Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

I like Everlasting Gobstoppers. The candy, made by Nestleís Willie Wonka Candy Company is based on the confection from Roald Dahlís book ďWillie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.Ē In the story, Willie Wonka created a confection that was meant for children with ďvery little pocket moneyĒ; it was a candy that would last forever. The Gobstopper in the story looked different than todayís confection and the real thing canít really last forever, but I imagine the candy you can buy is probably easier to eat than the multi-colored bumpy, spikey confection created in Roald Dahlís mind. It was said that the Everlasting Gobstopper was not even destructible.

Now, gobstoppers, or jawbreakers, are not really everlasting, but they do last a very long time. Layer upon layer of sugary goodness is slowly added, with a one inch ball taking nearly two weeks to create. It has over a hundred layers. These candies donít only take long to create; they take a long time to eat. I donít think Iíve ever eaten one in a single sitting. I usually tire of it and so I put it aside for another time. This is especially true of the larger jawbreakers.

I canít imagine how long it takes to make a three inch gobstopper. Even worse, I wonder how long it actually takes to finish one. Who eats those? They are so big that I donít know how they fit it into a mouth! I think it would hurt my jaw and make it difficult to breathe. I know it wouldnít last forever, but I imagine it must last a long time, and it surely would not be eaten in one sitting

In the story, everlasting meant lasting forever, but we know that nothing created can actually last forever. Though Nestleís Willie Wonka Candy Company has created a treat that lasts a long time, even Willie Wonka canít do the impossible, except in books. One of the characters in the story was concerned that his business would suffer if someone were able to sell an everlasting candy. After all, if it never went away, youíd never have to buy another piece of candy.

I thought of this candy when I was reading our text for this week because there are several references that God is everlasting. In Daniel, the promise for Jesus is that He will be given everlasting dominion over a kingdom that will never be destroyed. The psalmist talks of Jehovah as the everlasting God over everything, including the storms on the sea. John writes in the Revelation that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and God is He who is, who was and who is to come. Finally, Jesus tells Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world, implying that no act of Pilate will ever destroy it.

We hear these texts because Sunday is Christ the King, the last day of the Christian Church calendar. We begin the year at Advent, a time of expectation as we wait the coming of Christ. The birth of Christ ushers in a new age. During Epiphany God shares His grace and his Son with the entire world. In Lent we look within ourselves to realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior. During Holy Week we journey with Jesus to the cross. At Easter we are resurrected with Him, experiencing the joy of Godís gracious mercy and love. During the Easter season we are reminded of why God sent His Son as He completes the teaching He began during His life. The Church is born at Pentecost, ten days after Jesus returns to the right hand of the Father. During the season of Pentecost we learn what it means to be the Church. In the last weeks of the Church year we look forward to the second coming of Christ, to His glorification and rule. We look forward to the time when the promise is made complete, when Jesus is Christ is truly Lord of all forever. On Christ the King we look forward to the Day of Judgment when all things will be under His rule. On this day we get a glimpse of the everlasting.

Daniel shows us a river of fire flowing forth from the throne of God. This is not an image that brings us comfort. Fire is so destructive and frightening, especially for those who have lived through a wildfire. While it is true that fire is destructive, it is also very helpful. Fire provides light and heat. We use it for cooking and for producing many products like bricks and pottery. The same fire that seems to destroy a forest, can also provide a very healthy cleansing, removing the brush that can steal nutrients and water from the trees. Fire is used for tempering metals like steel and gold.

Fire is good for the believers, but bad for those who do not believe. In the verses we do not read for the day, Daniel tells about the beast that was slain in his vision, its body burned by the fire. But we who believe are being tempered with the fire of the Holy Spirit, as God transforms us from sinner into one who can stand among the host who minister to Him. This image of everlasting might seem frightening at first, but this passage gives us a glimpse of the heavenly realm where we will worship and praise God forever.

While the image in Daniel is terrifying, there is also a message of hope about one like a human being who will come with the clouds of heaven. We know the Son of Man is Jesus Christ, presented to the Ancient of Days as a mediator between the heavens and earth. Jesus will be the steward who will rule Godís Kingdom, given the dominion and the power and the glory above all else. All earthly kings fall short, even if they are humble and wise. Only Jesus can rule the kingdom that will never end.

The image in the psalm is not very comforting, either. The psalmist writes of storms that make the sea wild and chaotic. Storms can be terrifying, especially for one who is on the water. Even the biggest ships can be tossed to and fro on the waves. But this image takes us back to the creation of the world, where the Spirit of God hovered over the chaos of the waters and with a word God made it calm and good. We are comforted by the reality that our God is King over even the waters that rage out of control.

John writes in Revelation ďGrace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come.Ē Our God is not one who is limited by time and space. He is eternity. He is the beginning and the end. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is, He was and He is to come. Thatís what this Sunday is all about: recognizing that our God is timeless and that Jesus Christ is the King who is, was and will be.

In the passage from Revelation, John gives us another glimpse of the everlasting. In this image we see the coming of the Christ in glory. We also see that we are His kingdom, not earthbound subjects, but subjects in that everlasting Kingdom where we will praise Him forever. John gives us something to look forward to, to the coming of our King. ďBehold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen.Ē

Our God longs for all to know His mercy and grace; His intention is for all to find peace in the knowledge of His love. He wants all men to recognize that He is King. The images might be frightening, but we who believe need not fear the Day of Judgment because God has made us right by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus stands as a witness to the world, and He transforms us by blood and water and fire into priests in an everlasting kingdom. We cannot stand before God by our own power or ability, but Jesus makes it possible. We are made saints and called into His Kingdom that is not of this world. We are given a place in the heavenly host that ministers to the Ancient of Days forever.

There must be people who buy those extra large gobstoppers in the candy store, but Iím not willing to even try. Maybe thatís the way some people feel about the God we experience on Christ the King Sunday. These images are not comfortable. The fire and chaotic seas are frightening to those who do not recognize that our God is King. There will be a Day of Judgment, a day when God will make all things right and new. The day will not be pleasant for those who want to hold on by their own strength and ability, but for those of us who trust in Godís promises, it will be the day when we will begin an everlasting life. Unlike the Everlasting Gobstopper from Nestleís Willie Wonka Candy Company, the Kingdom in which we will dwell is indestructible. It will last forever. This is the everlasting in which we can hope and have peace.

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