Featured Sermon: Fr. Jason Emerson – Christ the King
May only God’s word be spoken, and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!
In a little while, Tangle Blue, is going to sing our offertory music. They’ll sing a song they wrote years ago called “I will not let you Go” The chorus is simple:
No matter what,
No Matter what may come,
No matter what may come I will not let you Go.
Joel and Aimee’ sing this to remind us–to remind us that God will not let us Go. Because God has already acted. Jesus is the king, and we can not be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
I thought of their song as I meditated on our Gospel passage today. This dramatic scene between Jesus and Pilate is wrought with tension and unexpectedly hope. First, let’s set the scene. Jesus has been arrested, beaten, probably not given food or drink for hours. Clothes ripped and torn, face bloody and bruised Jesus stands before Pilate the Roman governor of Israel. Pilate, unlike Jesus, reeks of splendor and power. Pilate is the physical manifestation of the Roman Empire. Armor gleaming, scarlet robes immaculate, plumage combed, pilate oozes dominance and control from his very pores. With this overt power differential Jesus should be hopeless. Yet, when Pilate asks if Jesus is a king, Jesus responds that Pilate can’t understand Jesus’ Kingship because it is not of this fallen violent world. Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t work like Rome, if it worked like Rome his followers would be killing and dying to get him released. So, Pilate can’t comprehend Jesus’ Kingship because Pilate has no frame of reference for a peace-able kingdom. Instead Jesus just stands and simply says, “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.” Jesus is convinced and therefore speaks with legitimate hope because God’s kingdom is based on love not hate, peace and not violence. Jesus is hopeful. His trust and hope is so deep, so strong he refuses to do violence upon Pilate Jesus trusts God not himself for redemption. There is hope here for us because of all the horrible things that we have done and do to Jesus, it is no worse than what Pilate is threatening to do to Jesus, it simply isn’t worse than crucifixion. If Jesus can stand peacefully and hopefully in front of Pilate, then Jesus waits for us in hope as well.
Today is our pledge Sunday, the day we make commitments to God through the Church of the Resurrection. More importantly than keeping the lights on, our building warm, and our staff paid, giving is a statement of Hope. The powers that be out there in the fallen world can’t understand giving to God through a church. The powers ask, “where’s the return on investment” what do you earn by giving? Return on investment, however, isn’t the point. Giving, in and of itself, is the point. Giving is hopeful because it is an outward visible sign of trusting God instead of trusting money. Giving is hopeful because it is an emphatic statement that Jesus is Lord not money. Giving is hopeful because it means we expect God to act and increase our ministry, to increase our love, to increase our service and increase our welcome.
My brothers and sisters, I encourage you to make a commitment to give to God through the Church of the Resurrection for 2016. Days are coming for us, and your gift helps make that possible. More important than making a financial commitment today, make a hopeful commitment. Stand in confidence and hope because God loves you. The theologian Jurgen Moltmann reminds us today to have hope in God because God has hope in us. Moltmann writes:
“But the ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for…We are waited for as the prodigal son in the parable is waited for by his father. We are accepted and received, as a mother takes her children into her arms and comforts them. God is our last hope because we are God’s first love.”
My brothers and sisters, Christians are ridiculously hopeful. Chief among them is my dad. It is a marvel to watch this man who is approaching 80 and just coming out of a very challenging year remain, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu likes to say, Hopelessly Hopeful. Last year my dad began to experience excruciating, debilitating, energy sapping pain in his neck shoulders and hips. It took about six months before the doctors figured it out, and in that time my dad wasted away to about 120 pounds. Yet some how, even when he is depressed, he is hopeful, ridiculously hopeful.
He is hopeful because he is a christian. He believes deep in his heart that Jesus is his savior, Christ is his Lord, and to paraphrase the apostle Paul, whatever the pains of this word, they pale in comparison to the joys of the kingdom of God.
And so it is for Christians. We are called to be hopeful. We are called to expect God to act when things seem bleak because we remember the great stories of God acting in ancient Israel’s darkest moments of slavery in Egypt. We remember the story of God calling to the exiles through the prophet Jeremiah to remember that God has plans for them, plans to prosper them and give them hope. And we remember God’s greatest act at horrific Golgatha, where God incarnate was crucified. We remember that God did not wait around for us to get our act together. We did not and need not have our ducks in a row for God to love us. No, God loves us while we are still sinners. God loves us so much not to wait rather he became one of us. He suffered and and died because of us, so God could perform God’s mightiest act: forgiving us, loving us despite crucifying Jesus. We are hopeful because we remember.
My brothers and sisters, like my dad this building is about 80 years old. It has experienced excruciating pain in the last year. But we who worship in this house of prayer, we who go forth to seek and serve Christ from this building, No Matter What we are to remain Hopelessly Hopeful. We are to recognize Jesus waiting for us like the father of the prodigal son. No Matter What we are to follow Jesus to seek and serve others. We are to care for this neighborhood and our neighbors as a mother comforts her children. No Matter What we are to welcome all that we encounter as we would welcome Christ himself. Tall folks and shorts folks, black folks and white folks, latin folks and african folks, poor and rich, gay and straight, kind and cold-hearted, sinners and saints, we are called to tell everyone that No Matter What they are welcome here at this table, everything is gonna be alright at this table, and they are in the right place at this table. My brothers and sisters, No Matter What…Hope. No Matter What…Follow Jesus in service to others, and No Matter What…welcome all because Jesus welcomed you first. Amen!
– Fr. Jason Emerson
Church of the Resurrection, Omaha