Rev. Sharon Prentis
24th November 2013
Christ the Extraordinary King

It was a day like any other day. I was due to go to Chester for a meeting and I arrived there a few minutes early. So after coming out of the train I spotted a little cafe and I thought I’d have a cup of coffee, put my notes together and then meet up with my colleague as planned. What could be simpler? After buying my coffee I headed towards the door of the coffee shop and the manager stood in my path, he told me that I couldn’t leave. It was then I noticed a small group of policeman and dignitaries starting to arrive at the station and there was lots of activity as people were tidying up and rolling out a red carpet. Chester station is quite small and the coffee shop was near the platform. I could see a number of individuals, lined up as if waiting for someone special. There were only three of us in the shop: one was the manager another was a rather bemused customer who had sat down to finish his drink and me. Before long, a very large black car drove up to the platform and stopped short of the red carpet and then a train pulled in with a crest emblazoned on its side out stepped a very smartly dressed man who I now recognised- it was Prince Charles and he had come to visit Chester. I was only a few metres away and I found myself looking in his direction. I wasn’t expecting to come face-to-face with Prince Charles only few metres away, albeit behind a glass window, with a cup of coffee in my hand. He turned looked at me, smiled and waved. I was in shock! Then he quickly disappeared out of the station into the waiting black car and I was stood there- coffee cup in hand – wondering about what had just happened.

I did not expect to come face to face with royalty- even from behind a glass window! The few moments of acknowledgement had made an impression on me because of the extraordinariness of the encounter.

In the Gospel of Luke we are reminded of Christ’s crucifixion. The moment when it seemed so many hopes and dreams had come to an end. People had anticipated a revolution that would overthrow the tyranny of their Roman rulers and restore Israel’s sovereignty. That did not happen; many were disappointed and even disillusioned by the outcome. Disappointment and derision was evident: soldiers ridiculed him, one of the criminals who was next to him railed at Him, Are You not the Christ? Rescue Yourself and us from death!

Yet despite how it appeared, the criminal on the other side of Christ was able to recognise that this was no ordinary man, not someone like him, but someone extraordinary. He recognised that Christ did not warrant the punishment, but was an extraordinary king because he became the punishment for those he rules.

The difference between Jesus’ rule and earthly authority is different. Power and authority can be coercive- people do things because they fear the consequences if they don’t. But Jesus represented another type of authority (Ephesians chapter 2) – he lived and died, and lives again by a different set of rules that are characterised by paradox.

His rule says it’s the poor that are blessed: those that have nothing to commend themselves.

His rule says it’s the meek who inherit the earth: those without any demonstrable influence.

And his rule says do to others as you would have them do unto you, not get them before they get you.

Those that saw Jesus hanging on the cross mocked his Kingship, because they thought he was powerless. But they were wrong. His was not the power of weapons, nor fear and hatred. Nor a power brought about by privileged status. It was the power of the cross. It IS the power of truth, it is love. Love doesn’t need weapons, or oppressive force; it IS in itself.

This Christ the King Sunday reminds us as worshippers that the events of Christmas are about a sovereign Christ! What’s more, one whose kingship was not typical.

What sort of God is our God? He comes among us not with an entourage or a crowd of people waiting on him, nor lots of protocols to follow and being selective about who he can talk to it. Jesus becomes Christ the anointed one and takes on the cloak of our human frailty in order that we can identify with him.

From today onwards we move from one Christian calendar year to the next. As we stand at the brink of Advent we eagerly prepare our Christmas lists and think about the forthcoming season. Today is a bit like the moment before the storm of activity starts. Yet, this is the time for us to remember the adult King who turns every expectation up-side down, the beginning of the story that reminds us to also keep the extraordinary end of salvation in sight.

So what is our reality? Our reality is that God loves each one of us so much that he came in person in Jesus the Christ. Therefore, we do not worship a King that is far off, but one that wishes to have a personal relationship with us. We are reminded of that despite the busyness of this forthcoming season. We encounter a living God who identifies with our weakness, knows our disappointments and shows His majesty in extraordinary ways that sometimes catches us unawares. Like my unexpected encounter with royalty at the rail station, we are surprised by both the humanity and the significance of it.

Christ turns our expectations upside down, but we have to be willing to open to the unexpected.

Luke 23: 33-48