Christ the King Sunday November 12, 2017
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Worship Supplement 758 [Alt. TLH 244], WS 757 [Alt. TLH 199], 341, 221
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Grace and peace to you from Him who lives, who was dead, and who is alive forever more. Amen.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
This is the Word of the Lord.
We pray: Dear heavenly Father, send us your Spirit that we would conquer all enemies by faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A king should be recognizable. If the Queen of England was coming to your home town, you would expect to know about it. From newspapers, to news stations, internet media, and chatter about town, having a king or queen come to visit your home town would be a big deal. And when he arrives, you surely would know it. He comes in with a grand procession, traffic is halted; security is on high alert; police are on patrol; the streets are lined with people holding up signs, crowds of people just waiting to catch a glimpse of the king. And over the street hangs a banner, a great and grand and glorious banner which reads, “Welcome!”
In Mark Twain’s tail, the Prince and the Pauper, the people get something unexpected: a prince dressed as a pauper. The royal son, Prince Edward, trades places with the lowly peasant, Tom Canty and finds out what life is like in one of London’s poorest neighborhoods. Dressed as a poor pauper, the prince is unrecognizable. When he tries to claim his royal rights, he is mocked, beaten, and eventually ends up in one of England’s filthy prisons. He is nothing more than a poor pauper to the people.
And how far fetched is it? For our King has come in rags, is mocked, beaten, and imprisoned. He comes with no grand procession or crowds to greet him. Where is the great and grand and glorious banner?
In a small church the banners hang. And on the top of each banner is the Latin phrase, “VIVIT!” With those words we recognize our king. With those banners we welcome our king. In these church walls we form a grand procession. “VIVIT!” That is to say, “He Lives!” With this phrase we acknowledge what cannot be seen and what the crowds do not recognize, that His kingdom is not of this world. It is the phrase that adorns our banners and our lives, welcoming our King: “VIVIT!” “He Lives!”
But this Prince appears to be nothing more than pauper. It leaves us looking around and wondering who will take charge. We want to know how this story will end. For all we can tell, death is in charge; for all we can tell, death will win out. Who’s in charge? After all, people still go hungry, villages still lack access to clean water, families still struggle to make ends meet and people go homeless. We contract diseases and suffer mental and emotional pain. We are persecuted for doing or saying or believing what is right. We die.
We look for a King to take charge. We look for things to change. We look for a place in this world to raise that banner and welcome our King. And when we can’t find Him in the places we want Him, we become unsatisfied. We look for our King in earthly things and find ourselves never satisfied. We aren’t even truly hungry, but we want more to eat. We don’t just want clean water, we want it filtered, purified, bottled water. We complain over the unstable economy even as we sit down in our leather chair and turn on our 48 inch flat-screen, digital cable TV. We feel the need to let the world know about our stress and emotional pain, while people in third world countries are dying from Ebola and other diseases. We don’t speak up about the issues like abortion, divorce, homosexuality or salvation, because we are afraid someone might not agree and it would make us feel uncomfortable. We do what ever we can to keep our bodies looking young, afraid of what it will mean to get old and what it will be like to die.
Why not just take down our banners, and leave with heads hung low? Why not just accept defeat and watch as death wins out?
The kingdom of Christ is not be recognized by the crowds. They look for a king who looks and acts like the kings they are used to, not a pauper or peasant. They look for a king who comes to irradiate hunger, but they find him wandering in the wilderness refusing to accept even a morsel of bread from the devil. They look for a king who comes to bring access to clean drinking water for all nations, but they find him found hanging from a cross, nearly dead, groaning, “I thirst.” They look for a king who is honored and loved by all, but they find a King who is a stranger, unwelcome by the very people who call him king. They look for a king who will set up his own great city with a grand palace with great armies, but they find a King who has no where to lay His head, who wanders about the countryside with no money and no possessions. They look for a king who is important, with servants to wait on his every need day and night, but they find him alone, weak, suffering, crowned with thorns, carrying the death of the cross on his shoulders. They look for a king who holds the popular opinion, whose reforms are championed by the world, but they find him taken captive in the dark of night, and no one stand up for him. They look for a king who lives and reigns, but they find a King who is defeated and dies.
The problem is that they are looking in all the wrong places. For hidden in that pauper is a Prince, a King and our banners tell the end of the story: “VIVIT! HE LIVES!"
They don’t see the end of the story, but we do. From rags to riches, from pauper to prince, Jesus is crowned Lord of all. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
The Word reveals Jesus for who He truly is—a Prince hidden in a pauper. The Word reveals the end of the story. As the angel says, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” We were looking in all the wrong places! We were trusting in our intellect, our reason, our perceptions, and our selfish need to be satisfied. There we will find only death reigning. In the world, in our reason, in our flesh, death reigns; death is in charge.
So we raise the banners: “VIVIT!” We see the end of the story. He has risen! He came as a pauper that He might become our King. So our King is hungry, thirsty, outcast, homeless, cursed, captive, and crucified—for us. His kingdom comes in the promise of God. The Father sent His own Son to be the second Adam, to do what was undone and undo what we have done, and to be humbled that He might taste death for everyone. He who lives is the son of Adam. And now we, as sons of Adam, live only in Him. He lives, He lives who once was dead! We raise the banners that tell the end of the story: “VIVIT! He lives!"
“For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” We are waiting for this story to be completed. Still Christ is reigning, extending his victory, pushing back and forcing out the last of the enemies. He continues to conquer our sinful flesh and force Satan into a corner. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
His victory is not yet complete in an outward visible way, rather, it continues to become known, growing closer and closer to its completion. He keeps on reigning in his Word and Sacrament. He stomps on the devil and strengthens you to face his temptations. He stomps on sin and declares you forgiven. He stomps on the power of death and even though death is not yet destroyed, the power of death is. By faith, his victory becomes yours, because you know the end of the story.
And suddenly, our pauper becomes a King. He rises from death to take charge of our lives and hearts. He changes things dramatically. And we find a place to raise our banners and welcome our King. We raise our banner every time we face some difficulty or tragedy and turn to the cross of Christ which reigns in the midst of evil and suffering. We raise our banner every time we visit someone who is in the hospital and comfort them with the promises and hope of God. We raise our banner every time we visit someone who is burdened by sinful choices and guilt and tell them that Christ has taken away all sin. We raise our banner every time we visit a Christian who is on his death bed and we share victory passages of the resurrection. We raise our banners and say: “VIVIT! He Lives!”
We know the end of the story. The pauper has been crowned Prince. He will complete His work. He will destroy death itself and raise up our bodies to everlasting life. Then He will hand over His work to the Father, delivering you to the Father and delivering the Father’s kingdom to you. Then He will raise the banner to show to those who do not believe, the evidence that these have believed in Him.
For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
In the end, God will be all in all. Once His work is complete, Christ will deliver all that belongs to Him into the hand of His Father. Salvation will be complete and Christ will come into His kingdom of glory for all to see. All enemies will be under foot. No more hunger. No more thirst. No more strangers. No more nakedness or need. No more sickness or suffering. No more persecution or imprisonment. No more death. And we will lift our banners high, singing to God: “VIVIT! He Lives!”
The Son will hand the scepter to the Father and God will be revealed as the Supreme, United King of all. In the end, all things will be under Him. All enemies will be made His footstool. And we will rise to eternal glory and reign together with Him forever and ever.
The banner is hanging on the walls of a small church —and that church is your church. Wherever Christians gather on the Lord’s Day to call on His name in faith, wherever voices are lifted to sing “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” wherever Christians celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, there one finds the grand procession welcoming the King to come in His Kingdom. Let us ever tell the end of the story, sing it, shout it, and live it: “VIVIT! He Lives!” Hallelujah! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.