Jesus for President

First Presbyterian in Lafayette, Louisianna
November 14, 2010: Christ the King, Year C
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday! I have to admit that I’m not sure what to do with that. Maybe there are some obvious things. We call Jesus Lord all the time, but I have been wondering about that lately. I’ve been wondering how we, the products of the most amazing social experiment in human history, can truly call Jesus – or anyone for that matter – King.

I was talking to a member of the PJC of the Synod of the Sun about governance this weekend during a Presbytery Council retreat. He mentioned being in Belgium during one of the elections and being startled by the way they were speculating about how much longer it would be before the Joint Chiefs enacted a coup or the Speaker of the House would rise up against the President. They couldn’t figure out how and why the checks and balances really worked.

But here we are, 200 years into this thing called a democratic republic. Incidentally it was the Presbyterians that had the greatest influence in forming our system of government. The only ordained clergy to sign the Declaration of Independence was John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian. The British even referred to the American Revolution as “that Presbyterian rebellion.”

Whatever concept we do have of Kings and Lords is derived from a European system of Lords, Vassals, and Serfs. In Jesus’ day the Jews were occupied by a foreign power – a foreign power that claimed divinity and had absolute power over their lives. Going further back we find that the temple itself is actually an attempt to pacify the Jews. The temple was rebuilt by the Assyrians to capture the God who says, “I am who I am - I shall be who I shall be.”

The Jews had some pretty high anxiety levels over all of this and they were looking to God, expecting the promised Savior. All of this leads me to wonder, what kind of Jesus are we hoping for? We live in a time where an unpopular President was followed by the election of a populist President. Even though the majority believes in our representative system of government there are those who dissent.

We have record levels of unemployment and though we complain about the economy, our nation has come through worse times than these. Our congregation was without Pastoral leadership for a long time; however its decline began long before that. In the Presbytery Council retreat, one of the things we talked about was the character of relationships within and between congregations. Sadly it is not only the storms that have battered us, but we have battered one another.

What kind of Jesus are we hoping for? What will his coronation be like? I’ve asked a few friends to help me with illustrate this point today. For a moment I want you to pretend we are in a fast food restaurant. We’ll call it “McJesus."  Leigh will be the cashier, standing behind the communion table.  The customers will be lining up on the lectern side and will come through one at a time.

Cashier: Cha-Ching.... Welcolme to McJesus. May I take your order please?
Warm-fuzzy: Yeah, I'm not sure what you call it but I want the Jesus that gives me everything I ask for. You know, answers all my prayers immediately. And I've got a pretty long request list so you better make it with the works.
Cashier: I'm sorry, we're all out of the Sugar Daddy Jesus today.
Warm-fuzzy: Oh. Well, I guess I'd settle for a Jesus that won't ever let anything really bad happen to me. You see I don't like pain. Pain hurts me.  
Cashier: Oh! You want the Warm Fuzzy Jesus
Warm-fuzzy: Yeah, with extra gushy, mushy love.
Cashier: Give me a Warm Fuzzy - extra sweet! Cha-Ching.... Welcome to McJesus. May I take your order please?
Judge: I'd like the condemning Jesus #5.
Cashier: Will that be with or without mercy?
Judge: Hold the mercy.
Cashier: Will you have any lightning bolts with that?
Judge: Yeah extra lightning bolts.
Cashier: Wow, you must have a lot of enemies.
Judge: Well, I'd like to think that I'm just trying to clean up the world a little bit. You know, get rid of the liars, cheaters, prostitutes, drug addicts,
Cashier: Oh I see, kind of a selective early judgement day.
Judge: Yeah, and someone who'll let me hate these people without feeling guilty.
Cashier: You're in luck! We're running a special today on the Terminator Jesus
Judge: Righteous.
Cashier: Is there anything else?
Judge: I'll be back.
Cashier: Ba Bing. Next!
Sunday: I would like to buy three dollars worth of Jesus please. Not enough to make me a fanatic or drastically alter my lifestyle but just enough to make me feel comfortable. I don't want enough of him to make me love someone with AIDS or become a missionary or anything. Just give me a pound of the supernatural in a paper sack.
Cashier: Anything else?
Sunday: That's all.
Cashier: Give me a number 7. Cha-Ching ... Welcome to McJesus may I take your order please?
Jesus Follower: Yes, I'd like the real Jesus please.
Cashier: Will that be the real Jesus number 1, 2 or 3?
Jesus Follower: How can there be more than one real Jesus?
Cashier: This is McJesus, where you can have any kind of Jesus you want! C'mon have it your way.
Jesus Follower: I don't want him in my way. ... Maybe I'm in the wrong place. I want the one true Jesus. The one in the Bible.
Cashier: Oh the bible. Why didn't you say that before? You need to go to our McBible location on Southside
Jesus Follower: McBible?
Cashier: Yeah McBible. They have 33 different varieties of the good book to choose from. With or without miracles. No prophecy, extra prophecy. Cut and paste versions. You name it!
Jesus Follower: No thanks. I'll stick with the bible I've got.
Cashier: Suit yourself. NEXT!

It is hard to separate our wants from our actions, even as we follow Jesus. The Jews wanted a radical military leader and they got a baby born into exile and genocide. In the end, he was crucified on a trash dump outside the city. Yet his kingdom is without end. Why?

Well, before you jump to the resurrection I want to suggest that the story we have today is his coronation. In the book “Jesus for President,” Shane Claiborne offers a comparison between the coronation of Jesus and Caesar.

1.  Caesar is surrounded by the Praetorian Guard to be honored.
1.  Jesus is surrounded by the Palace Guard to be mocked

2.  Caesar is given a crown of golden olive leaves, a purple robe, and a scepter.
2.  Jesus is given a crown of thorns, a purple cloth, and a stick.

3.  Caesar walks to the Capitolean Hill, surrounded by soldiers and followed by a servant with a sacrificial bull.
3.  Jesus is surrounded by a crowd, carrying his cross, and becoming a sacrifice.

4.  There is slaughter, libation, and the claiming of divinity for Caesar.
4.  Jesus makes a final act of forgiveness and then becomes claimed, perhaps even consumed, by his own divinity.

Jesus becomes King because he demonstrates the weakness of human power even as he is dying on the cross. Jesus becomes King because he was already the Lord of Hosts, but he chose to show up in a dirty, nasty barn. He chose to show up on a cross outside the city, and he chooses to show up in places we do not expect nor want him to be.

Proclaiming Christ as King is not just a title. Proclaiming Christ as King is an acknowledging the fact that God is present in all things, even at the Presbytery Counsel retreat where we worked on a new vision statement. It is far from finished and will probably be revised, but there was something interesting that came out of that discussion that I just have to share with you. It is the phrase, “Joining Christ in the world…”

That is something new. It is a new thing to think about the world as the place to encounter Christ and the church building as the place where we celebrate those encounters and prepare for more. With Christ as our King we do not need to worry about how we can matter to others so that they might come in. Instead we become concerned about how they matter to us and how can we join them to offer and receive forgiveness, to demonstrate God’s amazing love, and to live as members of a kingdom that has no end!

Now, that’s something I want to be a part of. I hope you do to, and I pray that God will be glorified by all that we do. For here we are 2,000 years into this thing called Christianity… this thing called discipleship… this thing called following Jesus… and the simple proclamation of forgiveness still rings louder and echoes more deeply into the depths of our souls than the shouts of thousands of Roman soldiers pretending that a man could be a god.

Yet Jesus Christ is Lord. I’m not talking about the man. I am talking about the reality of God’s presence that has been revealed to us through him. His kingdom is without end, and he is waiting for you and me to join him in the world he has created and is creating. Halleluiah! And Amen.
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