Sermons 2006
Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Proper 29B John 18:33-37

Today's lessons are full of mystery and grandeur from a vision of the Ancient of Days seated on a flaming throne, served by thousands upon thousands of souls to Jesus coming with the clouds, the ruler of the kings of the earth. Both images try to tell us where we are headed, what it has all been for, and that however it will all work out for us, God is there, and in charge, with Jesus at his right hand.

Then there is the lesson from John, also full of mystery and grandeur, but troubling. The theme is the same--the sovereignty of God--but this time the scene takes place on earth, not in heaven. There are no thrones, no white robed ancients, no flowing rivers of fire. Just Pilate's dusty headquarters in Jerusalem, filled with and surrounded by the soldiers of a legion cohort in Jerusalem for Passover to keep the peace. Inside, a Roman imperial governor, and one like a ragged street preacher watch one another carefully. One to decide the fate of the other; the other to embrace that fate willingly, even joyfully for love of a broken world.

"Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate says. He says it flat, like a statement. He wants to know what he is dealing with--a psychotic, an evangelist, a revolutionary? Is the man dangerous or a dreamer? Should he be stopped and made a public example or pitied and put away, a ward of the state?

"Is that your own idea," Jesus answers, "or have others suggested it to you?"

Now it’s Pilate's turn, but who does this Jesus think he is, anyway, cross-examining the governor? I mean, who is the prisoner here and who is the imperial governor? Is he accusing me of being unable to think for myself? "Do I look like a Jew?" he says. "Listen: Your own people have brought you here. What have you done?"

"My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus replies, "my authority comes from somewhere else. King' is your word," he says. "My task is to bear witness to the truth."

The last sentence of the exchange is Pilate's. "What is truth?" he asks, and goes out to tell the Jews that he finds no case against Jesus.

What is truth? And what, in particular, is the truth about Jesus? For some of us the question may still be whether or not he is, truly, king, but for most of us he is our king; we are his subjects and citizens of his kingdom. But the question for us remains, what does it all mean and what kind of king is condemned by his own people, abandoned by his friends, dead before anyone really understood what he was about. What can we say about our king, about his kingdom, about how the world is different because of it?

Those are the questions of the day. What irony, then, or what wisdom, that with this kingship stuff we end the year and begin again in Bethlehem at Christmas with a baby named Jesus. In the midst of our questions about Christ the King we are presented with Jesus the baby and set out to watch him grow up all over again. And the point of it all? said T. S. Eliot, is "to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." Every time.

Christ the King. The baby Jesus. Christ the baby Jesus, Christ the King? Christ the baby Jesus King? So what is it about babies and kings and ourselves?

Well, whenever a child is born, all innocence and promise God looks at that baby and maybe remembers a child of his own. Then God sighs and says, "Okay. All is forgiven. Let's try again."

Or about the time we decide God is not there, a child is born, all beauty and miracle. We look at that baby and maybe remember another miraculous child. Then we sigh and say, "Okay. There is love loose in the world that is bigger than I am. Let's try again."

So which is he? A baby or a king? A newcomer to life or the ancient of days? A helpless infant or the savior of the world? Welcome to the mystery--of belonging to a king with no worldly kingdom but us; the mystery of believing a baby could and will and did change the face of history, of loving a God no one can see or explain, and of being loved in return.

And then there is the even greater mystery: That we have been chosen to carry on the work of that king, that baby, that God, in the world--just us--inarticulate, mystified children in the faith that we are. It is said that when Jesus finally got to heaven the angels asked him who he had left behind to finish what he started. "Just a small band of men and women who love me," he answered. "That's all?" the angels said, more than a little worried. "But what if they should fail?" "I have no other plans," he said. (1)

The great writer Frederick Buechner described his experience with these questions this way:
“At twenty-seven, living alone in New York trying with no success to start a novel and in love with a girl who was not in love with me, I went to hear a famous preacher one morning although I had no idea at the time that he was famous and went only on impulse—I was not a churchgoer—because his church was next door. It was around the time that Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey, and the preacher played variations on the theme of coronation.

All I remember of what he said is the very last, and that not well, just one phrase of it, in fact, that I’m sure of. He said that Jesus Christ refused a crown when Satan offered it in the wilderness, or something like that. He said that the kingdom of Jesus was not of this world. And yet again and again, he said, Jesus was crowned in the hearts of those who believed in him, crowned king.

I remember thinking that this was a nice enough image, as images in sermons go, and I remember how the preacher looked up there in the pulpit twitching around a good deal, it seemed to me, and plucking at the lapels of his black gown. And then he went on just a few sentences more.

He said that unlike Elizabeth’s coronation in the Abbey, this coronation of Jesus in the believer’s heart took place among confession—and I thought, yes, yes, confession—and tears, he said—and I thought tears, yes, perfectly plausible that the coronation of Jesus in the believing heart should take place among confession and tears.

And then with his head bobbing up and down so that his glasses glittered, he said in his odd, sandy voice, the voice of an old nurse, that the coronation of Jesus took place among confession and tears and then, as God was and is my witness, great laughter, he said. Jesus is crowned among confession and tears and great laughter, and at the phrase great laughter, for reasons that I have never satisfactorily understood, the great wall of China crumbled and Atlantis rose up out of the sea, and on Madison Avenue, at 73rd Street, tears leapt from my eyes as though I had been struck across the face. (2)

1. Adapted from Barbara Brown Taylor, The Baby King, SermonMall for Pentecost Last, Proper 29B
2. Frederick Buechner in The Alphabet of Grace (New York: The Seabury Press, 1977, quoted in Synthesis for 16 Nov 2005.

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Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579