could be more appropriate than a baby? All that hope. All that potential. 

 

God’s promised fulfilled!

 

 

 

Well, we’ll certainly get there with that journey beginning next Sunday for us. 

 

But here we are today, after having read this prophetic text and seeing how it applied to the Israelites more than 2500 years ago. 

 

But the question is: How does it apply to us? 

 

Well, maybe we can start with this:

 

The world — not just the U.S. — but the world deep-ended over a man by the name of Donald Trump last week. 

 

Leaders are shepherds. 

 

We can call Donald Trump a sort of a king. Or a king-elect.

 

We went through that all last week, so no need to revisit it again here today. 

 

But I’d like to ask, what are kings are we listening to today? Or we can ask, what voices are governing our minds and forcing our actions?

 

Do kings have to be people?

 

I don’t think so. Kings can be ideologies. Beliefs. Even anxieties or fears. 

 

Kings can also be inanimate. They can be objects. 

 

They can be a lifestyle we believe we need to achieve or maintain in order to be worth something. 

 

Those voices — those kings — in television commercials and advertisements dictate to us what to do. 

 

How to dress. Where to shop. What to eat. How to act. What to watch. What car we need. What neighborhood we should live in.

 

There are so many voices competing for our attention today. 

 

There are so many kings who devour us or force us to devour others — if we’re not careful.

 

There are voices that lead us miles and miles and miles away from that original destination that was set out for us out of love and paid for in blood.

 

And we find ourselves so far away that we cannot even recognize the true voice within us telling us, “You, beloved, are going the wrong way.” “You, beloved, are going to be lost.” Beloved, return to me.” 

 

In the chaos of what we believe is the reality, trust your heart. Trust in the Holy Spirit whispering to you. Trust in love, and peace, and hope and righteousness. 

 

In the chaos of all that surrounds us — just as the Israelites found themselves so, so far away from their homes — trust in the Messiah. 

 

This is the true King. 

 

This is Christ the King. 

 

This is who we turn to. 

 

This is who we should never turn away from. 

 

This is who will never, ever turn away from us.

 

Christ the King. 

 

Christ the King. 

 

Who do we give our allegiance to today?  

 

Christ the King.

 

Who rescues us from darkness?  

 

Christ the King.

 

Who will reign forever?  

 

Christ the King!

 

And who will welcome us with loving arms when our days here on earth are finished?

 

Christ the King!

 

Whose is the only voice we need to hear?

 

Christ the King!

 

Christ the King. 

 

Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

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