November 24 Sermon
An Unpopular Candidate
How many of you have ever run for an elected office? Have you ever had to campaign for the position? People running for office spend a lot of money trying to convince you that they are the best person for the job. Now consider what traits a candidate emphasizes to gain your vote. Most people seek qualities such as honesty, courage to make the tough decisions, experience, solid track records, and person who stands up for the people, just to name a few.
We’ve heard about the radical kingdom of God that Jesus taught about during his life. Today on Christ the King Sunday, the last day of the church year, let’s consider what ‘Christ the King’ actually means. How would this man named Jesus that we confess to be the Son of God, our Savior and Lord of all, and ‘Christ the King’ place in an election today?
Let’s look at how he measures up to our previous list of qualities. Honesty is one of his absolute strengths. Jesus speaks truth, a truth deeper than we want to hear at times. There is no sugar coating, no ignoring our insecurities and sinfulness, no pretending we are somebody we aren’t. Jesus asks us to get real. He loves us just as we are, frees us to be ourselves, and forgives us. There is no need to pretend we are someone that we are not. He promised the thief hanging next to him life in paradise.
Courage to make tough decisions rates high for the Son of God. He made decisions to love and show compassion to those that the world considered outsiders. Jesus spent time with the traitors, the unclean, and the diseased, healing their physical ailments and releasing the burdens of their sins. He resisted the need to prove himself. Time after time the people said, “if you are the Son of God, save yourself!” Yet he wouldn’t be baited into selfishness to prove himself divine. He obediently served God the Father without desiring attention to himself. He served to the point of death on a cross out of love for you and me.
What kind of experience could Jesus boast for the office of Son of God? He was born in a stable around animals without pomp and circumstance. He was the son of a blue collar carpenter and a teenage girl that was pregnant before marriage, quite a taboo in ancient Israel. As he began his ministry, Scripture says that Jesus was unable to perform miracles in Nazareth because they had such little faith. He walked from town to town with little more than the clothes that he wore. Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? How can he perform miracles OR call himself the Son of God? Who does he think he is?
Now let’s talk about track records. It was no secret that Jesus had a place in his heart for the forgotten. His love for people wasn’t limited only to the widows, the poor, and children. However, since they were thought of as things to be owned and controlled rather than appreciated and loved, he made sure that they heard it. From spending time with these overlooked people to preaching about hearts of thankfulness and generosity to those who have plenty, Jesus boldly stood on the foundation of love. He was consistent and emphatic, love God first and your neighbor as yourself.
And then we talk about candidates that proclaim to be for the people. Has there ever been a more powerful example of a man for the people? Jesus chose 12 ordinary guys to become his disciples and to share his message to the world. And later, there would be hundreds of disciples consisting of average people (including women, which were also taboo). A woman was caught in the act of adultery and the Pharisees brought her to Jesus in the public square, shaming and embarrassing her. (I’ve always wondered why the guy wasn’t brought to Jesus as well. Wasn’t he guilty of adultery too?) When the Pharisees suggested to Jesus that the Law of Moses required her to be stoned for adultery, he replied, “whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone”. They left, the woman didn’t confess, and Jesus said if they didn’t condemn her, neither would he. Jesus shows mercy and forgiveness unearned and undeserved.
So here is the man that we claim to be Christ the King. He is honest to a fault, courageous in conviction without concern for his own reputation, experienced in humility and love, has a track record of generously giving and forgiving without judgment, and makes the poor/diseased/outcasts the center of his message. He claims to be the Son of God. Would you vote for this candidate?
He looked down from the cross and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He desired to forgive the men that still had blood on their hands from nailing him to the cross. He desired to forgive the soldiers who cast lots for his clothes sitting below him. He desired forgiveness for the disciples who ran away from the scene. Is this your candidate?
This is our God. I asked the worship committee earlier this week and now I ask you, “Who is the audience in worship?” There is just One in the audience and it is God. While the sermon is directed toward the people of God, the sacraments are shared with God and the worship service in which you participate is directed to God. And our giving, which isn’t meant to be an obligation but generosity from thankful hearts, is meant to be directed to God and his mission. Not to people who we believe are deserving because none of us fall under that category.
I’m not sure that Jesus would win an election. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure he would even place in the top three. But I do know that even when we have turned our backs on him, he has not turned away from us. He continues to come to us in the middle of a messy world where things happen that we can’t understand. He came while we were yet sinners to take our burdens upon himself. While he may not win an election today, he is the PERFECT candidate to be Christ the King. Amen.