Thine is the Kingdom
Topic: Biblical Verse: Revelation 1:4b–1:8
The Festival of Christ the King
November 24-25, 2012
“Thine is the Kingdom”
With Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday shopping now behind us, with the presidential election still in our rearview mirror, with growing concern about the fiscal cliff looming over our nation’s future, with the uneasy and fragile peace that has replaced missiles and bombs exploding between Israel and Hamas, we pause on this final Sunday of the church year to acknowledge the truth that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is described in today’s Epistle lesson as “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Revelation 1:5a). In the midst of all the anxious striving and struggling for power and control that is part of life in this world, the people of Christ affirm what we continually pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thine is the Kingdom.” Those words from the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer are the theme for the message this day. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
The origins of this final Sunday of the church year go back almost a century to the year 1925. In the years following World War I, in response to rising nationalism, as well as growing secularism, Pope Pius XI established a feast for Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. Later, in 1969, Pope Paul VI changed the title of this feast to Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe, and the date for observing this was put on the last Sunday of the church year to lift up the eschatological truth of Christ’s kingship – a present reality, but not yet fully revealed – now, but not yet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_Christ_the_King). We wait for that great and final day when Christ’s kingship will be fully and finally revealed to all the world. In the midst of power struggles and political maneuvering, over against the rise and fall of nations and their rulers, we shout: “Thine is the kingdom, Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe!”
So what is Christ’s kingdom and what does his ruling, his kingship, look like? Here in America, we are uncomfortable with the whole royalty thing. In fact, our country’s founding is rooted in rebellion against this! Some would equate the kingdom of our Lord with a particular form of government or a certain political party. When that is in place, then God is in control. Really? In today’s Gospel lesson (John 18:33-37), Jesus stood on trial before Pontius Pilate, the representative of the ruling world power of the day, and said: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). I don’t think it gets any clearer than that. Consider the icon known as Christ Pantokrator, “the Almighty.” In Orthodox churches, this icon is often found in the dome over the nave, or high above the altar, reminding the faithful of Who it is that truly rules. Jesus is often shown with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand holding the book of life (Revelation 20:11-15). It is important to note the instruments of Jesus for building his kingdom: book and blessing, not sword and shield. Thine is the kingdom, Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe!
Jesus builds his kingdom through the truth of his Word, found in the book we call the Bible, the Word of God. Jesus builds his kingdom through the blessing of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that come through the preaching and teaching of that Word. That Word tells us we are lost and condemned sinners who have rejected God, rebelled against his kingship, which has resulted in death and destruction. That is the awful truth of our situation – something which we do not always want to recognize or admit. But it is not the end of the story. Rather than leaving us to perish in our misery, God initiated a rescue mission and sent his own Son, Jesus, to redeem us and bring us back to himself. And Jesus did this, “not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity” (The Second Article of the Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism). This is what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come… for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.” We worship and serve a different kind of king. Most kings or rulers are able to sail over a roaring, dangerous sea, but Christ our King is the only One who can still the storm and calm the waves (Mark 4:35-41). Most kings and rulers will surround themselves with security detail and handlers who protect them from danger, but Christ our King willingly submits himself to arrest and abuse, going to the cross where the crown He wears is one of thorns and his throne is the wood of that cross. Christ our King does not wall himself in a castle fortress, but goes out to the people and places where storms ravage lives and destroy hope. Christ our King brings life and peace.This is why we “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” God’s Word, because through that Word – that Book – come blessing from Christ our King and his kingdom break into our world and into our lives – changing and transforming us from sin and death into the likeness and image of our King. Thine is the kingdom, Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe!
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Revelation 1:7). This is the coming Day of the Lord, often overlooked, ignored and disregarded. At the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world, where will you put your trust and hope? Will it be in earthly kingdoms, governments and rulers, who like us, will fade away and die? What then? If that is where your trust and hope is, then rest assured you will be among those who will wail on that great and final day. Not so for the child of God! My friends, because our trust and hope is in Christ our King instead of wailing when He comes again, we will lift up heads, raise our hands, and sing for joy! And so we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20b). Thine is the kingdom, Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe!
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5b-6).