"Good morning," he said. "I'm delighted you're here to worship with us." We were then reminded that today is Christ the King Sunday, a day in which we acknowledge and celebrate the kingship of Christ, His future return and eternal glorious reign.
Announcements today included the following:
1. Everyone is invited to come to the church next Saturday to decorate the sanctuary and Christmas tree, 1:30 p.m.
2. Saturday evening from 6:00 - 6:30 p.m. we gather to "get mugged." Bring a wrapped mug filled with the goodies of your choice, and a favorite game.
3. Next week we pick up our Pasties for the CHIC Fundraiser. Free will offerings throughout the year will also be welcome at any time.
4. The call is out for a donation of cookies and Christmas cards for the annual Inmate Christmas Program for the St. Louis County Jail. There are approximately 250 inmates and 35 volunteers at this Christmas event. Please bring your cookies (wrapped in a container that does not need to be returned) by December 9. Contact Ruth Anne Schelinder for additional details.
5. Pam shared that it's time to think about our annual Angel Tree program, also, in which we provide gifts for children who have a parent in prison. New Life Covenant will share by giving to a one year old boy and an five year old girl. Gifts need to be here by December 14. Call Pam Johnson for any additional details.
The worship service opened with Ken, Dale, Chuck and Darlene singing Holy, Holy, Holy. It was a very special time as we all joined in and continued with many wonderful classic hymns.
After the offertory, Cheryl and Darlene did a short drama about gratefulness.
The Scripture readings today were Psalm 100 and Ephesians 1:15-23. After a time of thanksgiving and prayer, Pastor Shannon preached today's message.
Crown Him King Once Again
33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
34"Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
35"Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
36Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
37"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
38"What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
40They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.
~ John 18:33-40 (NIV)
How surprising the ways Jesus puts His hooks in us. Pastor Brad began by telling a story about Frederick Buechner who, while listening to a minister make some off the cuff remarks, had his faith re-ignited. For Buechner it was "deep calling unto deep."
Pastor Shannon used this incident to springboard toward his theme, dealing with the many ironies of Scripture. He cited how Jesus refused Satan's effort to crown Him in the wilderness (offering Jesus the kingdoms of this world), yet how Jesus is crowned daily in the hearts of those who follow Him.
Amplifying the theme of irony, Brad spoke about laughter and how it is integrally related to truth, the centerpiece of Pilate's interrogation of Jesus on that dark Friday.
In reality, laughter is what we experience when we have been liberated from the illusions we once had that shackled us, when what we thought mattered is revealed to be tawdry and small in the light of the Truth of Christ, that He is king.
Indeed, Jesus declares, "For this I was born, to bear witness to truth."
When Jesus fed the five thousand, they responded by wanting to crown Him king. But when it came time to demonstrate his kingship, He rides into Jersualem on a donkey. What a different kind of image for one who is to be a king.
When Pilate failed to follow his conscience, succombing to pressure from Jewish leaders and the High Priest, Jesus was stripped, beaten and - in an ironic twist - crowned with thorns, robed, with mock obeisance from Roman soldiers. Even in joking about Him, they confessed the truth. "This is the king of the Jews." It's classic, comic irony. In trying to do one thing (mock Him) they were actually doing the opposite, proclaiming Him king.
The laughter is in knowing there will be a Third Day, resurrection coming.
Brad then shared with us Desmond Tutu, who was filled with love, identifying with Moses who declared, "Let my people go." Tutu, an opponent of South Africa's apartheid, was persuaded that love would win. He said love was his single weapon. To the ruling powers he stated, "All your weapons of oppression will fail."
We can laugh not because of present circumstances, but because there is a future hope. When Christ is king in our hearts, we can even laugh at ourselves. Our pretensions are seen for what they are, and we cease to take ourselves so seriously.
Pilate could have said "no" to the pressures put on him by the Jewish leaders, but instead he caved.
Lutheran pastor and author Walter Wangerin tells the story of an old black woman from his congregation in Chicago who used to comment on his sermon each week in the following manner. She was a smallish woman and spoke softly so that he had to bend down to hear her as she shook his hand after the service. Occasionaly she referred to his message as teaching and other times called it preaching. He finally decided to ask her what she meant, what the difference was between the two. She said, "When you teach, I learn for the day. And when you preach, God is here and holding us."
An incident occured in which Pastor Wangerin learned how astute this woman really was. The church was not in the best neighborhood. A prostitute nearby had had her water shut off and she and her johns (customers) would come to the church to use their water. Pastor Wangerin stepped in and stopped this. The following Sunday after church, the old woman, when she shook his hand, commented on the sermon. "God was holding you and not smiling. But He will."
In other words, Walter Wangerin was going to change, and the woman was confident of this. God was changing Pastor Wangerin's heart.
A similar story was shared to illustrate the point that God uses us in spite of ourselves.
In closing Pastor Brad asked, "Who or what rules your heart? What is it that thrills you dawn to dusk? Has Christ been crowned king in the midst of your tears and laughter... in your hearts?"