Sermon: Christ the King

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

The original is a bit longer than this, but when I read this story, I didn’t know if it was funny or sad… both perhaps, but the ‘gotcha’ line is…

The king and his entourage were out riding horses, when not too far off the king saw his jester riding as on some errand.

The king wanted to catch the court jester’s attention, and so he called out, “Hey! Hey!” The court jester brought his horse to a halt and walked towards the king. The king said to him, “You are so short, you are so thin, you are so slight — you do not seem to be strong at all. But your horse is so strong, so stout, so beautiful and powerful. How do you keep him so beautiful, powerful, strong and stout? What is the secret to his excellent condition?”

The court jester said to the king, “I feed my horse, your Highness, but you feed me. This is the difference between my appearance and that of my horse.” (Source)

Throughout history, we have witnessed both the good and bad of monarchs and other leaders. Some are those who tend to their horses more than to the people, while others have given their all for the people. The bad ones are easy to spot, but even the good ones are not always so noble. There are plenty of books and movies about them all, and a movie I’ve recently watched (again) is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let’s just say that is very loosely tied to the actual history, but a fantastic story just the same. It revolves around the Battle of Jerusalem in the 12th century between the crusaders and Saladin. I won’t ruin the story, but it has some great lines, one of which speaks to what it is to be noble.

Godfrey of Ibelin is passing his titles and holdings onto his son, Balian. In doing so, he says, “Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright, that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong; that is your oath.” He then slaps his son, saying, “And that is so you remember it. Rise a knight and Baron of Ibelin.”

Later, Balian will have the opportunity to become close with King Baldwin IV, the King of Jerusalem. In one conversation, the King says to Balian, “A King may move a man, a father may claim a son. That man can also move himself. And only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played, or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, ‘But I was told by others to do thus’ or that ‘Virtue was not convenient at the time.’ This will not suffice. Remember that.”

I know, too much reading of other people’s words this morning, but today is the celebration of Christ the King, and those two quotes spoke to me about who we are to be a noble in God’s court and His Kingdom, and it begins with a particular understanding of who Jesus is.

We know Jesus as Savior, friend—what a friend we have in Jesus—advocate, Redeemer, and so on. I doubt I’m the only one, but for me, I always see Jesus as my King. Yes, I understand him as those others, but at the end of the day, he is my King, which gives him absolute authority over my life. My disobedience knows no bounds, but his rule is without question and to the best of my abilities, I am here to serve and follow him. You may not see Jesus as King in such a way, but we must all learn to follow him rightly, and it begins by imitating how he lived. By loving God just as He loves His Father. By loving our neighbors, just as He loves us. As Balian took the oath from his father, we have also been given our directions. St. Paul stated it clearly in his epistle to the Church at Ephesus, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (If you need a good reminder of that, let me know and I’ll give you a good slap.)

This is how we live as nobles in God’s court and His Kingdom, but we cannot be compelled to such life. The King of Jerusalem said, “Your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power.” Even God the Holy Trinity cannot compel you to live such a life and in truth, we cannot even compel ourselves to live such a life, because such a life is not about what we do. It is about who we are. C.S. Lewis: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” We live in God’s court and His Kingdom, not by doing, but by becoming, being transformed into His image. Paul said to the Corinthians, “We all… beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” It is through this process of transformation that we are allowed to enter our King’s courts as sons and daughters:

Free to worship him without fear.
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

We are given the opportunity to live as royals in the Kingdom of Heaven and to serve a King whose love for us is endless. To live as courtiers in that Kingdom is not always easy. It comes with trials and blessings, but if we are faithful in following and serving our King in this life, then at the moment of our last breath, we will hear the words that we all desire to be spoken: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Let us pray—this is a portion of Psalm 47:
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
    the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
    sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
    sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
    God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
    as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
    he is greatly exalted.
Amen.

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