November 26, 2017
Norwalk First United Methodist Church
Christ the King
Christ the King Sunday
Jesus Christ, Ruler of All
Today, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the church year. It is a time when we recognize that Christ’s reign over all earthly powers and authorities, as well as all authority and power and dominion in heaven, has been established by God’s “great power” put to work in the raising of Christ from the dead and Christ’s seat at the right hand of God in the heavenly places.
The Nicene Creed, which we recited earlier in the service, adopted the language of the Book of Ephesians and reiterated the connection between resurrection and reign: “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” The creed also connects Christ’s exclusive reign with the coming kingdom: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
It is today that we celebrate Christ’s reign and his kingdom that will have no end. Christ’s supreme reign is a precondition for the completion of God’s kingdom; for the love, peace, and justice that finally and completely triumph over the forces of death, destruction, and diminution. Christ’s lordship is central to our faith.
And so today, in Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer from the Book of Ephesians, we see that the greatest expression of God’s devotion to humanity is the raising of Christ from the dead and placing “all things under [Christ’s] feet and [appointing] him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body….” Would you pray with me?
As our scripture opens we find Paul giving thanks to the Christ-followers of Ephesus, It is because I have heard of your faith in Jesus Christ, and your love to all God’s consecrated people, that I never cease to give thanks for you, as I remember you in my prayers.
Here, Paul sets before us the perfect summary of the characteristics of a true church. Paul has heard of their faith in Christ and their love to all God’s consecrated people, the saints of the church. The two things which must characterize any true church are loyalty to Christ and love to other people.
William Barclay, in his commentary on “The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians,” writes: “True Christians love Christ and they also love their neighbors. More than that, they know that they cannot show their love to Christ in any other way than by showing their love to their neighbors. However orthodox a church is, however pure its theology, and however noble its worship and its liturgy, it is not a true church in the real sense of the term unless it is characterized by love for other people.”
Folks, how often does our love for other people become derailed and thus delay the reign of Christ in our lives and in his kingdom? We spend an awful lot of time hating. We hate the liberals or the radicals; we hate the fundamentalists or the conservatives; we hate those whose theology is different from our own; we hate the Roman Catholic or the Protestant. We make pronouncements which are characterized not by Christian charity but by a kind of condemning bitterness.
Barclay continues, “We would do well to remember every now and then that love of Christ and love of our neighbors cannot exist without each other. Our tragedy is that it is so often true. The great satirist Jonathan Swift once said, that ‘We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.’” So, the reign of Christ in our lives should bring to a church a loyalty to Christ and a love to other people.
As our passage continues, Paul prays for certain things for the church at Ephesus, things that we should recognize as well today. First, Paul prays that God will give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they might know God better. He prays that the church may be led deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the eternal truths. To do that, we need to be a thinking people. Through our personal study of scripture or in our small groups and Sunday school classes, and through the preaching and explanation of the scriptures, we need to discuss, analyze, and make personal discoveries of what God’s word is saying to us in how we should live our lives. It is an obligation for thinking people to think their way to God.
Second, Paul prays for a fuller knowledge of God. For Christians, growth in knowledge and in grace is essential. Anyone who follows a profession knows that it is a mistake to stop studying. Doctors never think that they have finished learning when they leave medical school. They know that week by week, and almost day by day, new techniques and treatments are being discovered. It is the same with Christians. The Christian life could be described as getting to know God better every day. A friendship which does not grow closer with the years tends to vanish with the years. And it is the same with us and God.
Third, Paul prays for a new realization of the Christian hope. Hear verse 18 again, I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
William M. Dyke was a young man who became blind at the young age of ten. Despite this handicap, he grew to be a very intelligent, witty and handsome young man.
While attending graduate school in England, William met the daughter of an English admiral. The two soon became engaged. Though never having seen her, William loved her very much. Shortly before the wedding, at the insistence of the admiral, William submitted to special treatment for his loss of sight. Hoping against hope, William wanted the gauze from his eyes removed during the ceremony. He wanted the first thing he saw to be his wife’s face.
As the bride came down the aisle, William’s father started unwinding the gauze from around his head and eyes – still not knowing if the operation would be a success. With the unwrapping of the last layer, William looked into the face of his new bride for the first time. “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined,” he said.
Like the young groom, though we have never seen Jesus, it will be worth the years of darkness to “see him as he is.” Our glorious inheritance, our Christian hope, lies in seeing Christ “as he is” when we move from the darkness of this world into his eternal light and life. May we pray as Paul did not only for ourselves, but for others that they might have a new realization of the Christian hope.
And lastly, Paul prays for a new realization of the power of God. Our scripture reads, That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. For the Apostle Paul, who wrote our scripture today, the supreme proof of God’s power was the resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
On May 18, 1980, there was an incredible explosion which was estimated at 500 times more powerful than the force of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. This explosion occurred in the state of Washington, when the volcano known as Mount St. Helens erupted. It was so powerful that it ripped 1,200 feet off the top of the 9,700-foot volcano.
Although the mountain had been dormant for 123 years, within minutes incredible power was unleashed. Thousands of tons of volcanic ash were thrust into the atmosphere. The cloud of ash literally turned day into night in the surrounding communities. Twenty-six lakes, 154 miles of streams, and 195 square miles of pristine forest were decimated.
But, Mount St. Helens was not very powerful compared to a volcano which erupted in 1883. Mount Krakatoa, in Indonesia, erupted with a force that was equal to 30 hydrogen bombs. The power from Mount St. Helens was estimated at 500 atomic bombs. One hydrogen bomb is equal to 1,000 atomic bombs. So, Mount Krakatoa was equal to 30,000 atomic bombs. Mount Krakatoa was 60 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens. During the eruption of Mount Krakatoa, tidal waves killed 36,000 people in Java and Sumatra, and a cloud of ash cooled the earth’s climate for almost two years.
What we have seen in natural eruptions of power is but a small example of greater forces at work in the universe. Attempts are made from time to time to describe the power contained in this universe. The truth is that humankind hasn’t begun to comprehend the limitless power of God. But we see a display of His power in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s power is creative power. And it is unlike any power any of us have experienced. It proves that God’s purpose cannot be stopped by any human action. In a world that sometimes looks chaotic, it is good to be aware that God is still in control.
As we come to the last two verses of our scripture, Paul has one of the most adventurous and most uplifting thoughts that anyone has ever had. He calls the Church by its greatest title – the body of Christ.
Folks, the basic thought of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that as it stands, this world is a complete disunity. William Barclay writes about this biblical time of Paul that “there is disunity between Jews and Gentiles, between Greeks and barbarians; there is disunity between different people within the same nation; there is disunity within every individual, for in each one of us the good struggles with the evil; there is disunity between human beings and the natural world; and, above all, there is disunity between human beings and God.”
Barclay continues, “It was Paul’s argument that Jesus died to bring all the discordant elements in this universe into one, to wipe out the separations, to reconcile people to one another and to reconcile them to God. Jesus Christ was above all things God’s instrument of reconciliation.”
But folks, that unity clearly does not yet exist. That is why the Church, the body of Christ, is so important. It is in Jesus that all people and all nations can become one; but, before that can happen, they must know about Jesus Christ. And it is the task of the Church to bring that about.
Christ is the head; the Church is the body. The head must have a body through which it can work. The Church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run his errands, a voice to speak his words. And God placed all things under [Jesus’] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.
Jesus Christ is ruler of all and we acknowledge that in our Nicene Creed. We believe in the one holy universal and apostolic church. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. And so on this day, Christ the King Sunday, we pray as Paul did for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, for a fuller knowledge of God, for a new realization of the Christian hope when we see Christ as he really is, and lastly for a new realization of the power of God. Christ is King and all authority and power rest in him. Praise be to God!