Monday, April 23, 2007

Sermon Samples: Video, Audio, and Manuscripts

Sermon Sample One
Acts 5:27-32
April 16, 2007
Given at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

The video above contains my senior sermon, which was delivered in the chapel of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary on April 16, 2007.

Sermon Focus: Acts 5:27-32 is a text about the kerygma, the public proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This preaching is carried on by witnesses to the truth of the gospel who have been charged by God through the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit.

Sermon Function
: Having heard last week the glorious proclamation of Easter, we find ourselves asking the question: Now what? This sermon is meant to inspire listeners to courageously proclaim the gospel of the crucified and resurrected Christ to a broken world, even in the face of public humiliation and deep skepticism on the part of our cultural high priests.

[Click to Show/Hide Sermon Text]


Acts 5:27-32
Second Week of Easter

© 2007 by Christopher D. Drew


You may have had a similar experience. You’re sitting at your breakfast table at home. Perhaps you’re at a local Austin café. Your sitting with a good friend or significant other, and you agree to buy and share a copy of the local paper. While waiting for that toasted english muffin and fresh cup of coffee, you start divvying up the sections of the paper. If you’ve done this with your friend before, you realize that there is usually one point of contention, especially if this is the Sunday paper we’re talking about: Who gets the funny page first?

I always want that full-color page of funnies before anyone else gets their hands on it. The reason is simple: I greatly dislike reading the dour editorial or news pages while a close acquaintance sits opposite of me, giggling with delight at Garfield’s latest goofiness. Over the years, I think it’s interesting that the comic page, for all its laughter and levity, somehow more closely resembles the truth of our day-to-day lives than anything above the fold, screaming out in tall headlines through the vending machine window.

Today, I’m going to speak about one of these cartoonists. On Saturday, April 7, the day before Easter, much beloved cartoonist Johnny Hart passed away at the age of 76. He passed away, appropriately, at his drawing table. The table was located in a remote spot on his estate overlooking the lake that was on his property. I like to think that Johnny was able to catch one more sunrise before suffering the stroke that ended his life. You may be familiar with the comic strip he drew for over 30 years: “B.C.” Johnny’s cast of characters – practical B.C., peg legged baseball manager and poet extraordinaire Wiley, Neanderthal Grog (who somehow missed an evolutionary cycle), the Fat Broad, Peter, Curls, Thor the wheel used salesman, talking dinosaurs and clams, and a loveable tortoise and his rider, a simple bird who could just as easily fly around but instead prefers the company and pace of her much slower reptilian friend – all of these characters gave us a humorous view into the way Johnny Hart saw things. Comic strip writers use their pen and ink to create unique characters that help us see the world together with the writer. When this happens we receive a gift of a new insight and a chuckle.

Johnny used several familiar setups to get his point across. A recent strip featured Curls standing behind a rock helpfully engraved with the words “Ask Curls.”

“What’s the difference between a monarchy and a democracy,” asks Thor.

“In a monarchy,” Curls replies, “you only have one liar to deal with.”

Peter, reading from a book open on a rock. The rock is engraved and tells us that the book is called “The Book of Phrases.”

“Eating Disorder,” Peter reads.

“Drinking white wine with a hotdog.” No thanks.

“Wiley’s Dictionary” was another famous recurring scene. Witty Wiley always had a fun definition for ordinary words. Some alluded to biblical characters.

Peter upon reading the dictionary sees an entry for “Poop-Deck – A naval term attributed to Noah.”

And finally, one famous character announced who it was with almost every appearance.

“Hi there, I am an apteryx, and wingless bird with hairy feathers. What are you?”

“A burning bush,” the burning bush replies.

“But there is no smoke. Why are you not being consumed?”

The burning bush replies, “That’s what frosts the pollsters.”

Oh yes the grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever!

Cartoonists are an interesting bunch. They amuse us, give us reason for pause, and in the case of some editorial cartoons, anger us. Anyone who regularly reads the comics can see that the quality of the artwork is of almost secondary importance. Of utmost importance is the sequence and delivery of comic ideas [gospels deliver information to us in a similar fashion]. Cartoonists, get their laughs by being keen observers of life. They are able to notice things, aspects of human behavior and psychology that we frequently miss. Then, using an uncanny set of gifts, the comic strip writer can synthesize these complex human traits into a three or four frame comic sketch that can leave the reader tearing up with laughter.

Curiously, Johnny Hart, who wrote a humorous cartoon, ended up angering a lot of people, most of them newspaper editors. This was particularly the case later in his career, when “B.C.” became the platform upon which Hart, a Presbyterian, would proclaim the Gospel.

In what was probably his last Easter Sunday strip, appearing the day after his death, Hart once again proclaimed Christ crucified, this time in that tiny little schoolhouse (featuring a sign spelling school “SKOOL”) for ants.

Barbers have the striped pole to signify their trade. My former dentist in San Francisco had a large wood carving of a tooth hanging from a sign outside her office building. Cartoonists like Hart have their work on the printed page. I wonder. Many of the people in this room are now or plan on being preachers. What is the appropriate sign we hang out for all to see, so that all may know who we are and the truths we claim to represent?

Exposition: Acts 5:27-32

Peter and the apostles give us some guidance in today’s passage from the book of Acts. By the time we get to chapter five, the apostles have already been in and out of prison multiple times. In each case, they are locked up for preaching the gospel message of Christ crucified.

This basic message is referred to by the Greek word kergyma. The message of the kerygma is repeated it Acts 2, 3, 5, and 13. The message of the kerygma IS preaching, and the recurring pattern of Acts works something like this.
  1. Jesus came into the world. He is the messiah.
  2. He is a fulfillment of all the covenantal promises God made to our ancestors.
  3. Jesus was killed, having been hung on a tree. The image from the Greek is even more compelling. Verse 30 refers to be “draped out” over the tree, almost like being hung out to dry.
  4. Jesus has risen, and we are witnesses to these things. Because he lives, we may also live.
The High Priest challenges the apostles, asking why they continue to preach “in this name.” Is it for the purposes of implicating them in the death of Jesus?

Actually, no. They preach, Peter answers, because the ultimate source of authority, God, makes it necessary. They are, in fact, compelled to preach. They are compelled by Jesus, who is the leader, or, more closely to the Greek text “the one who leads forward,” and who is our Savior. They are not preaching to impute guilt on anyone. Rather, they are preaching to announce the good news of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. Repentance! Forgiveness! Because Jesus lives, we may live.

Having been given the gift of the Holy Spirit in chapter two, the apostles now embody the message of the gospel.

Some of you may have noticed that this passage specifically refers to Israel as the recipient of repentance that can only be given by God, and the forgiveness of sins. Some may be tempted to conclude that those not of the nation of Israel are excluded from God’s grace. I argue that this is not so, because the story of salvation in the New Testament begins with the election of Israel on behalf of all the nations of the world. Israel is called to be a priest among the nations, and the light of Zion to which all the nations are ultimately gathered. Israel is a signpost pointing to the repentance and mercy of God.

The Challenge to Us

Peter and the apostles are bound to preach the good news. I mean they are bound, literally. They are bound inextricably to the message of Jesus Christ. They themselves embody the message. During Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, he explained to the Pharisees that even if he ordered his disciples to cease from celebrating, the stones would still cry out. Even in the face of prison and persecution, the disciples continue to proclaim the good news. The prophet Jeremiah proclaims (20:9), “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” This is a message that will be proclaimed, and damn the consequences.

We, along with the disciples, are witness to the reality of the resurrected Christ. We have inherited this same apostolic message, and just as Jesus Christ was charged by the Father to carry His Word into the world, so have the disciples been entrusted to continue this work through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have inherited this same Spirit.

We can “preach” the gospel message, friends, but it has no traction unless we first embody the message as our predecessors have. We embody the message and proclaim it not just with our spoken words, but also with our actions, by the “content of our character.” To be sure, our work does not buy us our salvation, but it is evidence of Christ working in us through the Holy Spirit.

So how do we embody this work? We pray, we celebrate a communion that binds us with Christ and with one other, and we proclaim the good news. This means becoming, in a more literal sense, a “body” of work, a body that is part of a larger body of faith in Jesus Christ, and which is the body of Jesus Christ. We are charged, friends, with helping others to see something that we see, just as the comic book artist helps others see some aspect of the world that they might have otherwise been missed. We are called to help other see a specific message: Jesus lives, and therefore we all may live, freely, fully, abundantly, and joyfully.

Experience of Rejection – Expect It

Johnny Hart, beloved by many, nevertheless experienced rejection by a few of our culture’s most staunch guardians, the editors of newspapers, individuals who, with their decisions, decide what you, dear reader, should and should not know. Hart’s cartoon gospel was cut on several occasions. The good news of the gospel was not something to be heard in public.

Friends, editors are going to try and cut our message as well. In fact, you can count on it! Moreover, you can count on these same editors doing whatever they can to actively supplant the gospel with their own versions of “good news.” [Refer to recent WSJ article about “Atheists Seizing the Pulpit.”] The gospel carries too many serious implications for transformation, for new resurrection life. Our culture’s self-appointed guardians are reluctant to accept this message. The reason is pretty straightforward. We live in a culture that thrives on the quick fix. The answer to almost any question can be secured through one of two devices: A credit card, and/or Google. The gospel isn’t any quick fix.

Don’t we sometimes act as our own editors as well? I know that I’m my own editor. I’ll hit the delete key on the keyboard to hide what may be considered a “controversial” thought. I creatively arrange words in order to avoiding offending someone. I’ll silently repress my own conscious in order to supplant the good news of the gospel with what, during some delusion of grandeur, I decide is “better” news. Symptoms of this editing abound not only in the larger culture but also within the church, and in ourselves. We need to be on our guard for this kind of editing.
In 1996, the Los Angeles Times refused to run a Palm Sunday “B.C.” cartoon featuring the affable and poetic character, Wiley. The poem was entitled “The Suffering Prince.”

What do you suppose the rejection letter from the editor said? Can you imagine what it might sound like? I think I can, and it sounds something like this:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled our readership, all of Los Angeles (the City of Angels) with your teaching.”

If we are serious about hanging out our sign by embodying the gospel of the resurrected Christ, and proclaiming it out of the fire within our bones, we might take the same approach as good ol’ Wiley who, thoughtfully and carefully, under the shade of a beautiful tree, freely penned the following Palm Sunday message, despite the demands that he cease and desist:

[The Suffering Prince]

Picture yourself tied to a tree,
condemned of the sins of eternity.
Then picture a spear, parting the air,
seeking your heart to cut your despair.
Suddenly—a knight, in armor of white,
stands in the gap betwixt you and its flight,
And shedding his 'armor of God' for you—
bears the lance that runs him through.
His heart has been pierced that yours may beat,
and the blood of his corpse washes your feet.
Picture yourself in raiment white,
cleansed by the blood of the lifeless knight.
Never to mourn,
the prince who was downed,
For he is not lost! It is you who are found.

This poem is the gospel this Easter season, friends, and it is precisely this message that is cut by our cultural editors. He came, he died for us, and now we may truly live.

We can thank the Johnny Harts of the world for giving us a great example of what it means to see the truth together. In fact, he did it not only by using his characters but also through the wonderful irony contained his comic strip’s title. With “B.C.” what Hart was really doing was proclaiming the good news of “A.D.” You don’t need a special degree or a specific religious church calling to proclaim the gospel. You can be a cartoonist, a receptionist, a mechanic, a doctor, or even an ex-consultant.

May no editor, including our own little internal editor, ever squelch this glorious message of God’s love for us. Jesus came, lived among us, ministered to us, was crucified, and was raised on Easter morning, not so that we might be found guilty, but so that we might truly live in freedom from sin and it’s chief symptom, which is death. So in this second full week of Easter,

“Picture yourself in raiment white,
cleansed by the blood of the lifeless knight.
Never to mourn,
the prince who was downed,
For he is not lost! It is you who are found.”

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Sermon Sample Two
"What Sort of King are You, Truthfully?"
John 18:33-38a
November 26, 2006
Given at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church

Here is an audio recording of a sermon I delivered on Christ the King Sunday (November 26, 2006) at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church. About 900 people heard this sermon over three services. Click here to listen, or right-click the link to download a copy. The sermon text can be read below.

Sermon Focus: Jesus makes the claim that he is King of a Kingdom that transcends our understanding of royalty and power and gives witness to the Truth. Our human institutions of power are ultimately subject to the authority of One Lord of Truth.

Sermon Function: To encourage listeners incorporate the claims of this One Lord of Truth into their family and professional lives, and in the covenantal relationships we have in the Church.

[Click to Show/Hide Sermon Text]

What Sort of King are You, Truthfully?

John 18:33-38a
Christ the King Sunday

© 2006 by Christopher D. Drew

These past weeks I have been participating in Ron Ragsdale’s Midweek Moment class that is viewing and responding to John Eldredge’s wonderful book and video series called EPIC. I really like the class because it does a wonderful job of relating our stories with the grand story of God revealed to us through Scripture and in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Early in the series, John Eldridge asks the penetrating question “What sort of tale have we fallen into?” As I have read today’s gospel text, the story of Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, and have reflected on the time of the year, I ask myself the same question. What sort of tale have we fallen into?

Part of the answer is supplied by the calendar. This Sunday is referred to in the great circle of the church’s calendar as Christ the King Sunday. It is a significant inflection point in the recurring story of the universal church. Having just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, a holiday meant to acknowledge our place in the history of this nation, we now draw our eyes back once again, on Sunday, together with the world, to the risen Lord as we lay the groundwork for Advent. (Can you believe it? Advent is almost here.) The story of Christ the King is linked closely with the end-time theme of the first week of Advent and forms the narrative bridge between the “old” Christian year and the “new.”

This is a tale that moves swiftly as we march on toward Christmastide, so we might still be disoriented from having fallen into it. Our place in time is marked by images of the royal Christ. The forum for this image is the story of a trial, a trial where we are challenged to ask ourselves, “Just what it is about this man, Jesus, who we call and particularly acknowledge on this day as King?” We’re entering a story containing intrigue, the nature of God’s Kingdom, and the substance of what it is we call “truth.” As we consider Jesus in light of our text from the gospel of John, let us all keep in mind the question “What sort of tale have we fallen into?”

Let us pray:

Holy and merciful God, send your Spirit to illuminate our minds and hearts as your word is read and proclaimed in this place and time. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, whom with you and the Holy Spirit we praise and honor and glorify this day and every day. Amen.

John 18:33-38a

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"

35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"

36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."

37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked.

Our thinking about royal power and kingdoms is shaped and influenced by both our popular culture and by our politics, and our reactions to royal power run the gambit from ridicule, to suspicion, to fear.

Some of you may remember the popular family sitcom about the 1950s called Happy Days. You might remember that Ron Howard (who is now a famous film director) played Ritchie Cunningham. His dad, Howard Cunningham, aspired to and later became “grand Pooh-Bah” of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He became the make-believe “king” of the local fraternal group. It seemed clear to me, when watching the show, that a certain social prestige was associated with the somewhat silly title “grand Pooh-Bah.” The term usually generates some degree of amusement, even laughter. “Grand Pooh-Bah” was created by Gilbert and Sullivan for their musical The Mikado.

In this operetta, the haughty character Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else. The name has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or high-ranking and who exhibits an inflated self-regard.

In our culture, we sometimes view royalty or superior social status with a similar degree of derision We frequently ridicule at the bumbling fool who has been put in charge for no other reason than by accident of birth or because the more qualified employee got wise and went looking for a better job elsewhere. We laugh because we have some sense of how inadequate any human is to the task of being royal.

Royalty isn’t all fumbling and bumbling incapable fools, though. There’s sinister side to royalty as well. In America, we treat kingdom talk with deep suspicion, borne out of our national historical struggle against Great Britain, and because we have adopted a system of government founded precisely upon the suspicion of those with ambitions to lead. Throughout history Kings (and Queens) of the earth have been said to hold their power through a “divine right” borne, in part, on an allegiance to the King of Kings! But the record of history causes us to view these claims with suspicion, too. And our suspicion is not unjustified. History is full of personalities who, having been proclaimed King or Queen, and having understood themselves to have the approval of the King of Kings, then utilized their power and authority for the perpetuation of all manner of evil: famine, slavery, and genocide are a few of the most unsavory examples. We are a people who don’t like the idea of a King. We are resistant to the notion that an entity apart from ourselves could ultimately hold sway over even the most basic decisions of our lives.

Even so, while we refuse to put a crown on anyone because we’re suspicious of one person who has all of the power, we’re not altogether immune to the tendency to put our trust in one, single entity, either. We frequently fall back into the view that a party or platform can save us. We had an election earlier this month. For some, this was an occasion for great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Our party lost. The gig is up. For some, there were feelings that ALL was lost. That the power to change things for the better had been transferred to those who have a wrongheaded approach for that which is best for this nation.

For others, the election was a time for great celebration. What was once lost has been regained. It’s our gig now. For some, there were feelings that NOW, we finally have a shot to get things right. The power to change things for the better had been transferred from those who have a wrongheaded approach for that which is best for this nation.

Now, you see the commonality between these two statements? Underneath both statements is this notion that we can rely, if not on a king, then on the political process (when we’re the winners) to save ourselves. And it is for this exact reason that we have the representative republic form of constitutional government. The other side cannot be trusted.

Is this power? Political institutions that fade in and out of first place? I think our gospel writer is suggesting something totally different. Today’s reading challenges us to rethink the notion of power, of having a king in our lives; one to whom we pledge total and complete allegiance; one who we acknowledge to be Lord of Life, one who Revelation 1:5 tells us is “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the Earth.”

Our reading today is preceeded by the acocunt of the angry and suspicious crowds who have handed Jesus over to the Roman authority, Pontius Pilate. Pilate asks the crowd what Jesus has done, and according to John they gave the very vague answer: “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate decides to interview Jesus to find out what is going on such that the peace of the forthcoming Passover celebration is threatened.

Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” This is a question firmly rooted in Pilate’s worldly experience in the Roman Empire. In the other Gospel accounts of this same interview, Jesus answers briefly, “You have said it.” But the expanded and detailed account in John’s gospel gives us a view into something much larger than a potential political dispute between Rome (represented by Pilate), and Israel (represented by the Crowds, the Chief Priests and others). John’s account is much more detailed because he seems very interested in witnessing to the Lordship of Jesus. This is reflected in Jesus’s next recorded statement, one that appears to be based on a suspicion of Pilate’s motive for asking his question. Does Pilate suspect that Jesus might be something more than the crowds have thus far portrayed? Jesus tests Pilate to see if his suspicion is accurate: “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asks, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Pilate’s reply is almost a scoff, “I am not a Jew, am I?” It seems, then, that Pilate is only familiar with Kingship as it relates to the context of Empire. The suspicion that he may be on to Jesus’ true nature is therefore unfounded. So, if Jesus is not a “king” in the sense that Pilate understands, then why has Jesus been brought to him at all? Pilate asks Jesus about this, “What is it you have done?” The chief priests and “people” have handed him over. Why all this trouble on the day of Preparation for Passover?

“My kingdom,” says Jesus, “is not of this world.” His Kingdom is not from around here. It’s not a Kingdom as we understand Kingdoms – with territory and replete with armies to defend, supplant, and conquer. No, not this King. Instead, we have the King who rules in a way utterly not like that found on Earth. If Jesus’s Kingdom were an earthly Kingdom, wouldn’t you expect armies of supporters responding to his command? Yes, indeed we would. But not here. Indeed, Jesus makes it clear that his Kingdom, because it is not of this world, is therefore not a threat to Roman authority per se. Instead, this is a Kingdom with the God of Love as its foundation. A love founded upon a kind of powerlessness that defies human expectation. A love founded upon the full faithfulness of the one loved. Jesus is our perfect exemplar of such love. It is a love that cannot be understood apart from the work of Jesus and the new commandment he gave in chapter 13:14 where he said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus answers Pilate’s exclamation “You are a king, then!” in the affirmative. “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Yes, there is Truth, and a Way, and Life. It encounters us in the voice of the stranger, in the outstretched hand of the victim, of the less fortunate. The Truth is Love; and Love is commanded by this King. And it is for this reason that we give all glory and honor to our King. He is not the King who is representative of the truth. No. We ask, “What Kind of King are you, Jesus, truthfully?” He answers, “Your King is Truth and bears witness to the truth.” The truths we rely on in order to save ourselves are therefore inadequate to the task. There is no salvation to be found in our worldly Grand Pooh-bahs, or our political parties. There is no salvation to be found ultimately in any earthly institution. Our salvation rests with the King who is also Truth – and who rules a kingdom built on a foundation of Love – the Love that God has for the Son and that the Son has for His disciples. That’s you and me, folks. And we are not called to place our faith in an illusion. If we did, then we are to be greatly pitied. Our faith is real and founded upon the Truth of Christ, Jesus Christ the Nazarene. The one who was born before time, came into the world in the manger, the one who out of love for us was crucified for our salvation, and the one who will indeed come again. This, my friends, is the magnificent tale we’ve fallen into.

The truth is in Christ, but that’s not apparent to everyone. I invite you now to imagine that you are in this story, and that your name is Pontius Pilate. You’ve just met this man, Jesus, whom the crowd has accused of criminal acts. You investigate the man apart from his nation and its priests. You are able to conclude that he poses no direct threat to Roman Rule. But then this man starts talking about a different sort of kingdom, one for which there is no standard of comparison. This man makes the claim that he is a King of this weird, bizarre Kingdom founded not on the exercise of power but upon the power of love, a love is which amazing because it is premised on a kind of mutual laying down of power. Not only that, but this man tells you that he is witnessing and testifying to the truth – THE truth. Pilate’s answer indicates that he knows the tables have been turned, and that he’s been put in the dock by Jesus. Suddenly, the earthly judge is being judged by Truth. His response, “What is truth?” tell us that ultimately Pilate is unable to comprehend the full nature of a kingdom built on a foundation of love instead of raw human power.

Pilate couldn’t understand this different sort of Kingdom? Can we?

I think we can. Why? Because he have the spirit of Truth to help us, and we have the continuing sustenance of the waters of Baptism. The truth of Christ’s Kingdom is proclaimed by the local and international mission work of this church, by its charge to educate both young and old alike about Christian life and ongoing work of the Church in the world. We rehearse life in the Kingdom each week in the drama of our public worship, where the audience is not you or me but the Father, the Father’s whose kingdom has come, will come, and is continually breaking into our “reality” through the bread and wine, the body and the blood, of his most precious Son Jesus. It is to this place that we return to encounter the Lord of Truth.

Now, isn’t this an unlikely way for a kingdom to come and for a King to rule – in a meal of bread and wine, in baptismal water, and in caring for our neighbors? It is. It is a worldview different from the one we’ve been conditioned to by our culture. We are all called, as Jesus was, to bear the Truth into the world. We are all Christ’s ministers, and we are all called to share in Christ’s witness to the truth in the world. Moreover, we are called to witness to the Truth in Love, which means that we mutually lay down our power and engage the other as we engage ourselves. I believe this is what is meant with the Golden Rule. And of course, this image of power in powerlessness seems deeply contradictory. And it would be, if the power we witness to in Christ were simply a contractual arrangement between you and me and between other individuals in our church. But that is not how we’re called to relate to one another. We are a community in a covenantal relationship, which is a structured in a way much more open to the foibles of our human depravity, but also much more open to the potential fullness of human lives built in the image of Christ. We come into these covenantal relationships with trust, but also with forgiveness, because we all know we will, at one time or another, fall short of our true selves, the true selves Christ the King imagines for each of us. We also know that these relationships are not bilateral, because in as a covenant people we are not only obligated to each other but also to The King.

So this is the story we’ve fallen into. Christ witnessed to the Truth with Pontius Pilate and through the signs and wonders attested to in the Gospel. We, in turn, are called to witness to the truth using our human means. These include the Church and its missions, and the political realities of the world in the place and time in which we are born, and it includes the sacramental way in which we encounter Christ as Body and Blood, as Bread and Wine. We are cast in a story where we are continually invited to the table to dine with the King. As we receive the Cup and the Bread from the King, we are simultaneously empowered to serve each other in love and in truth as the King’s cupbearers and stewards.

Friends, this is the joyful feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, our King.

The people of God will come from the East and from the West, from the North and South, to sit at table in the Kingdom of God. This is the Lord’s Table, and our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.