Sermons



Rev. Andrew Cunnington
22nd November 2015
What Sort of King are You? …Because Deep Down You Know You Are!

Between my teeth I’m holding my car parking ticket.

Under one arm is the script for this year’s pantomime.

On my back is that old ruck sack you always see me with, and there’s a thermos flask of water in there, but I’m not sure if the lid’s screwed on properly.

In one hand I’m trundling along a folded up zimmer frame on wheels and with the other I am trying to steer a wheelchair in which my aged Father now sits, clinging on for dear life. Too old for a white knuckle ride at 85.

And right then I met Christ The King! Slap bang in the corridors of Worthing Hospital.

And the name of Christ The King was Annette.

“You look as if you need a bit of help” she said laughing “I can give you a hand with some of those things”

According to her badge Annette was a Junior Radiographer or something. Looked like she was just going off duty, but still ready to help.

And that’s what Christ The King does. He sees the mess we get ourselves into, the paraphinalia we drag along with us, and he says to us “ I can give you a hand with some of those things”

So on this day when we are thinking about kingship, I wonder what sort of king you are? Because if Annette the junior radiographer was Christ The King to me, so can you be to someone else. Right now, today. Before you even leave this church.

But what sort of King might you be?

This is a good day to make your mind up as scattered through our two readings this morning we find four possible role models. King Darius. Daniel. Pontius Pilate. And Jesus Christ.

And a second question, out of these four, who would you truthfully want to have ruling over you, in these dark and dangerous days when we need so much wisdom and so much courage from those who lead.

Let’s start by seeing how Darius suits! Way back in the book of Daniel we find him following hot on the heels of the hapless reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and he completes a hat trick of ineptitude. Here is a man who does not know if he is coming or going. He is surrounded by 120 advisers each in his ear about this, that and the other. Each one trying to manipulate the king into doing what suits them. Matters come to a head when Darius signs an agreement that anyone who worships any god other than the king himself will be thrown into the lions’ den.

Now Darius had a secret admiration for Daniel, but because Daniel goes on worshipping the one true God and not the king, and he does so openly, there is no alternative but to cast him to the animals.

It’s the wrong policy. Darius knows that. He knows he is putting to death a Godly man, but he is trapped in the pariphanalia of his kingship and he can’t do a thing about it. He signs the death warrant of someone he knows to be good.

“I could give you a hand with some of those things”

But now let’s look at Daniel. He was no king of course, but he bears the hallmarks of one who had holy authority.

Daniel stands out like a sore thumb. He will not side with the majority. He will go his own way and his own way is to put his total trust in God. For he believes that even when the odds are stacked against him, God will wrap his love around him and he need not be afraid. He accepts the sentence of the lion’s den. A place of death which has about it so much of the sepulchre in which they placed Jesus.

And he is delivered! He is saved! Not through what he did, but what he believed. His determination to trust at all costs results in the setting free of Darius now, to be the man he wanted to be and the whole nation comes to know Daniel’s God as Lord.
Pontius Pilate is king number three. He appears cowardly.

He is a man afraid to upset the apple cart in Jerusalem for to do so could render his reputation ruined. He is looking over his shoulders all the time. At his Roman superiors and the Jewish Leaders, for if he upsets any of them, he could be out of a job.

So everyone knew, you just have to put a bit of pressure on Pilate and he crumbles. Get a lynch mob to chant for a rascal like Barabbas and do it long enough and he’ll give him to you. It’s laughable really. On the day of our Gospel reading Pilate’s head is spinning more than usual He does not know what truth is, beyond the fact that he will stop at nothing to save his own bacon.

“I can help you with some of those things”

And so finally to Jesus, standing there helpless before baying crowds. They taunt him because his persona as king appears so weedy and feeble.

No authority. No force. No power. No plan, they say to themselves, but if they had listened instead of blocking their ears, they would have discovered that characteristic that separates Him from everyone else.

If you throw your violence, your anger, your resentment at this king, he will not mobilise his troops against you. He will not return your violence. He will not throw your anger back in your face. Rather he takes all the bad stuff, all the broken, soiled, shameful things we do to each other, all the crimes of darkness and delusion and despair.

He takes our Paris, Our Egypt, and our Syria, and he holds onto those places so hard, that it’s like nails driven through him. Like a crucifixion not just on Good Friday, but the other Friday when it all kicked off.

He takes it down to the grave with him and not just the big unmanageable disasters of our day, but also the things that feel like bombs being dropped on our own lives, that detonate right into our hearts, but we are too ashamed to share with a living soul really.

He looks at all the pariphinalia that stop us loving and trusting and believing and he comes like Annette the Junior Radiographer “I can help you with some of that”

I will hold it in my hands and I will not let it go until by my hands it is moulded from hate into love.

But actually, he cannot do it alone. He needs his church, to live it out, and that’s not comfortable for us.

It asks the question, what would your life look like if Jesus was wearing it and all traces of Darius and Pilate were at last done away with in us.

It was poignant to welcome the 60 pilgrims who were making their way to Paris last Saturday. They set out believing it was a march of protest about climate change, and it still is, but it also becomes something more now.

60 Christians going to Paris, their hearts full of peace and prayer. “I should think they’ll give that up now won’t they” someone said to me “after all it’s not going to be safe”

Now if Darius or Pilate were their kings, yes certainly they would give it up. But if Daniel or Jesus, if they are your inspiration, you have no alternative but to keep on the road.

“I can help you with some of that”

Bible readings have not been especially helpful in these past weeks in helping me at least, to interpret what my Christian response looks like in relation to this past week.

Last Sunday evening – you did well to skip Evening Prayer here, where the set reading was Jesus saying to the crowd – that simple adage “Do as you would be done by”.

It’s the sort of thing my Grandma would say to me about some childhood misdemeanour of mine. But it’s very challenging if we apply those words to the big issues.

We can live our lives perpetuating the cycle of violence and hatred that ends up with families streaming for their home countries for fear of their lives, and makes us suspicious of everyone before ever we will reach out in love to them. Darius and Pilate inherited those principles.

But if Christ is our King, there has to be more substance in our response, doesn’t there.

Keep on the road, even though it might seem ridiculous.

Keep on the road even though you’re carrying so much stuff.

Keep on the road, and look out for fellow travellers along the way, especially a young NHS nurse just going off duty.

“I could help you with some of that”.

Paul says somewhere or other, “Put on Christ” “Wear him”

So I ask again if Christ is Our King what would your life and mine really look like if we were so clothed.

 
 
DANIEL 6: 3-18
MATTHEW 18:33-44