Sunday, November 25, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Here in American we don’t have a king that rules our country. We left that when we broke away from England, yet Americans are still drawn to the life of kings. In May, Americans and millions of people from countries around the globe watched the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. There’s something about royalty that still captures people’s attention.
When we hear the word kingdom, however, it’s usually not England that comes to mind, but the image of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It’s a place filled with royalty – princes, and princesses – that delight children and adults alike. It’s a kingdom unlike any other on earth, and people by the millions continue to go there. In a recent article, the author writes, “Disney operates as pilgrimage site, creating sacred space where people can transcend the ordinary.” Americans who might scoff at the idea of a medieval pilgrimage, won’t think twice about traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to visit Magic Kingdom, and see cartoon characters incarnated right before their ecstatic children’s eyes.” Even adults become like little children in the Magic Kingdom. But is the kingdom real? It certainly feels like it when you’re there. It seems real and true. But what is truth?
That’s the question that Pilate asked Jesus. “What is truth?” Pilate only knew of one kind of kingdom – the kingdom ruled by Rome. The emperor was treated like god, and he ruled by fear and force if necessary. And he didn’t want anyone trying to take over his kingdom. So the talk of Jesus being a king was a definite threat. Pilate wanted to know the truth, but the truth – Jesus – was standing face to face with him and he couldn’t even see it. He couldn’t even hear it. But deep down, deep in the recesses of his soul, Pilate knew the truth. Why else did he ask Jesus so many questions? Why would Pilate be so torn between letting Jesus go and giving the crowd what they wanted? Somewhere deep inside Pilate he knew what the truth was and who the truth was, but he didn’t want to admit it. To admit the truth would be to condemn himself – to admit that he had sold out for power and control – and so he gave in to the will of the crowd, securing his own job. Pilate didn’t want his earthly kingdom changed, and so he got rid of the threat.
Jesus is still a threat to the kingdoms and rulers of this world, because he forces us to look at the truth, and that is not always an easy thing to do. Life is filled with so many beautiful things and experiences, yet it is also filled with suffering and pain. No one was more fully aware of that than Jesus. But in order for healing to take place, the truth must first be seen and heard. It’s tempting to look away from all the suffering and injustice that is going on in our world.
It’s easy for people to blame one another for the problems, because that only diverts attention away from the problem. What Jesus confronted Pilate with – and what he confronts us with – is facing the truth. Jesus doesn’t want us to look away from the problems, but to face them head on, and to see how we can help to ease the suffering of others. God’s kingdom – God’s way of living and being – is different than the kingdoms of this world. It is not concerned with selfish power or control, but instead is based on mercy and grace. It is based on forgiveness and compassion. It is based on love.
Yet love does not ignore the truth, no matter how hard it may be to see. It does not plug its ears or refuse to listen. Love does not condone sinfulness. It does not approve of violence and greed. Divine love demands justice. Divine love demands mercy. Divine love demands freedom from oppression. Divine love demands servanthood. And that’s a stark difference from the kingdom mentality of this world that encourages individual wants and desires to be served over service for others. People are searching for truth, sometimes in all the wrong places. But there is one sure way to truth.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The truth is that he brought God to us. He brought God’s kingdom here on earth. The kingdom of God is where truth is revealed, where human worth is treasured more than material gain, where peace is valued more than power, where forgiveness is offered over anger, where compassion is shown rather than revenge, where love is given unconditionally without exception.
“Thy kingdom come” is a powerful prayer. It’s a powerful statement of faith that sees the painful truth of the cross and the joy of the resurrection. Christ is King. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Almighty who is, who was, and who is to come. And he is with us always. In this we gather and life our voices in thanks and praise. Amen.