St Paul’s, Durban: Sunday 21 November 2021 Sermon by Revd Thami Tembe

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Sermon by Revd Thami Tembe (John 18:33-37)

 I greet you all, people of God, on this 34th Sunday of the year on the Feast of Christ the King.

Our gospel reading for today is from the gospel according to St John, the 18th chapter, verses 33-37.  I will quote verse 37 for you. “You are a king,” then said Pilate. Jesus Christ answered, “You are right in saying ‘I am a king.’ In fact for this reason I was born and for this reason I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.”

People of God, on this great feast we rejoice in calling Christ Jesus king of kings and lord or lords.  We owe him an allegiance, we will not give to any other power on earth. Our lives as Christians, people of God and followers of Christ Jesus are meant to bear witness to Jesus Christ’s kingdom, because he is the king of the kingdom. Maybe a quick one to us as Christians and followers of Christ the king: What kind of witnesses are we in this world about our king who is Jesus. Are we Christ-like or not?

Today, people of God, is the last Sunday of the church liturgical year.  The gospel reading contains a section from the passion narrative where Jesus Christ is being interrogated by Pilate about his messiahship and kingship.  In verse 37 Jesus Christ gives Pilate a good and very short answer about his kingship.  Of all the titles we will bestow on Christ Jesus that of the king seems to one of the most inappropriate ones when we look at it. Why? It smacks of the kind of things Jesus Christ rejected. People of God, when we think of the king, we think on many things like a throne, a crown, a palace, great wealth, power, prestige, many servants and of course an army. But when we look at Jesus Christ what do we see?  There is no throne, no crown except the one of thorns that was given to him on crucifixion to mock him. No palace, no army.

The only thing we see, we see Jesus Christ walking the dusty roads of Palestine where there is a little band of his disciples.  He is always surrounded by the poor, the sick, sinners, and outcasts, not as our earthly home always surrounded by wealth and fleshy things. And yet the title king is appropriate and stands for something true and real in Jesus Christ.  First of all it stands for his divinity.  God is the lord of all, the king of the universe, the one to whom we all owe allegiance, the ruler and the judge of all.

Jesus Christ’s title makes sense to me because Jesus Christ is the source of all goodness, light, hope and life in this world that is full of darkness.  Jesus Christ’s presence could change beyond recognition the lives of those who are around him.  Jesus Christ’s attitude towards sinners was one of kindness.  Jesus Christ is a great person who makes everyone feel great, not like our earthly kings who will only care for those who are in their league of life.  In that sense Jesus Christ is indeed the king of kings and the lord of all.

So I ask you, people of God, who is Jesus Christ to you? And why?  What I have done on this my sermon about Jesus Christ the king is to distinguish between authority and influence on the one hand and power and control on the other hand.  People of God, some of the people with the greatest moral authority are quite powerless and the most influential have no need to control those they influence – so it was with Jesus Christ.

Pilate had power, people of God.  Jesus Christ had influence on people. Jesus Christ made his presence felt by simply by the kind of person he was and still is today. And there was a quiet authority about everything he said and did. Even though Jesus Christ the king does not need or want soldiers and tanks and armies he does need warrior people who are ready to fight for justice, truth and peace – people who will not be afraid to call sin a sin no matter who does it; people will always side with the poor and the oppressed.

There is a battle being waged between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, the kingdom of lies and the kingdom of true, the kingdom of evil and the kingdom of good, the kingdom of discipline and the kingdom of lack of discipline. That kingdom belongs to Christ Jesus the messiah, the kingdom that always says ‘I am with you to the end of time.’

So I ask you: on which side are you? Are you on the side of the poor or are you on the side of the oppressors? Are you on the side of those who are called but forget the purpose of why they were called, or are you on the side of those who after being called forget everything and followed Christ Jesus. Christ the king became one of us to serve us and to teach us to serve one another.

People of God, do we serve one another, or are we the type of people who want to be served at all times?  This reminds me of what happens to us when we are ordained to the office of priesthood. Bishop will use holy oil and anoint our hands praying as Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may your lives always portray that of the body of Christ.  May you always live as a member of Christ Jesus after receiving that holy unction. Each of us through baptism share in this kingship of Christ Jesus.  Christ walks using us now, using us to teach his people, using us to heal his people, using us to liberate those who are oppressed even by us or his church.

We as the church of God are the body of Christ Jesus the king.  We are his hands his feet, we are tongue, and we are his heart.  As Christians we are the kingdom of God established by Christ Jesus in his lifetime and through his blood.  The feast of Christ the king invites us to ask ourselves, what are we doing personally to bring to completion the kingdom of God on earth?  Are we still aligned to his purpose on this earth?

In the end Christ Jesus will return as king and will sit on his royal throne to judge.  When he judges how will we be judged? Will Jesus Christ find us ready to join him in his kingdom and to say Christ is the king?  What a joy it is to belong to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, to let our lives be ruled by his Spirit and in our own small way to work for the kingdom of God in this earth, a kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace.

Know this, people of God, Christ Jesus did not come to establish a political sovereignty but to bear witness to the truth of God’s eternal and universal kingdom.  Christ the hope of the human race, Christ who is our hope now; Christ will be the hope of the generations to come.  May Christ Jesus’ kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Yes, today Christ Jesus is the king. If he is not king of my life he is not king at all.

Grace and peace. Amen.


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