“Let it Reign”
Luke 23:33-43

This week we learned the identity of our future Queen as our future King proposed to her sometime recently. The world seems all aflutter with the news. Where will the wedding take place? How much will it cost? What will the bride be wearing? I suspect we’re going to hear an awful lot about this ceremony over the next few months.

The world is in need of some positive news. Continually we hear about the recession. We hear of more and more countries struggling financially to the brink of bankruptcy, especially those in the European Union.

So to hear some good news about the heir to the throne gives us something to rally around and be excited about. I still remember the excitement around the last grand royal wedding, the wedding of William’s parents about 30 years ago.

There was also great excitement around the wedding of Charles and Diana. The beautiful princess in her amazing dress in the historic church. Yet, it didn’t last. The marriage ended in an ugly, public display. She would not be our queen, yet remained queen of our hearts until her tragic death.

We can hope for better Prince William and his lovely bride-to-be. They are a bit older, maybe a bit more mature, maybe a bit more ready to take on the life-long commitment marriage promises to be. And maybe they can handle the pressures of an extremely public life. Time will tell.

Yet, in the midst of the uncertainty of human life, we gather in the name of the eternal King of all of us. Today is Christ the King Sunday, or as we also call it, the Reign of Christ Sunday.

This is the last day in our calendar year before we return to the waiting and anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the last Sunday before Advent, believe it or not. We are entering a season of waiting and anticipation.

So, in what is kind of our New Year’s Eve, we read of Jesus on the cross, talking with the two criminals who are being crucified with him. These are what we would consider to be readings appropriate for around Good Friday or Easter. Jesus is on the cross, and will die very shortly. It’s appropriate to read them now, because we need to understand what his death means before we can understand what his birth will bring.

This reading prompts us to remember the things Jesus has done and said while on earth. In the words of the criminal on the cross, “we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Indeed he has not.

The two criminals were just that, criminals. They were getting their due reward for the crimes they committed. The one who speaks these words is accepting his fate, while the other pleads for Jesus to save all three of them.

But Jesus has done nothing wrong. Jesus has lived a sinless life. He is the only one who could. He is the only one who is able to resist the temptation of satan and the tricks laid before him by the many challengers he faced while on earth.

What is the purpose of Jesus’ life? Why did he come? Why did God send him?

All through the Old Testament, God spoke through prophets, warning them that they were continually falling away from Him and His plan for creation. They got greedy, they ignored the Commandments, they tried to do it all on their own.

And it never worked.

So, in the midst of warning the people of the consequences of their actions, God also promised He would send a Messiah to show them the way. Someone who would save all people. Some 2000 years ago, that Messiah was, and continues to be, Jesus Christ.

Sending messages through the prophets was not working. Sometimes it might have worked for a little while, but in the end, people just reverted to their old ways and problems arose. So what has changed with Jesus coming?

Jesus was more than a prophet through whom God sent messages to the people. Jesus continually reminded us that he was sent by God, the Father, to bring His children back into relationship with Him.

Jesus reminded us what it meant to be part of God’s kingdom here on earth. He taught us how to be in relationship with our fellow caretakers of the earth.

Jesus showed us the kingdom of God.

If you remember, Jesus mentions a few times that the Kingdom of God is near as he talks with the disciples and the crowds who surrounded him wherever he went. For us, we think in terms of timelines. If Jesus says the Kingdom of God is near, then he must mean it will be coming soon.

But what if Jesus was talking about proximity instead of time? What if Jesus meant the Kingdom of God is near, not in that it will be coming soon, but that it is near by, as in close to us? What if Jesus said the Kingdom of God was near because it was standing in front of the disciples?

Jesus shows us the Kingdom of God in himself. He is not a messenger, he is the message.

The Gospel of John begins with saying,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

God sent us Himself to show us how we can join Him in bringing the Kingdom to the earth. To join him we learn to share God’s love with all people. We stand up for those who are oppressed. We offer food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, healing for the sick and peace to those at war. When Jesus came did he hang out with the leaders and the rich? No, he walked and lived with the poor, the sinners and the lame.

He showed us that the Kingdom of God is for all people. It didn’t matter your social status. It didn’t matter where you lived. It didn’t matter if you were man, woman or child. Jesus showed us the Kingdom of God is for all people, of all places, of all circumstances.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The words of John 3:16.

My friends, the Kingdom of God is near. The reign of Christ lives on as the King of the Kingdom has walked among our ancestors, and continues to walk among us today as we seek to live out the examples Jesus has given us.

We have the gift of an eternal King. Not a king of this earth. Not one we can see on the news waving from a palace window. No, my friends, our King lives forevermore in a kingdom of glory and grace. The same grace and love he showed us when he walked the earth many years ago. The same grace and love we still receive today when we turn our hearts towards the Kingdom of God and allow Jesus Christ to come and enter us through the power of the Holy Spirit. An encounter that will change us into God’s children. Children who inherit a heavenly Kingdom. A Kingdom that made an appearance here on earth.

May we represent the Kingdom of God to all those who struggle in their lives and faith. May we let them know the reign of Christ continues this day, and may we show them that the Kingdom of God is still within reach of us all.

The Kingdom of God is near. May it reign over us forever more.