November 21st, 2021 – A Compelling Vision

Sermon for Christ the King, 2021, Random Lake                              11/21/21


Text: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Introduction.    Daniel’s words shine like a great spotlight through the thick darkness of his time…and ours.  When his words were written, it seemed that oppression and radical evil would never end.  But the prophet saw a vision of the Lord that blazed and sparkled, and split the dark evil of his time.  Daniel reached for images to catch the brilliance of God.  He saw a throne where pure white snow mixed with flames of fires.  Thousands upon thousands served the Ancient One, the Eternal, as the books were open in the Heavenly Court.

            I need such a vision of God, which reveals a Righteous Judge who will open the books where truth is stored.  Perhaps, you too wait for the Ancient One who will call to account the radical evil reported every day.  We’ve heard too many reports of gunmen killing people not only at nightclubs and concerts, but also at worship—in synagogues, temples and churches—stirring up grief and anger in their bloody rampage, prompting people in all walks of life to be on edge, even as they screw up their courage and try to go about their “normal” activities.  A dark shadow falls over the land.  So-called leaders stir up anger and fear against people of color.

            Pearl, Mississippi, rings a bell with me.  My uncle owned a farm nearby, and I loved to visit there.  So, I was jarred by the news of the crime there.  As I recall, a young person stabbed his mother to death, then calmly drove her car to the high school and fired on scores of students gathered in common areas before classes.  Was it six or seven so-called friends indicted for a conspiracy that involved Satanism, the worship of darkness?

            In brilliant contrast to such impenetrable darkness, Christ the King Sunday offers a real, saving, and hopeful message.  We come today to the truth revealed in Christ and receive in worship A COMPELLING VISION.

I.          Of course, to really appreciate the light of God’s truth in a personal way, we need to become aware of the darkness within each of us.  We are all subject to sin—that brokenness deep within, that has the potential to ruin us.  One Greek word for sin means, “missing the mark,” like a hunter whose arrow drops short or whose bullet whizzes by the deer.  We all miss God’s targets from time to time, every day.

            Much of our sinning is unconscious, a sign of our weakness.  Our black citizens tell us of micro-aggressions, the subtle insults or patronizing comments.  One of our confessions in worship admits that we are “bound in sin and cannot save ourselves.”  We are caught in a web of organizations, which while meaning to do well, often support injustice.  We learn of those who after years in prison are finally proved innocent.

            We miss the mark of living and serving one another.  Spouses miss the mark.  Parents and young people fall short or overshoot their targets.  That’s the normal human condition in a fallen world.

            Radical evil is nothing but an intensification of sin, a total giving in to the dark side, a deliberate, conscious embrace of sin for its own sake.  Scripture names the evil power that tempts us to such evil, “Satan.”  Without healthy spiritual understanding and faith, men, women, and children are caught in Satan’s grip.

II.         Now, the good news is that Jesus overcame sin and the power of evil.  He not only escaped the jaws of Satan, but also trounced him through innocent suffering.  This is the mystery of the cross and resurrection.  Jesus took upon himself the awful consequences of sin and neutralized death’s power.

             Evil did not prevail, nor will it.  Jesus lives to pull us forward to engage the darkness and overcome it by faith in his saving power.  The bright days of total release from sin are coming.  A compelling vision of the future draws us forward in joyful hope.

            Each Church Year, we relive the story of our Lord’s life of selfless service to conquer evil and show us how to live well.  Starting next week, the Church will begin again in Advent. 

            We’ll prepare for Jesus’s coming into the world and into our hearts.  At Christmas services, we’ll celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

            We’ll travel with Mary and Joseph to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous plan after the Magi’s visit.  We’ll arrive in Nazareth, where Jesus grew strong in God’s Word and discerned his mission.  

            As the Church Year unfolds, we’ll be there at Jesus’ baptism, and then see him in the wilderness defeat Satan’s temptations. 

            In the Epiphany Season, we’ll watch God’s Beloved Son gather people, heal them, release them from sin’s grip, and teach the good news of the kingdom. 

            And when the dark powers gather to destroy him on the cross, we’ll witness again their stunning and decisive defeat in Jesus’ faithful dying.  In the Easter Season, we’ll celebrate the new life of resurrection and share the power of the Spirit.   Each week, in our Holy Communion, we’ll realize the Risen Christ’s presence among us.

III.        Do you see the compelling vision in today’s readings?  Daniel proclaims in the night visions “one like a human being” coming in the clouds of heaven.  “To him was given the dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”  Christ filled-full these words.  Therefore, when the end comes for us, it will be glorious.

            In the Gospel for today, Jesus stands strong and calm before Pilate and announces the truth.  His kingdom is not of this world, defended by weapons of war.  No!  Rather he has come to rule the hearts and minds of men, women, and children, so that we can share and live faithfully God’s good news.  We will follow Christ in a life of service.

            The author of Revelation reaches for the symbolic language of Scripture to paint the picture of the indescribable.  He sees Jesus, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead,” the ruler of all.  In adoration, the writer shouts: “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”  Do you catch the vision?

            We are drawn forward to hopeful service in this broken and sometimes scary world, because it is God’s world, and we belong to him.  Our focus is on loving service.

            H. George Anderson reported his overnight visit at the home of friends.  The woman of the house had prepared an elegant dinner.  The gracious hostess brought out her finest china, crystal, silver settings, and the hand-crocheted lace tablecloth she had inherited from her mother. 

            During the meal one of the guests overturned a dish of cranberry sauce, soiling the tablecloth.  “Would it leave a stain?”  “Oh, no it’ll come right out,” said the hostess, “don’t worry.”  The embarrassed guest showed distinct relief at hearing the words. 

            The rest of the evening was totally enjoyable.  But when George awoke thirsty and came to the kitchen for water, there was the hostess with the tablecloth in the sink, scrubbing and scrubbing the nearly indelible stain.  She was serving Christ, the King.

Conclusion.                 Every week there are churches closing in America.  Some of them got caught in circumstances beyond their control, swept away by social and economic change.  But others forgot their mission, lost their vision.  They subtly changed from seeing themselves as a servant church— a movement toward the vision of Christ the King—to seeing themselves as a monument to some past vision of themselves.  Pray God St. Paul’s will be a servant church, which is well aware of its mission to serve one another and reflect good news to the community.  So, celebrate this end of the Church Year this day!  And keep marching in the light of Christ.

            With the shadows and darkening clouds of evil around us, we do not fear.  We march into the future like pilgrims hiking up the dark mountain just before dawn.  There may be hardships behind and before us, but already beyond the distant mountains is the promise of the sun, the Son of God.  It’s A COMPELLING VISION.

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