St. Simon's Church
November 25, 2018
It has been only a few short weeks since, together with Temple Beth Shalom, Gregg Chapel AME Church, and several other local faith organizations, we came together at the Landing here in Ft. Walton Beach to publicly honor the 11 people murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Yet, in that brief period of time many other acts of senseless violence and demonstrations of anger and hatred have taken place. Senseless acts of violence and cruel words resulting in tragic outcomes that include the loss of far too many lives and an ongoing vindictive and destructive rhetoric that has no regard for the pain and grief that it causes.
If you are at all like me, at this point in time you are probably benumbed by it all. Benumbed by the daily Tweets and newscasts peppered with talking heads and angry politicians who are all opinionated and angry – all accusing of one person or another – a barrage of seemingly endless negativity that stuns and then numbs in its relentlessness.
In real time we are watching our nation grow increasingly divided. As each day passes, and the negativity and divisiveness continue, we are being pushed further and further away from the peace and harmony that God intends for his Kingdom here on earth, and closer and closer to the chaos of worldly evil so powerfully described in our psalm for today.
"The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.”
In this one short verse, the psalmist describes total chaos in the world of the ancient Jews - the floods lift up their roaring. The Jews have been overpowered by the Syrians and the Babylonians. Their world destroyed by power hungry nations from the north. They have been forced to flee, exiled from their promised land to somewhere unknown and unfriendly to their beloved God, and therefore, to them.
But, the psalmist concludes by assuring us that the roaring floods will be becalmed. In the end says the psalmist– in the end, "The Lord is King, he is robed in majesty…his throne is established from old; he is everlasting…more majestic than the waves of the sea…his decrees are very sure…O Lord forevermore.”
Resoundingly, the psalmist affirms God's sovereignty over chaos. Boldly and elegantly he proclaims the Lord is King.
Throughout both the Old and the New Testaments God is seen to bring order and peace through the calming of treacherous water. The opening words of Genesis introduce us to the God who created the heavens and earth from a formless void and darkness that covered the deep by sending a wind that swept over the face of the waters. In Exodus, Moses held out his staff and the Red Sea was parted by God. Jesus calmed the violent waves in the Sea of Galilee as he and his disciples rowed to the opposite shore.
The roaring waters in today's psalm refer to the ancient middle east view that God became supreme by defeating chaos and creating a stable world. And, in today's psalm, the Lord once again defeats the chaos of the roaring floods and brings an orderly world into being.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is the day instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to growing secularism throughout the world, and in the context of our Christian beliefs established in the Definition of Faith at the Chalcedon 4th Ecumenical Council in 451. The Definition of Faith, which became the theological standard of orthodox Christianity in the entire Western church, and in most of the East states, "…our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same God, perfect in divinity, and perfect in humanity, true God and true human…of one substance with the Father in his divinity, and of one substance with us in his humanity, in every way like us, with the only exception of sin…"
In his oneness with Jesus, God bestowed his sovereignty on Jesus. God and Jesus are one in their dominion over all creatures. Just as God has dominion over all creatures, so Jesus also has dominion over all creatures. His kingship is founded on his oneness with God. Jesus as The Word of God has all things in common with God and, therefore, as he proclaims in Matthew 28, "All power in heaven and on earth have been given to me."
To put it quite simply, Christ is King.
In declaring the Feast Day of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI had more in mind that simply creating another celebratory day in his church. Pope Pius wanted this Feast Day to impact the laity as well. He wrote,
"If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth… He must reign in our minds…he must reign in our wills… he must reign in our hearts…he must reign in our bodies…which should serve as instruments of justice unto God."
Christ the King must reign in our hearts, in our minds, and in our bodies.
What does this mean for us? How can we quiet the distracting chaos of a world caught up in the throes of negativity, divisiveness, anger, and political chaos? What do we need to do to assure that Christ is indeed king - that Christ the King reigns, has sovereignty, without interruption in our lives? Where do we turn for help to guide us back to Christ the King in moments of distraction and distress? How do we prevent our exile from a place where Christ is King?
In just a few days, we will begin our Advent journey, that brief period of time spent in anticipation of the birth of the Christ child – the coming of God's Kingdom here on earth.
Advent is a time of preparation. A time for us to quiet our minds – to find some rest for our weary souls – a time to reflect on the meaning of this coming, this arrival of God's Kingdom in our midst. It is an opportunity to meet Christ the King with open hearts and to create a place for him in our lives, in our community, and in our world. To allow him to reign in our hearts, in our minds, and in our bodies.
Perhaps this year, more than any other time I can remember, I believe that it is critically important for us to seriously consider how – in what ways – we will honor this time of anticipation. Honor it not only in word – but in mind, body and soul. In the coming weeks what will we do to put aside the distractions and dissensions of the world and spend time quietly reflecting, embracing, making sovereign Christ the King.
Could we not for these next few weeks, precious few days really, consider taking a sabbath from one or more of our social media or television distractions. Perhaps no Tweeting, or no talking heads – no something, or somethings, that would not only remove our minds and our emotions from distracting and distressing negativity, but also carve out some small moments of time for reading scripture, engaging in morning and evening prayer, or any other spiritually centered activity that leads us to peace and joy – that leads us to Christ the King.
A sabbath from our cell phone, our laptop, our iPad, our television. A time devoted unabashedly and completely to Christ the King.
Our Presiding Bishop, in his wisdom, or perhaps I should say in his passion, to bring Jesus - Christ the King - to the forefront of our lives, this past summer launched an incredibly powerful program called The Way of Love. Father David, Forbes and I have referred to The Way of Love before from this pulpit. I am certain that it is nothing new to you.
But, I am asking you to hear about The Way of Love with new ears and to receive The Way of Love Advent calendar that we are distributing today with eyes wide open - especially the eyes of your hearts. Each day has a simple Christ centered activity. I promise you that if you find 15-20 minutes each day to complete these activities, by the eve of his arrival, December 24, Christ the King will have permeated your mind, your body, and your soul. You will thirst for your daily sabbath time to continue into the new year.
Our Lord’s arrival on Christmas Eve will have new meaning for you. His arrival will herald a new understanding of and a new commitment to the sovereignty of Christ the King. An understanding and a commitment that will sustain you as, hopefully, you continue into the new year taking the time each day to make room for Christ the King in your lives. To rise above the negativity and dissension of our current world stage - to resist exile - to quiet the chaotic waters - and to row peacefully to the other shore - the shore where peace and love - Christ the King - reign.